Superintendent Messages

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Superintendent's Video Messages to Families


August 31, 2023 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,


It has been 1,266 days since our schools first closed due to COVID-19. While we have made significant strides in our recovery, we are still feeling the impacts, and will for many more years to come. That being said, something feels different this year as we ramp up for the start of school. Yes, we continue to follow the guidance of our county health officials, but a greater emphasis this year is being placed on those more long-established duties of our school district; ensuring academic growth and achievement for all of our students.


The research is clear that those who attain higher levels of education have greater life outcomes related to health, life expectancy, earnings and more. The bottom line is the more education one has, the happier one tends to be. That is powerful. I believe that education is the world’s most important work, and we’ve done it well in Olympia for a long time. By most traditional measurements, the Olympia School District is the highest performing in our region and among the highest performing in the state. That is a reflection of not just our amazing students and supportive families, but a testament to the dedication and skillfulness of our staff.


While Olympia performs very well relative to others in the state, we, like other school districts, find ourselves challenged year after year with painful, historical disproportionalities. Demographic factors like race, disability and income level are way too predictive of academic outcomes. Disciplinary rates and exclusions, which directly correlate with academics, are likewise all too predictable based on the same factors.


It is in this light that we invited Dr. Adeyemi Stembridge to our District Leadership Team Institute earlier this month. Some of our staff have had the privilege of working with him directly at their schools to improve practice. His two bestselling books, Brilliant Teaching, and Culturally Responsive Education in the Classroom, speak to the difference between equality and equity. In an interview with Education Week, he said:

“Equality is an input-focused measure meaning opportunities are determined to be fair based on everyone having the same resources at the starting line. Equity, however, is output-focused meaning fairness is determined by patterns of performance at the finish line. We will know we’ve accomplished equity when students’ backgrounds are no longer reliably predictive of school achievement.”


 That type of “predictability” must be disrupted. He went on to say that if educators can be more responsive to the assets and needs of their students, then that will result in more rigorous and engaging learning opportunities for all. Our students are capable of great things. Having high expectations sends a message of respect and caring. We show our compassion and kindness by creating inclusive, culturally responsive schools, classrooms and spaces. That is and always has been our most important work.


As you read through this district newsletter, which has a variety of articles featuring students, staff and programs, please take note of an article inviting OSD community members and school staff to apply to serve this fall on a “School Facility Efficiency Review Committee.” I encourage you to consider joining us for this important work, which is also outlined on our district website. The deadline to apply is Monday, September 11, 2023, and the committee will hold its first of eight meetings two weeks later.


We are so excited to launch this new school year.  I wish you all the very best.



Patrick Murphy

June 24, 2023 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,


This time of year is always full of celebratory events as you will see in the many articles, photos and videos featured in this issue of Spotlight on Success. As you enjoy the sunshine and longer days of summer, I encourage you to take some time to open the links to videos or photo albums featuring graduation ceremonies, end-of-year school celebrations, award presentations, science fairs, artwork displays and reading nights, to name a few. I also want to extend a personal congratulations to the Class of 2023 and wish them the best as they begin the next phase of their lives. Your accomplishments during your time in OSD were extraordinary and we can’t wait to follow your achievements in the future.


As we bid farewell to our graduating seniors, our hard-working staff are busy preparing for the start of the 2023-24 school year. One of the initiatives already set in motion, which I have mentioned in previous communications, is a School Efficiency Review. The district has hired  consultants to lead and facilitate this review process, as well as develop a comprehensive analysis of enrollment trends and a long-term enrollment forecast. You can read more about this initiative in an article in this newsletter, including plans to convene a committee this fall made up of representatives from throughout the school district to study school efficiency. Stay tuned for more information about the committee and other opportunities to provide input in this important review process.


One of the most exciting things about the arrival of summer break is knowing in a few short months we will welcome our incoming kindergartners, the Class of 2036! Whether you are a family of an incoming kindergartner, or a student new to our district in other grades, be sure to visit our Back to School resource page for all the necessary information, including school hours, supply lists, bus routes and more. For now, however, take time to relax and enjoy family and friends.


