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January 26, 2017


Marshall Middle School celebrates MLK Day with 'Day of Service'

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year, Marshall Middle School put together a very special event.

For the past two years, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Marshall has produced an incredible multimedia tribute and assembly to Dr. King and his legacy. This year, in order to help students put the concepts and words from the Civil Rights Movement into action, they embarked on the first ever schoolwide “Day of Service”.

The day began with an all school assembly in the morning that highlighted children's contributions to the civil rights movements and other service efforts both locally and globally. Afterward students broke up into 23 different service-learning groups. Each group consisted of anywhere from seven to 28 students, with each group providing a different service in the community. All students were engaged in their service project for approximately 2 1/2 - 3 hours before returning to school for a reflection activity and another schoolwide assembly to celebrate student efforts and accomplishments.

Service learning groups were spread across the Olympia community. Here is a peak into all of the locations visited and work that was done during MMS Day of Service:

The Day of Service was the brainchild of Marshall Middle School Principal Condee Wood and Marshall Citizen Science Institute (CSI) Teacher Tom Condon. Wood played the lead role in coordinating the Day of Service and had this to say about her experience during this event: “The Day of Service was one of the most inspiring things I have done as an educator. To see the look on students' faces as they left that day, all standing a little taller knowing they can, each of them, make a difference gave me true hope for the future!”

This was truly a massive undertaking, which required an incredible amount of coordinating and buy-in from both students and staff alike. Kudos to Mrs. Wood, Mr. Condon and everyone in the MMS community for helping this day come to fruition. What an appropriate way to honor Dr. King and keep his ideals at the forefront of our consciousness.

Marshall recently received word that the mayor of Olympia and City Council would like to recognize all of the students and staff for their work during the MMS Day of Service. The meeting will take place on February 28, at 7 pm at City Hall (601 4th Avenue). The presentation will take place at the start of the meeting, so if you would like to come support this amazing group, please arrive promptly at 7 p.m.! 



OSD Employees rally to support the United Way of Thurston County

Olympia School District employees generously donated more than $13,000 to the United Way of Thurston County during this year’s annual campaign. Funds raised support programs across Thurston County that help children and youth learn and succeed, promote financial stability for families and individuals and improve people’s health.

Many of the programs funded by this campaign have a direct impact on students and families in our schools. Donations help fund local nonprofit agencies such as Community Youth Services, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Garden-Raised Bounty (GRuB), Pizza Klatch, the YWCA, the South Sound Reading Foundation and many more.

Without funding from the United Way (made possible in part by all of us), many of these organizations would not be operating. Soon, OSD employees who donated at least $12 each month for 12 months will be receiving the Seahawks color-inspired Live United T-shirts.  Wear them with pride; knowing the value of your generosity is making a huge difference in our community. Thank you all, and remember to Live United!



Students travel the world through geography enrichment program

Second grader Toby Cushman has seen the world. And he has a stamped passport to prove it.

Even more remarkable, more than 85 percent of his fellow students at LP Brown Elementary have also been around the world — from Nicaragua to New Zealand, and from Greenland to the Galapagos Islands.

The 300 first through fifth graders are active participants in a geography enrichment program, “Brown’s World,” sponsored and coordinated by the school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).

The program started more than a decade ago at LP Brown and is supported by a PTO coordinator and a team of seven or more parent and community volunteers.

Each month, students interested in participating receive maps to study at home. First and second graders study the world, while those in grades three through five study both the world and United States geography.

Students learn to identify the location of continents, countries, states, oceans, rivers, mountains, islands and other world features in areas including North and Central America, South America, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The maps and locations selected for study are geared for each particular grade level, and students must pass their own grade level, as well as those leading up to their grade level, before advancing to the next step.

At the end of each month, each class throughout the school comes to the music stage, where they are quizzed on their knowledge by a group of volunteers. With each successful answer, volunteers highlight the countries listed in a Brown’s World passport — a paper booklet with a page for each month.

Students are invited to glue into the booklet up to three canceled world stamps from among several hundred stamps spread across a table. Magnifying glasses provide students an opportunity to see the worldwide images up close.

The recognition doesn’t stop there.

