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Trees are blossoming, grass is growing and the sun is managing a guest appearance every now again to remind us that spring is finally here after the long, wet winter. Of course it is still raining, but at least the days are a bit longer and warmer. Spring also marks a busy time in our school year with
many special events planned for celebrating the success of our students. However, before we move too quickly toward graduation, I want to share details on a number of significant projects that have taken shape since my last newsletter message in January. This work will have a significant impact on our district's future.
First, our school board recently concluded a thorough superintendent search seeking my replacement. I am pleased to welcome Dr. Patrick Murphy, currently assistant superintendent in the Edmonds School District, to our great school district. Dr. Murphy will be assuming responsibilities on July 1, but he will be meeting with staff over the next few months to ensure a smooth transition. I am excited for the district and grateful for the five years I have served as your superintendent.
Second, with the support of a visiting team, the district conducted a thorough study of our early learning programs, with a particular emphasis on preschool and kindergarten. In May, we will receive specific recommendations on how we can improve support for our youngest learners. We are proud of our programs, but are always interested in growing stronger.
Third, a group of 25 dedicated individuals volunteered for the District Equity Visioning Committee. Composed of school staff, community members and students, the committee was charged with developing a vision for educational equity in our schools. From this vision, another committee will develop specific goals and procedures for the district. This is exciting work and, again, will make us a stronger organization and community.
Finally, aside from the opening of baseball season, we have also begun assessment season. Students will be assessed on the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA), the state’s designated test for measuring student academic progress. Our students and staff have worked extremely hard, and I am certain our schools will have much to celebrate.
Have a great spring!
Join us for the annual Olympia School District Night at the Tacoma Rainiers this Saturday, April 15!
All students, families, teachers, staff and the Olympia School District community are invited to join us for this fun-filled district event. Invite your friends and neighbors to join us and show support for the Rainiers and our schools.
Be sure to arrive on time to watch Superintendent Dick Cvitanich throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Then stick around after the game for “Kids Run the Bases.”
It all began when students at Roosevelt read a book called "Not a Box", by Antoinette Portis. This book served as the inspiration for students to create their own projects from a cardboard box. Boxes were assembled by students at home and then brought in for display during STEAM night.
The purpose of the evening was to introduce the Roosevelt community and staff to next generation science standards. STEAM learning is being infused into the new standards and helps students learn how to solve problems in creative ways.
In order to make this night possible, Roosevelt partnered with OSD Child Nutrition Services, WEA Chinook, the Hands On Children's Museum and Idea Hatch. STEAM for Kids brought in all of the activities. The event was planned and organized by the Roosevelt Site Council.
At the end of the evening more than 465 community members had come to check out STEAM night, with 435 dinners served. This was the highest attended event Roosevelt has hosted in years. We can't wait until next year!
At 6-foot-3 and 295-pounds, Olympia High senior Amir Matheney is a formidable presence. That presence is softened by his focus on compassion and understanding around race.
Matheney has been named the local recipient for the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. The Princeton Prize is awarded annually to 27 students throughout the country who demonstrate leadership and a commitment to advancing positive race relations.
Recipients receive a $1,000 cash prize, as well as an all-expense-paid trip to Princeton University to participate in a symposium on race.
At the symposium later this month, Matheney looks forward to meeting other people who want to make a difference in their communities by working openly and compassionately on social equity.
Talking about race can be difficult, but Matheney said the conversation has never made him uncomfortable. He believes that a “compassionate approach and keeping an open mind is the best way to have an honest and productive dialogue around race."
Principal Matt Grant said Matheney’s “dynamic presentation style has inspired many students to get involved at school and in the community.” Matheney credits his experience in drama and stage performance with helping him to develop superior public speaking skills. His stage presence and talent even won him a trip to New York City last spring where he performed on Broadway at the August Wilson Theatre.
“Amir champions equity awareness in so many ways,” said Grant. “Whether it’s educating about black history, reading inspiring poetry in assemblies, standing up when injustice occurs or advocating at the Capitol, Amir puts all his energies into making a difference.”
As a freshman, Matheney founded Olympia High School's African-American Alliance (AAA) club. The main focus of the AAA is to be a support group for African-American students at the school. In addition, the club invites the “entire Olympia High community to engage and support issues facing African-Americans within our community,” said club adviser Anthony Brock. The club continues to meet weekly on campus.
Most recently, club members worked with a committee of students and staff to launch an Ethnic Studies class at Olympia High School. The semester-long class begins this fall. The course will count as a senior level social studies class. Matheney thinks an Ethnic Studies course should be on every high school campus. “Learning about other cultures, their history and their problems, makes you more aware, accepting and understanding of people,” said Matheney.