In closing, I want to say a special thank you to the staff, families and community members who helped support our students this year. To those of you who are returning to our schools this fall, we’ll see you in a few months. I wish you all a safe, restful, enjoyable summer break.



Patrick Murphy


April 28, 2023 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,


One of my favorite things to do, and has been ever since I can remember as a child, is to go walk outside on especially stormy, windy, rainy days. I find it even more invigorating when near the ocean. For me, the immense power of nature makes me feel more humble and less self-important. The experience is often amplified by taking a similar walk the next morning once the storm has passed. Sometimes, there are downed trees and debris and the landscape has shifted. It’s almost as if a natural cleansing has taken place and peacefulness has been restored. Samuel Rutherford, a famous Scottish leader put it this way, “After every storm, there comes clear open skies.”


Like many school districts across our state right now, we in Olympia are going through our own fiscal “storm”. I’ve shared in previous messages some of the origins that have contributed to our present predicament which we are trying to steadfastly navigate our way through. Much like the weather, this experience has been humbling and provided much perspective. It is during times of challenge and difficulty that we learn much about ourselves, what we prioritize, and what we care most deeply about. What has been abundantly clear throughout this budgetary season is that our greater community of students, staff, and families highly value our schools and the people within them. Voices have been powerful and passionate discussing staff and programs that have been so beneficial to students and families. As one of our school board members said, when you are trying to decide on which fiscal reductions to make and the choices are between good and good, the solution will inevitably be perceived as bad. This is one of the greatest challenges of organizational leadership.


For those of you who have not yet heard, as we woke up the morning after the most recent legislative storm, there was some good news. We adopted a reduction plan based on a median estimate of how much funding our district would eventually receive from the state. The actual amount ended up on the high side of our projections. Subsequently, we have taken that increased funding and immediately deployed larger teacher staffing allocations to schools for next year, particularly at the secondary level so that our projected class size increase of 5% will now be less than 1%. We are making similar adjustments at the elementary level and across our district to restore not only certificated staff but also paraeducators and other classified staff who were part of our initial reduced education plan. We expect this infusion of new dollars to significantly reduce the number of non-renewal notices for staff. If we end up seeing our normal number of resignations or retirements, our hope is we can eliminate them altogether.


There does seem to be a missing addendum to Rutherford’s quote. If there was another line, it might say something like, “And rest assured, another storm will come.” People know this, so they learn from the storm and prepare for the next one. People might add storm windows, cities could strengthen their levees and dams, and families may update their emergency preparedness plans.


Here in Olympia we’ve learned from our fiscal storms of the last few years, and we have to be better prepared for the next one. There are certain things about our current structure that don’t serve us well when the inevitable budgetary winds pick up; specifically having a large number of smaller schools. At a recent meeting, I was informed that the North Thurston Public School District has 23 schools for over 15,000 students. In Olympia we have 19 schools for around 9,600. They average 652 kids pers school and we average 505. If we ran schools at a similar ratio, we would have a total of 15 school buildings in our district.That makes a difference every budgetary season. We are consistently looking for ways to get all the essential staff and programs in each of our schools when many of them do not generate the enrollment to fiscally justify that staff. This reality has been exacerbated by our declining enrollment since 2019-20.


At the direction of the school board, we have used resources from our Capital Budget (building, facilitates, planning, etc) to bring in outside experts to complete a new long-term enrollment forecast this spring. This will be broken out by regions and neighborhoods in our district, along with building capacities, bus routes, programs, etc. This information will be essential to inform a district wide committee that will convene next fall to look for the most efficient ways to run our schools so that they are fully resourced with the staff and programs our students need and deserve. We will be sharing more information about how to participate in that process in the weeks and months ahead, so please stay tuned.


Almost assuredly, this will be another “stormy” exercise. It will, and already has, brought out both passion and concerns. This confirms what we already knew, that our communities greatly value their schools, and that is a darn good thing. This necessary work will buffer us better from the fiscal winds of the future and allow us to weather the storms of tomorrow.