Each month, the class that has the most students record a passing score gets to display a gold-painted Brown’s World globe decorated with sparkly colored sequins. Then, at the end of the year, students are awarded bronze, silver or gold medals based on their overall achievement.

The intent of the program is to have students study the maps at home as an enrichment to their day-to-day classroom learning. However, because students are so excited about what they are learning, many teachers often reference the program in their lessons. Third-grade teacher Heidi Wilson even takes the geography quizzes along with her class.

“One of the things I really enjoy teaching my students about is the world,” Wilson said. “Many of our kids have little experience with the world outside their neighborhoods. I hope that learning about different places will inspire our children to want to travel and be a part of our Global Community.”

While students are only asked to identify the location of specific geographic areas, they learn much more in the process, said PTO Browns World program coordinator Collette Rauch. In addition to studying the geography, the maps sent home with students also feature fun facts about the area, such as types of animals and food, as well as famous landmarks and tourist destinations.

“Students learn there is something bigger than Olympia,” Rauch said. “And for those who may not have the means to travel to other countries, it gives them a chance to learn about the world.”

If she could visit anywhere in the world, fourth grader Siana Graham said she would choose Paris. “I want to see the Eiffel Tower,” she said.

Second grader Andy Gorrell pondered the question awhile before flashing a big smile and confidently choosing Hawaii.

“I like the beach,” he said. “And I love pineapples.”

Toby Cushing, a second grader who has advanced to the fifth-grade level in Brown’s World, said his grandpa introduced him to maps and he has enjoyed studying them ever since.

His father Scott, whose job gives him the flexibility to volunteer once a week in the classroom, volunteered for the first time this week in Brown’s World. He said his son frequently talks about the program at home, and he sees the benefits of what students are learning.

“The world is not just where we live,” he said. “It is another step toward empathy and another gateway to understanding the world.”

Longtime Brown’s World volunteers Allen and Fern Morrow have watched the program grow over time. The Olympia residents started volunteering 13 years ago when some of their neighbors’ children attended LP Brown Elementary. They keep coming back to volunteer because they believe in the program.

Fern said she likes to watch how competitive and excited the students get trying to guess the correct answers, and Allen said he is happy students are learning more about geography and the basics of how to read a map.

The concept of Brown’s World is similar to, but also unique from, geography enrichment programs run by parent groups at some of the district’s other elementary schools, said Principal Joel Lang. One of the school’s former volunteers, who worked for a mapping company, created the colorful world maps still used today as part of the program.

“Brown’s World is a tradition at this school,” Lang said. “The kids have fun, and it helps them get a sense of where they are in the world to understand they are global citizens.”




Capital & Olympia HS students excel at FBLA Conference

Recently students from both Capital and Olympia High School participated in the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Winter Leadership Conference at the Little Creek Conference Center in Shelton. Students competed in various event categories, including: objective tests, performance events, production events, interviews, role-plays, speeches and presentations.

In the 17 different events which students competed in, there were 66 Olympia School District students who qualified for the state competition, taking place this upcoming April in Spokane. Capital High School is sending 16 students to state, while Olympia High School will be sending 51.

The mission of Washington Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) is to educate and network next generation entrepreneurs and business leaders in Washington state. They focus on bridging the gap between business and education through innovative leadership and career development opportunities.

FBLA programs focus on teaching 21st Century leadership skills for our youth in middle and high schools. They work toward giving students the opportunity to participate in competitive events, community service projects, and leadership development opportunities that build their skills in real and practical ways, and allow them to network with some of the best business people and entrepreneurs in the region.

Congratulations to all students who participated in the Winter Leadership Conference, and those who are continuing on to the state competition. You are an inspiration!




Board modifies annual goal related to attendance boundaries

The Olympia School Board unanimously agreed this month to modify one of the annual goals it adopted last fall related to school attendance boundaries.

The action eliminates language in the board’s original Goal #3 calling for the selection of a consultant by November 2016 “to conduct a K-12 boundary review by March 2017.”

The newly revised goal reads:

“When planning for future enrollment, capital investment and increasing high school graduation rates to 100 percent, create options for balancing population in schools with a focus upon equity, access and choice. To that end, engage specific school communities in boundary revision conversations during the 2016-2017 school year in an effort to gather constituent feedback.”

