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May 16, 2017


Superintendent's Message


Happy Spring!

Yes, it is spring despite the gusty wind, cool temperature and rain that refuses to give us a break. Come to think of it, the above sounds like what spring is all about in the Northwest. We know it will eventually pass.

Other spring rituals are unfurling as well across our schools. These include, but are not limited to, student assessment, legislative action, awards and celebrations. Below is an abbreviated rundown on a few of these "rites of spring."

Many students have been or will begin taking the state required Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) and Measurements of Student Progress (MSP). The SBA is the state mandated assessment in mathematics and English/Language Arts for grades 3-8, and high school. In addition, fifth and eighth graders will be administered the state required MSP in science. The district has worked hard to ensure that assessment is accomplished more quickly, with fewer school schedule interruptions, through the deployment of additional technology. We are grateful we are able to do so because of the successful technology levy approved by voters three years ago. The state and district use these assessments to measure student growth, individually and by school, as well as for planning instructional changes.

Our district's budgeting is directly tied to the development of the state education budget. As you are probably aware, the Legislature has been unable to reach an agreement between Senate and House budget recommendations. The delay certainly hampers our ability to plan for the 2017-18 school year. It slows staff recruitment and hiring, program development and plans for additional student support. Typically, our district holds community budget workshops during May so we can move forward with our planning in June. I don't believe either of those actions will be possible given the timeline.

The list of awards for students and staff has been growing. We will be sending you a list at the end of the school year highlighting these accomplishments. I did enjoy the opportunity to join staff from Washington Middle School, Jefferson Middle School, Marshall Middle School, McLane Elementary, Boston Harbor Elementary, Garfield Elementary, and McKenny Elementary at the recent Washington Achievement Awards ceremony hosted by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. It was a thrill to know that seven of our schools were recognized for academic growth and achievement; the highest total ever by our school district!

Again, there will be much more to celebrate as we move closer to the closing of school. In the meantime, enjoy the final month of our school year.




Dick Cvitanich


Reeves and Washington Middle School students visit Seattle Opera

A few weeks back band, choir and orchestra students from Reeves and Washington middle schools journeyed north to see "The Magic Flute" at the Seattle Opera at McCaw Hall. The field trip began around 1:30 p.m. and students didn't return home until around midnight. All in all, there were more than 600 kids and 14 charter buses from both schools.

Using collaboration days, both Washington and Reeves teachers were able to align their lesson plans with this project. In January Washington MS hosted a Mozart party for all interested music students. There were selfies with Mozart, cake, and students watched part of the movie "The Magic Flute."

Students at Reeves fundraised more than $3,500 to help pay for this adventure. That being said, this trip would not have been possible without support from the Olympia School District Education Foundation, Reeves Middle School PTA and numerous additional grants.

A big thank you to Reeves Middle School teacher, Anna Richart, for making this dream a reality. This truly was a once-in-a-lifetime event for all students involved. You rock (pun intended)!




A record seven Olympia schools win state’s highest honor

A record number of Olympia School District schools have earned the state’s highest honor for academic success — the annual Washington Achievement Award — for the 2016 academic school year.

Three of the district’s middle schools and four elementary schools have been recognized with nine Washington Achievement Awards.

The following seven district schools, listed in alphabetical order along with the categories of recognition, were honored during a statewide ceremony on May 3 in Auburn:

“I want to congratulate these seven schools for this important statewide distinction,” said Olympia School District Superintendent Dick Cvitanich. “Thanks to the students, staff, parents and community members for their continued hard work and dedication. All of our schools are working extremely hard to help every student succeed, and it’s nice to see these schools be recognized.”

Schools are selected for recognition using the Washington State Achievement Index — a measure used to compare how well schools perform, emphasizing improvement and recognition. The recognitions are based on statewide assessment data for the three previous years.

The Achievement Index measures school performance, emphasizing improvement and recognition. Schools must have at least 95 percent participation on state tests to qualify for recognition. Schools are recognized in seven categories:

There are more than 2,200 public schools in Washington state, and Olympia is one of just 280 being recognized this year.

“I am proud to award nearly 300 schools with this honor,” said state Superintendent Chris Reykdal. “These schools help Washington lead the way in innovative education and access to high-quality learning opportunities. To all of those honored, thank you for your dedication to Washington students, families and the future.”



Compassion is contagious at Roosevelt Elementary 

I’m amazing. I’m incredible. I’m a miracle, a dream come true. I’m marvelous. I’m beautiful. Guess what? So are you.

Those simple words are the impactful lyrics of a song performed by “The Heartsparkle Players”  during recent visits to Roosevelt Elementary School.

The Heartsparkle Players is an inclusive acting troupe with a spectrum of abilities and experiences that help foster community, compassion, creativity and trust at as part of its Compassionate Action Project Playback Theater Performances. Several performers are Olympia School District students, teachers and parents.