Patrick Murphy


March 31, 2023 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,


As we prepare to head into Spring Break, I want to take a moment and acknowledge the distressing impact of this year’s budget challenges on our community. While our deficit projection has improved as we’ve refined our calculations and updated our data and enrollment forecasts, it is still apparent that we will have to make some significant reductions to our system. For a more detailed description of what is driving our deficit, please see last month's Spotlight on Success article.


Years ago, I remember working in another district through its own fiscal challenges and someone said we should “run the school district more like a business.” That sentiment has always left me torn.


On the one hand, like any business, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our customers (taxpayers, families, community) to be good stewards with the resources entrusted to us. We cannot live beyond our means. Revenue has to be equal to or greater than expenditures or you can become insolvent. That is not only obvious to me, but it is critical to maintain the trust of our community. Historically, support for our schools has been forthcoming and generous in Olympia. Businesses have to monitor their flow of customers, keep tabs on their staffing levels so they are not understaffed or overstaffed, and ensure that they pay their staff competitively, lest they lose those staff members to competitors. We wrestle with these same issues annually and they are particularly challenging now.


On the other hand, schools are not a “business” in that our ultimate goal is not to turn a profit. Schools are a public good, like our parks, our roads and our emergency responders. Our ultimate purpose is to make sure every child, no matter their background or circumstances, leaves our system with the skills and confidence necessary to pursue their dreams. And every child is unique. We dedicate significant amounts of resources to children that have more profound needs than others. More and more we are asked to provide physical and mental health support in schools for children who don’t have access to those services outside of school. We invested a large portion of our federal pandemic relief dollars for these purposes, and that money is drying up.


So, like many districts across the state, we are facing some tough choices on what we can and cannot continue to do. I want to thank everyone for taking our surveys, participating at board meetings and providing feedback to the school board and district leadership on the budget. As one school board director said, “There are no good choices” on our list of reductions. I thank them, in their volunteer capacity, for taking on this difficult task.


I want to close by sharing two things. If you had not heard, given the lower but still significant deficit projection, we have removed any school closure/consolidation for the 2023-24 school year off of the proposed reduction list. Doing a deep analysis of our future enrollment projections and building capacity, and forming a districtwide committee to consider how best to fully resource schools, is still much needed. We will begin that process this spring, so stay tuned for more information.


Lastly, while we will make some tough, needed fiscal corrections that will hurt going into next year, I am confident that we will be okay. I don’t say this because of some groundless optimism, but rather because I get to see our students, families and staff in action every day. We are a talented, resilient, creative and compassionate community. We will keep fighting to get the resources in our schools that we need, and make the very best of what we have in the interim.


I hope you all have a restful and happy spring break with family and friends.



Patrick Murphy


February 24, 2023 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,


We are not quite through the halfway point of this year’s legislative session, but it is a good time to give an update on the current outlook relative to our school district’s financial situation.


For some background, many of you may have been listening and watching our school board meetings the last couple of months, and so you are already aware that we are currently projecting a significant deficit for the 2023-24 school year of around $17 million. While this is our preliminary, current estimate, it could change later this spring based on new expenditure data, further updated revenue projections, and staffing retirements and resignations. The board of directors is expected to adopt a resolution for a Reduced Educational Plan in late March, and at that time we will have a more refined estimate of our deficit.


We predicted this deficit a few years ago prior to the pandemic but it was delayed by the infusion of federal pandemic relief dollars that are now drying up. And now we have some new fiscal realities that are magnifying our problem. Our deficit is driven by several factors:


1) We have reduced revenue due to our enrollment decline of more than 700 students since 2019-20. Because enrollment decline has been a statewide problem since COVID, this was mitigated the last couple of years by hold-harmless legislation that allowed districts to collect state apportionment funding based on past higher enrollment, but that relief, too, is drying up.