Graduation Specialist Anthony Brock, who was a Princeton Prize recipient as an Olympia High student in 2007, nominated Matheney for the award. Matheney lived in Hawaii, Germany and North Carolina before settling in Olympia in seventh grade when his father retired from the Army. “He knew a world outside Olympia that was more diverse, and when he came here he wanted to see things improve and had other experiences to draw on,” Brock said.
In 2015, after two African-American males were shot outside of a grocery store in Olympia, the AAA club hosted a series of community forums to “paint the narrative of African-Americans within Olympia High School as college-going, well-educated, positive members of our community,” Brock said.
Matheney’s work “instantly legitimized the AAA club within our community and became the think-tank for additional improvements in race relations,” said Brock.
“We have a very supportive community, but we still have a long way to go in achieving equity in education,” said Brock. “In a community that defines itself as progressive, we still struggle having a conversation around race.”
Matheney is heading to Eastern Washington University (EWU) this fall to play Division I football and study political science. He plans to continue his social justice work by joining the EWU Black Student Union and starting the first African-American fraternity on campus.
Matheney advises his classmates to “keep pushing and never be satisfied with where you are.” As he looked back on his high school years playing football, participating in drama and performing on Broadway, he said, “Take chances and always be willing to try something new because you never know where it may take you, and you may fall in love with it.”
Patrick Murphy, assistant superintendent in the Edmonds School District, has been selected to become superintendent of the Olympia School District, effective July 1.
The Olympia School Board unanimously agreed on April 10 to approve a three-year contract with Murphy from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2020.
Murphy has been assistant superintendent in the Edmonds School District since 2012. Prior to arriving in Edmonds, he served from 2008-2012 as the executive director of secondary education in the Issaquah School District.
He has also served as a middle school principal in Issaquah, a middle and high school assistant principal in Issaquah, and a junior high assistant principal in Bremerton.
Murphy taught junior high school social studies in the South Kitsap School District and serves as an adjunct faculty member in educational leadership at Seattle University and Western Washington University.
He has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Washington, a master’s degree in teaching from Whitworth University and a doctorate in education from Washington State University. Murphy earned his principal certification from University of Washington and superintendent certification from Washington State University.
Murphy will replace Dick Cvitanich, who retires June 30 after five years as leader of the Olympia School District and 42 years in K-12 public education.
This year’s Elementary Teacher of the Year is Nancy Hooper, a third-grade teacher at McKenny Elementary School. Melissa Charette, a Developmental Learning Center (DLC) teacher at Washington Middle School, is this year's Secondary Teacher of the Year.
Hooper and Charette were honored at the Olympia School Board meeting on Monday, March 27.
The two educators were selected for the award from among 32 employee names submitted during a nomination process open in February to employees, students and the community. A selection committee made up of district staff, a community member and a school board member assumed the difficult task of reviewing the nominations of these outstanding individuals. The committee eventually decided on an elementary and a secondary OSD Teacher of the Year.
Superintendent Dick Cvitanich and School Board President Eileen Thomson announced the winners and presented them with flowers in front of their colleagues during school staff meetings in March.
Both Hooper and Charette have the opportunity to participate in the regional Teacher of the Year award process. Winners selected at the regional level are then considered for the state Teacher of the Year honor.
Any Washington public school teacher who has a current certificate and works directly with students for at least 50 percent of his/her time is eligible for the Washington State Teacher of the Year recognition program.
Lincoln Elementary fourth grader Mia Widrow has been selected as a state Level 1 champion in the 2017 “Letters About Literature” competition.
Nearly 3,000 students submitted letters for the 2017 contest, which is facilitated each year by the Washington State Library. State judges selected three champions, three second place runners up and 25 honorable mentions. The three winning letters, including Mia’s writing, have been sent to the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress to be considered for the national competition. The national judging results will be announced in early May.
Letters About Literature encourages young readers to read a book and write a letter to the author about how the book changed their view of the world or themselves. Students can write about works of fiction, nonfiction or poetry. Letter writers compete at three levels: Level 1 is grades 4-6, Level 2 is grades 7-8, and Level 3 is grades 9-12.
Mia’s teacher, Michael Stine, offered the class the opportunity to earn extra credit by entering the competition. Widrow wrote her letter to Laura Ingalls Wilder about the Little House on the Prairie book. She said that book is her favorite in Wilder’s book series because it focuses on the family’s experiences with the Native Americans during the 1800s in Kansas.
In the letter, Widrow thoughtfully compares Wilder’s and her own family’s experiences living among Native Americans. Widrow tells Wilder in her letter that “before reading your book, I did not think very much about how Native Americans were treated back then, or even now.” She goes on to tell the author that the story helps her “understand a little of what is happening today” in the Native American community.
Widrow’s talent for writing is shared by her sister, Isabella, an eighth grader at Washington Middle School. Isabella also entered the competition and was named a semifinalist in the Level 2 category. Congratulations Widrow sisters! We are wishing Mia good luck as her letter is evaluated at the national level.