The Players were brought to Roosevelt to teach kindness and compassion, which are directly related to the concept of empathy. Empathy is a theme covered in weekly schoolwide social skills instruction.

During performances, students are asked to describe a time when they did something nice for someone or when someone did something nice for them. Using improvisational theater, The Players act out the compassionate act using props, music, facial expressions and the spoken word.

“Performances help students see the importance of treating other people like they want to be treated,” said Principal Sean Shaughnessy. “Kindness is contagious. If we all work together, students can create the positive culture that they want to have here at Roosevelt.”

The Players evoke emotion and create a lasting impression on their audience as they capture and celebrate tiny moments of hope made possible through compassionate action. One teacher was impressed by “the willingness of the group to accept and find value in every child’s story.”

An anonymous donor made the performances possible financially. Shaughnessy worked with the Roosevelt PTA, teachers and staff to schedule and coordinate 11 performances for all grades at the school this spring.

Debe Edden, the troupe’s artistic and managing director, said Shaughnessy “is dedicated to creating a nurturing and compassionate school.” That was apparent, she said, when walking into the school office and interacting with students and staff.

In a letter to The Players, the anonymous donor wrote that they were looking for a way to make a contribution to their community and “to so something which could help in these difficult times.”

The donor added, “When a story is transformed into performance, we automatically suspend judgment and have a chance to encounter any story with our hearts and minds open to the shared experience of joy and pain, wonder and suffering, peace and conflict. We see and hear the stories which hold us together as a community.”

After each show, students and adults in attendance were asked to describe what they learned from the compassionate action performance. One student said, “compassionate action can be big or small, it doesn’t matter which. All that matters is that someone did it.” A teacher added that when showing compassion, “you fill your own bucket as well as someone else’s.”

To learn more about The Heartsparkle Players visit their website!




District launches message line for Spanish-speaking families

The district has launched a new telephone message line for Spanish-speaking families who have questions about the Olympia School District. This message line is designed to help families get answers to questions ranging from how to register for school or volunteer, to how to locate bus routes or daily lunch menus.

An Olympia School District teacher who is fluent in Spanish monitors the messages and responds to families with answers to their questions. The message line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week year-round at (360) 596-7569.

El distrito ha lanzado una línea de mensajes en español para las familias que hablan español

El distrito ha iniciado una nueva línea de mensajes telefónicos para familias que hablan español que tienen preguntas sobre el Distrito Escolar de Olympia. Esta línea de mensajes está diseñada para ayudar a las familias a obtener respuestas a preguntas desde cómo inscribirse en la escuela, cómo ser voluntario, cómo localizar rutas de autobús o menús de almuerzo diario.

Una maestra del Distrito Escolar de Olympia que habla español con fluidez monitorea los mensajes y respondera a las familias con respuestas a sus preguntas. La línea de mensajes está abierta las 24 horas del día, los siete días de la semana durante todo el año al (360) 596-7569.




Washington MS teacher receives grant for robotics in the classroom

Washington Middle School teacher Marc Coyner is no stranger to writing grants. In fact, exactly one year ago Coyner received a grant from Century Link to purchase iPad Minis for students in his classroom.

This year, Washington MS Dean of Students Raymond Gutierrez encouraged Coyner to submit another grant proposal. Only this time it was for Tetrix Robotics classroom and competition programming kits.

Coyner had this to say about the effect this robotics curriculum could have on academic achievement; “From a practical level, students will develop a measure of confidence with a variety of technology applications: Coding, video and image editing, graphic design, desktop publishing, and Web design. In our information age of mass communication, having broad abilities to modify and create media quickly and confidently puts our students at an advantage. It can distinguish them not only in the classroom, but ultimately in the work force.

Gutierrez plans on heading off the direct instruction with the students using the Textrix robotics kits, while Coyner will be working with students on video and print-related resource materials.

During the check presentation (which was captured on OSD Facebook Live) representatives from Century Link congratulated Coyner and were quick to point out that he was the first individual ever to be a repeat winner in their program.

Congratulations once again Mr. Coyner, we can’t wait to see what amazing way you go above and beyond to support your students next year…no pressure!




Superintendent Cvitanich wins 2017 Crystal Apple Award

Superintendent Dick Cvitanich has been named the 2017 Crystal Apple award winner by the Washington School Public Relations Association (WSPRA).

Cvitanich received the award, along with a standing ovation, at an awards banquet on April 27 at the WSPRA annual conference in Leavenworth. His wife, Diane, as well as several members of the district’s Communications and Community Relations department, joined him at the recognition ceremony.

A Crystal Apple award winner is someone who has given tirelessly of themselves to enhance positive stakeholder perceptions of K-12 public schools and/or has empowered school public relations professionals to be their best. The award goes to an individual who does not currently serve in a formal role of school public relations.