2) The federal pandemic relief funding known as the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds will basically expire at the end of this year. That money had allowed us to infuse approximately $5 million per year the last three years in our system to fund long needed physical, mental and social emotional support staff in our schools.


3) There continues to be a significant gap between state funding and the district’s cost of special education services. This is largely driven by an arbitrary state cap on the percentage of students it will fund, and Olympia continues to serve significantly more students above that cap. We have had to cover this cost locally at a price tag of almost $10 million this school year.


4) As has been discussed for several years, the 2017 McCleary legislation to fix school district funding did us no favors in Olympia. It reduced our ability to collect locally, voter-approved, levy revenue, lowered our allocation for compensating our more experienced staff, and skipped over us when it came to increased regionalization funding. The effect of McCleary is coming home to roost. Other factors contributing to our deficit include our commitment to competitive increases to keep employee salaries on pace with inflation, which is also driving up the costs for insurance, utilities, curriculum, fuel and other expenses faster than state funding keeps up.


On our budget web page you can find key information about our legislative priorities and even information on key bills that would benefit our support for students. At this time, most of the legislation we are tracking will fall short of meeting our needs as a district, especially in the areas of special education funding which is disappointing. But there is time left in the session and hopefully that will improve.


We launched a budget survey, which is meant to give our community an opportunity to offer feedback to myself and the board on where funding should be prioritized while making reductions. I know it can be a frustrating exercise because respondents have to rank different programs in the district and people feel very passionate about them. Teaching, instructional support, classroom support staff, principals, music, custodial services, grounds maintenance, nursing and health room staff, athletics, office professionals, mental health supports, etc; these are some of the areas in which the survey is soliciting input. We already have around 1,600 responses but we want to hear from everyone. The survey closes on March 13, and we will report results to the board in late March.


Budget conversations, whether during times of reductions or enhancements, is always an opportunity to calibrate our priorities as a community. It is a time to commit to leading with an equity lens and ensure that those who have historically been underserved or unheard have their voices magnified. That belief is embedded in the board’s commitment to co-creating an equity policy that will help us make decisions now and in the future that better serve ALL students. One way to be a part of that is to take part in an equity policy focus group. Anyone can participate and signups are available here. Another way to participate is to be sure to take the student-generated equity policy input surveys, which are linked from an article further down in this newsletter.


Thank you as always for your commitment and support of the Olympia School District. We have some difficult challenges facing us but we also have an opportunity to come out of these challenges more clearly committed to building and creating a school system that is welcoming to all and prepares our students to succeed in the future.



Patrick Murphy

January 29, 2023 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,

January and February are not only the months that mark the middle of the school year. They also mark the time on our calendar when we honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once again proclaim Black Lives Matter at School Week, and celebrate Black History Month. These seasonal, official recognitions are relatively new in our community and nation when compared to the full history of this land. It is in that context that I found myself reflecting on a book that I had read recently that is on former President Obama’s list of best reads of 2022. The author is Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff and the title is The Revolutionary.


It is an account of the lead-up to the War for American Independence and focuses on Samuel Adams of Boston. It documents a series of events and actions over several years that eventually led to the Declaration of Independence. A theme throughout that build up of tension was a growing sense by the colonists that they were not being heard or respected. Another way that they put it was, “Taxation without representation is tyranny.”


Perhaps a more modern vernacular of the same sentiment might be, “Nothing about us without us.” One of the more effective uses of this slogan in modern times was by disability activist Tshililo Michael Masutha of South Africa. Born with a visual disability, he later became Deputy Minister of Science and Technology and eventually the Minister of Justice where he served for five years ending in 2019.


In the 19th century, the legendary leader Frederick Douglass consistently pointed out the hypocrisy of those espousing ideals and rights that did not apply to people of African descent. Douglass gave one of the most important speeches in our nation's history in Rochester, New York in 1852.