Several school board directors commented that the work related to boundaries is in the discussion phase only during which the board is seeking input from the community. There are no plans, for example, to change any school boundaries in the 2017-18 school year.

“It’s the beginning of a process … It’s an opening of a conversation,” said Director Joellen Wilhelm.

Superintendent Dick Cvitanich started engaging school communities in conversation this month during parent meetings at McKenny and Pioneer elementary schools, as well as with the teaching staff at Lincoln Elementary.

“We really are interested in hearing what the community has to say about future enrollment growth and how our schools can offer equitable learning opportunities,” Cvitanich said. “That’s the kind of work we should be doing. We should be asking these questions as a school district.”




OSD teams dominate FIRST Tech Challenge and qualify for State

This past Sunday, the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) South Sound Inter-District Championship was held at Baker Middle School in Tacoma, WA.  Seven of the 28 teams participating in this competition were from the Olympia School District.

Participating teams designed their robots, presented their engineering journals and made presentations to the judges. After presentations district teams unveiled their robots and the competition was underway!

By the end of the qualifying matches there were six OSD teams that had earned the right to compete in the semifinals, with Capital High School's team 9876, The Countdown earning the 4th-place alliance captain’s spot.

After an intense semifinal competition, two OSD teams had reached the finals; Team 8548 - Bear Necessities from Olympia High School and Team 9876 - The Countdown from Capital High School. Team 9876’s alliance fought hard and won the Inter-district championship and a berth to the FTC Washington State Championships.

There are other ways for teams to qualify for the State Championships, through judging and awards. OSD had two teams that did just that. Olympia High School’s Team 8548 - Bear Necessities and Team 6424 - OlyCow, both earned a spot at State by winning the prestigious Inspire Award.

There were several additional district teams that won or were nominated for other awards over the weekend:

What a remarkable showing by Olympia School District teams and students! Congratulations to Team 9876 - The Countdown, Team 6424 – OlyCow and Team 8548 - Bear Necessities, for making it to the FTC Washington State Championship.

The Washington State FTC Championship is going to be held Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, at the ShowWare center in Renton.  The competition will begin at 11 a.m.

Let us be the first to send positive vibes to students and robots alike. We can’t wait to see what new, amazing feats you are on the verge of accomplishing!




Community invited to give input on superintendent search

The community is invited to complete a survey and participate in one of two focus group meetings to provide input as part of Olympia School District’s search for a new superintendent.

Superintendent Dick Cvitanich, who has led the school district for the past five years, will retire effective June 30, 2017.

Superintendent search online survey
Parents, students, employees and community members are invited to complete a superintendent search survey. The brief online survey, which will be available online through Thursday, February 2, will assist the Olympia School Board and the superintendent search firm in developing a leadership profile and position description that will guide the board’s selection of the next superintendent.

The survey, developed by the superintendent search firm, asks questions about the district’s strengths and challenges, as well as professional qualifications and personal qualities desired for the next superintendent.

Respondents are asked at the end of the survey to identify the group that best represents their role and/or relationship to the district (such as parent, student or community member); however, no names are requested to keep the responses anonymous.

Survey responses are submitted online directly to Northwest Leadership Associates, the superintendent search firm selected by the school board to assist with the search process.

Copies of the survey are available in school offices around the district for those unable to complete online. The district will forward surveys turned in at the schools to the search firm.

Community meetings
The district has scheduled two 90-minute community meetings to gather additional input. The board hopes to have representation from throughout the district, including parents, students, businesses, organizations, civic groups, faith leaders and city government representatives.

Information presented will be the same at both community meetings, so it is only necessary to attend one to provide input.

Spanish-speaking families are also welcome to attend a focus group on Monday, January 30 from 5-6 p.m. An interpreter will be available at the meeting, which is co-hosted by the district and Centro Integral Educativo Latino de Olympia (CIELO). CIELO is located at 1202 Black Lake Blvd S.W. Suite B1, Olympia.

During all focus group meetings, community members will be invited to share about the district’s strengths and challenges, as well as professional qualifications and personal qualities desired for the next superintendent.

The district has also launched a Web page on the district website to keep people up-to-date about the superintendent search process.