“Olympia School District Superintendent Dick Cvitanich has spent the past 42 years supporting K-12 public education, including serving as a mentor to other school superintendents, a cheerleader for school public relations, and an advocate for statewide legislation in support of students and staff,” according to the award nomination.

The nomination continues, “His teaching and administrative career, which comes to a close with his retirement this June, empowered school district colleagues and communities across the state ranging from Sequim, Silverdale, and Shaw Island, to Vashon, Highline, Puyallup and Olympia.”

In his acceptance remarks, Cvitanich recounted how communications has changed over the past four decades. He also thanked public relations employees statewide for their work in telling the story of public education.




2017-18 calendar and bell times available

The 2017-18 Olympia School District calendar and bell times are available and posted on the district website.

The 2017-18 Olympia School District calendar includes districtwide holidays, breaks and events. School-specific events are not included, so be sure to check each of the district’s school websites and calendars for the many events and activities at each site.

New this year is a 50-minute early release every Wednesday, except on the first day of school, for all grades. This time is set aside for teachers to collaborate on learning and receive professional development. There are also some half days scheduled during school conferences, and these half days are also noted on the calendar.

The calendar was created after extensive input from employees and parents, including more than 3,000 responses to an online survey.

Bell Times
The 2017-18 bell times include start and end times for each school on regular school days, as well as the dismissal times for early release Wednesdays and half days.

The bell schedule represents an effort to standardize the start/end times of our elementary schools and provide consistent weekly staff collaboration and professional development.

Schools highlighted green on the bell times chart indicate a change in elementary school bell times.




Progress continues on school construction projects

Work continues this year on the first wave of construction projects approved by voters as part of the February 2016 school improvements bond measure.

Here is a summary of progress made to date on several major construction projects, as well as work planned this summer:

Mini-Building Construction
Progress continues on the first three of five elementary school classroom “mini-buildings,” and construction is slated to begin this month at the final two sites.

Work began in February on the Hansen and Pioneer elementary school mini-buildings, where underground utilities have been installed, concrete foundations have been poured, steel columns have been erected and walls are taking shape.

Construction also started in April on the Roosevelt Elementary mini-building, with Centennial and McLane elementary schools set to launch their new classroom spaces this month.

Fencing is expected to be added to the mini-building site at Centennial Elementary this week (May 15-19), and construction equipment should also begin arriving on site in preparation for excavation work next week. Plans are to do similar preparation work for the start of construction the following week at McLane Elementary, said Kurt Cross, director of capital planning and construction.

The 10-classroom two-story mini-buildings will provide space needed to comply with state-mandated smaller class sizes, while also reducing reliance on portable classrooms.

Each building will have eight classrooms, a music room, a commons/general classroom space for multiple uses, small learning areas between classrooms for small-group teaching and learning, a musical instrument storage area, and an administrative office and storage area.

The detached mini-buildings, which will have a covered walkway connecting each one to the main school building, will be equipped with an elevator and two sets of stairs, as well as restrooms on each floor.

There will be one main entry/exit and a second exit on the opposite side of each mini-building. Exterior finishes and colors will be designed to coordinate with the main one-story school buildings on the same campus.

The Hansen and Pioneer elementary school mini-buildings are scheduled to open, weather-permitting, in mid-October 2017. The other three mini-buildings are scheduled to be ready for occupancy over winter break 2017, Cross said. Classes will continue during mini-building construction at all five sites.

Elementary School Remodels
An architect has been hired and is working on plans to remodel the main school buildings at Roosevelt, McLane and Centennial elementary schools. The remodel projects are scheduled to begin construction in June 2018, with an estimated completion date of August 2019.

Classes will continue at each of the school sites during the remodels, much like learning continued at Garfield Elementary during its remodel several years ago, Cross said.

A design team made up of school leaders, as well as other employees and parents, is meeting weekly as the architect moves forward with creating the remodel plans, Cross said.

Capital High School Track and Field Improvements
Work is also underway on the installation of a new synthetic turf field, track improvements, and recreational low-level field lighting at Capital High School.

The district hopes to complete the track and field improvement project by mid-August in time for football practice to begin, Cross said. The main track and field will be closed this summer during construction.

Other school bond projects planned this summer include:

Be sure to visit the district website and social media pages for additional bond project updates, including news articles, photos and videos.




Community is invited to farewell gathering for Superintendent

The community is invited to drop by the Knox Administrative Center Board Room between 4 and 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 1, to bid farewell to Superintendent Dick Cvitanich. After five years in Olympia, he will retire at the end of June.

This farewell is a casual drop-in format with no program, so feel free to stop by anytime to wish him well. Light refreshments will be served.

The Knox Administrative Center is located at 1113 Legion Way S.E., Olympia.