The event was commemorating the 76th anniversary of America’s independence. His What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July speech is among the most powerful testimonials about the indignities of having policies imposed on a people without the full and direct participation of those affected. In his words that day, Douglass started by singing the praises of the founding fathers, applauding their accomplishments, which in his eyes were rightly being celebrated. But he could not in good conscience participate in that celebration because their achievements did not benefit him or his people. They did not represent him, or his lived history. He told his predominantly white American listeners, “The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me….This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” He did not mince words, “The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed, and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”


Over a century later, Dr. King, at our nation’s capital in our nation’s most famous speech, shared his dream; telling us how far we have to go, demanding that we keep going.


Imagine if we took the Revolutionary War rallying cry above and changed the word from “Taxation” to “Education.” What if it was your education and you did not see yourself or your family’s lived experiences or history represented in it? What if decisions were being made that directly impacted you, by those who don’t really know you, and frankly have never really, truly tried to? Maybe you feel that way. Students and families in Olympia have told me as much.


With each generation there is a renewed call for us to finally and fully live up to the ideals in our nation’s founding. I ask you to join us again this year in the Olympia School District as we renew and more loudly proclaim our belief that Black Lives Matter, as we more deeply immerse ourselves in the rich and proud history of Black Americans; a history that is so much more than enslavement, and as we recommit to the ongoing effort to achieve Dr. King’s dream.


Patrick Murphy

December 16, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD

Hello Olympia School District Families,

Winter Break and the holiday season have arrived. As some of you may recall in previous messages I have sent this time of year, I’ve shared that we celebrate Christmas in my family. This time of year conjures up many memories from my childhood and when my own children were little. One tradition that was always a big deal was annually going out and cutting down a Christmas tree. Every year, there was quite a bit of debate, bargaining and compromise among siblings and family members as we would mark different trees and eventually pick the winner. We’d tie it to the car, bring it home and decorate.


Well this year, we’ve done something that I might have thought unthinkable not too many years ago: we are going with an artificial tree. If you’ve ever seen the Charlie Brown Christmas special, you know that a fake tree was considered an abomination. But truth be told, I like our new tree. It looks remarkably real, doesn’t shed needles (or cause one of our kids to sneeze who has been allergic to past trees), can be reused each year saving us from having to buy a new one annually, and doesn’t require putting water in the basin.

My guess is that those who celebrate Christmas and have had similar past traditions might have some strong opinions about this story. And for those that don’t celebrate Christmas, it may just be a funny little anecdote.


The fact is, at the end of the day, whether our tree is cut in the forest, picked from a lot, or pulled out of storage, it does not change the meaningfulness of the holiday to our family and the importance of it in our lives. It is the excitement with children, time with family, and celebrating our faith; those things are timeless and lasting. While the technical parts of our traditions may change causing a temporary sense of sorrow and loss, the core principles behind those joyful experiences endure.


They say the only constant in life is change. Change is necessary for progress and growth. Throughout history, it has allowed us to avoid and even eradicate many of the afflictions our ancestors experienced. There is a lot of rapid change happening in the world right now, and that can be hard to process, but it is the ultimate way we get to a better future for our children.


Whatever your traditions, whatever changes you are going through, I wish you all a restful winter break and the Happiest of New Years.


Patrick Murphy

November 22, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD

Hello Olympia School District Families,


As Thanksgiving approaches, it is always a good time to take stock of those things for which we are grateful. The 19th century English author Charles Dickens encouraged us to, “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”


We have much to be grateful for today in the Olympia School District. Our recent graduating Class of 2022 had a four-year on-time graduation rate of 91.3%, which is among the highest in the state. At the same time, it is important to note that finishing in four years might not be reasonable or even advisable for some. For a multilingual learner who arrives in our country during their high school years, graduating in five years may be much more appropriate. Health or family circumstances may be good reasons to extend time in high school for some students. Students receiving special services sometimes have plans of service through the age of 21. That is why we often look at our extended or 5-year graduation rate as another important measure. This year Avanti High School’s 5-year grad rate was 100%, a remarkable achievement that cannot be claimed by many.


We have enjoyed incredible music and drama performances and wonderful athletic achievements in our gyms, on our fields and in our swimming pools where Olympia HS sophomore Aoi Kondo won the 4A Girls State Diving Championship. As we continue our recovery from the last few years, slowly but surely our volunteers are coming back to our schools in larger numbers which has always been a critical piece of our school district’s success.


Yes, there continue to be challenges, like there always were and always will be. While our COVID numbers are at the lowest levels we’ve seen in a long, long time, other respiratory illnesses like flu and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) are causing their own challenges. As a reminder, many of the same measures that we implemented for mitigating COVID-19 spread (e.g., hand washing, not sharing utensils and cups, cleaning frequently used surfaces, and covering coughs/sneezes) have similar effectiveness for RSV and cold/flu according to the CDC. And flu shots are always a step we can take to better ensure we stay healthy. Our Thurston County partners offer many places to get that done.


It has been said many times in different ways, it’s not as important what happens to us, but rather how we respond to what happens. I know for me, it is too easy to get bogged down in worry and regrets. Focusing on the good and being thankful will pay dividends. Country singer Willie Nelson said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”


My life and my family’s took a wonderful turn when we arrived in Olympia nearly 6 years ago. I am grateful to serve all of you and wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving and joyous Holiday Season.


Patrick Murphy


October 28, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD

Hello Olympia School District Families,


Author Stanley Horowitz said, “Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.” After having a beautiful summer that seemed to last much longer than usual, the brilliant, flaming colors of our foliage and the brisk fall breezes are even more welcome and appreciated. This is also the time of year when our students, families and staff begin to find their groove and get more comfortable with the routine of school. I hope that is the case for all of you.


I wanted to take this moment to update you on some current initiatives in the district as well as inform you of some inevitable challenges on the fiscal front:


Balanced Calendar

As most of you are aware by now, our district, along with others around the state have been exploring the idea of a balanced calendar. Balanced calendars are the same number of school days in a school year, but breaks are altered to shorten the length of summer break while adding breaks from school during other months inside the traditional school year. There is some research that suggests such a calendar could help address summer learning loss and lessen stress for students and staff. You may have participated in one of our surveys related to this or might be following the work of our exploratory committee on our website. The committee is looking to finish its  work next month and make a recommendation to the board. A key parameter for this work is that it should be a regional decision and that no change should be made unilaterally by our district given our deep connections with our surrounding districts like Griffin, Tumwater and North Thurston.


Our exploratory committee is grappling with the same challenges and issues that previous committees and other districts have tried to tackle when considering this. Issues like lack of air conditioning, impacts on summer employment, aligning with higher education institutions, child care challenges, etc. All of these topics and more make it very hard to substantially change the school year calendar. Stay tuned for more information in the weeks ahead.


Equity Policy Development

Creating and implementing an Equity Policy to link with and augment our district strategic plan has been a goal for the school board and district leadership. A policy will codify a systematic review of our systems and procedures to ensure that all students, families and staff get what they need to be successful. For decades, our data has shown disproportionately negative outcomes for various groups of students in our system. Students of color, those impacted by poverty, lacking housing, multilingual, or receiving special education services; all have historically had gaps in opportunities and achievement. The work of our Equity Policy Steering Committee can be found on our website. We have reached an important stage in this work as we launch our focus group outreach next month beginning with students. The committee is not only prepared to facilitate focus groups but has also created a toolkit for any group in our community to conduct its own discussions and provide feedback to inform and co-create the eventual policy. As they’ve said in their shared purpose statement, we must “celebrat(e) the strengths and diversity of our district (while) identifying and dismantling barriers that are preventing us from fostering a sense of belonging and fully honoring and serving all.” Stay tuned for more information and please consider participating in a focus group.


Budget/Upcoming Legislative Session

The last few years have been acutely challenging due to the pandemic. As we grappled with the myriad of challenges, one thing that was not pressing was any need to simultaneously manage a budget crisis. Thanks to past, prudent fiscal management coupled with the influx of one-time federal relief dollars, we were able to not only manage enrollment declines and fluctuations, but also add much-needed staffing support in the form of health room staff, social workers, family liaisons and additional teachers. Much of that staffing was being asked for prior to the pandemic as mental health support had been a clarion call by school leaders for decades. With the dropping off of the federal relief dollars and our need to respond to things like higher inflation, we once again find ourselves in a place, going into this Legislative Session, to ask for a more equitable and sustainable funding formula from the state.


Not surprisingly, given the precedence of the pandemic, we may have forgotten that back in 2019-20 we were asking the state to reconsider some of its education funding fixes. You might recall that we did not get “regionalization,” which is a significant increase in revenue for some districts due to costs of living. Olympia did not get regionalization while our neighbors did, and we compete with them to attract and hire staff. You may have understandably failed to recall that the state moved to an average teacher salary allocation for all districts regardless of teacher experience. That is especially harmful to places like Olympia that have more senior teaching staff. And, the state continues to underfund special education. The bottom line is we will once again need to make a strong case to our state leaders to do all they can to keep our much needed support of the last couple of years in place. Without some changes, there will be some difficult budgetary decisions to be made next spring. The impacts of the pandemic will not be gone next year. We will feel the reverberations for many years to come.


We will continue to provide updates about the budget and Legislative Session, as well as district initiatives, in the coming months. Please remember to visit our district website and OSD social media platforms.



Patrick Murphy

August 25, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD

Hello Olympia School District Families,

I can’t remember a summer with such wonderful and consistent weather. Hopefully you have all had an opportunity to be outside and enjoy it. Now, the “Back to School” advertisements are filling the airwaves, and that can only mean one thing. The 2022-23 school year is right around the corner.

This school year promises to be another important step in our recovery from the events of the past few years. And, as we have said time and again, our goal is not to “get back to normal” but rather to come out better, stronger and more responsive to the needs of all students and families. As we continue our transformational work in the Olympia School District, there are some important items to note:

  • This morning, August 25, 2022, Thurston County Public Health and Social Services released its latest flowchart for symptomatic students and staff. Please note the updates highlighted in red on the flowchart. The Washington State Department of Health has also issued new guidance this month on COVID mitigation. Many of the measures in place at the end of last school year will remain in effect this fall.
  • The district is continuing two key initiatives: the exploration of a balanced calendar, and the creation and adoption of an equity policy. If you are interested in serving on a Balanced Calendar Exploratory Committee, please let your school principal know and stay tuned for more information in September on upcoming community engagement opportunities related to the equity policy.
  • While we are making inroads, we still, like most school districts, are grappling with bus driver shortages. If you are interested in serving in this critically important role, you can find more information here.
  • Mark your calendars for the annual Olympia School District Education Foundation’s “Education Foundation Breakfast” on the morning of October 7 (a non-student day) in the beautiful, new, voter-supported Capital High School Performing Arts Center. Information about the breakfast, which supports our Principal's Emergency Fund, and all the other wonderful work of the Foundation, can be found on its website.


I hope you get an opportunity to savor the waning days of summer with family and friends before school starts. On September 7, we will welcome students in grades one through 12 into our schools, followed on September 12 by preschoolers and kindergartners – the graduating Class of 2035! I look forward to seeing all of you at open houses and other back-to-school events, as well as continuing to partner with you in the coming year. See you at school!



Patrick Murphy


June 30, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD

Hello Olympia School District Families,

With the end of the school year comes sunshine and hopefully time for people to wind down a little, be with family and friends, and refuel the energy tanks.

And at the same time, the summer break is a time for us to reflect, think and plan for the work ahead. One thing the last couple of years has given us is permission to think outside the box on how to deliver education. The traditional confines of the facility, the daily clock and the calendar have been loosened, and we have license like never before to explore new ways of customizing learning for all students to better meet their individual needs. Our teachers and school staff have been at the forefront of this transformative work, and we will continue to plan and prepare with them for the ongoing work of creating a better, more responsive school system in the future.

For those who want or need continued learning opportunities, again, we will be extending the school year calendar and providing our OSD Summer School program (offered for elementary and secondary students).

Also, as a reminder, summer is a time for building maintenance around the district. You will see our ground and facilities team working away the next couple of months, with a particularly big remodel at Avanti High School in full effect this summer. Our schools always look so shiny and welcoming come September thanks to the hard work of our dedicated Operations team in the summer. A special thanks to the maintenance staff who keep our buildings looking good and running smoothly.

I wish all of our students, families and staff a well deserved restful and joyous summer break with family and loved ones. In the meantime, we will work hard to be ready to welcome students back to school on Wednesday, September 7, which will include for the first time, our new incoming kindergartners, the Class of 2035



Patrick Murphy



May 31, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD

Hello Olympia School District Families,

We are in the home stretch, and it is the time of the school year to give a special thank you and fond farewell to the graduating seniors of the Class of 2022. Maybe like my family, you have a graduate of your own in this year’s class. Because of COVID-19, each class over the last couple of years has faced monumental challenges and heartbreak. And while the pandemic is not over just yet, in many ways, this graduating class leaves our schools with more hope, resilience and abilities that strengthen my belief that we will emerge from this crisis stronger and better. They say necessity is the mother of invention and that adversity breeds character. Goodness knows that this group of graduates had to adapt to new ways of doing things and navigate troubles and trauma like few before them.

Each year at this time, I have the great joy to sit down for exit interviews with some of our graduating seniors. If you have not done this, I encourage you to reach out to one of our local high schools to participate sometime in the future. It is a life-affirming and hope building exercise.

Whether it is Avanti, Capital, Olympia, ORLA, or our Transition Academy and Project Search; you will find graduates with goals and dreams and plans as unique and impressive as the students themselves. This year was no exception, but I sensed an air of wisdom and discernment with the grads I spoke with this year that seemed more elevated. It was as if they were fully aware that they are leaving school and going out into a rapidly changing world that they will likely shape and define more quickly than any generation before them. They know that change is inevitable, and can and should be good. And they also understand, thanks to technology, that the pace of change has never been faster.

For those, like me, who grew up at a time when things seemed slower, more predictable, perhaps even more innocent; this future of sudden change can be nerve-racking, worrisome and cause us to feel unstable. And yet, what I heard from my interviewees was not a desire to slow down, or get off the freeway at the next exit. On the contrary, I heard them talk about the great benefit of living today, of the endless possibilities, and how we now have the means to make a meaningful difference, more quickly, to better the lives of all people, who need it now.

A Capital High graduate shared with me that space exploration opens up so many opportunities for his generation. When I asked if that meant that he might want to be an astronaut or explorer, he smiled and said, “No, I intend to practice Space Law.”  He’d already researched the best universities and gained admission to be at the forefront of this new field. I spoke to a graduate from the Freedom Farm program at Olympia High who shared with me how his love for music and keen interest in botany and organic medicine was driving him to pursue a science career to wipe out the scorn of opiate addiction that has particularly plagued the entertainment industry. Another shared that they will run their own construction business but will earn a degree in accounting so they are not reliant on others to keep the books and better ensure their financial success. Some shared their intention to live and study overseas, to serve their country in the military, enter the field of health and medicine as doctors, nurses and therapists, or work to save the environment.

In each instance, there was an optimism in their stories, and a desire to serve others; a beautiful contrast to the stories that too often fill the news and social media. They were not pollyanna, nor were they deceiving themselves into thinking that great challenges do not lie ahead. What they all seemed to have, in different ways, was a belief that they have agency; that they, more than anyone else, determine their own destiny.

This mindset going into the future will serve them well. It is a reflection not just on them, but their families, their teachers and friends. Congratulations Class of 2022 and thank you for inspiring and shining light on the path to a better future.



Patrick Murphy


April 27, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD

Hello Olympia School District Families,

Spring break has concluded, warmer days with more daylight are upon us, and we are making the turn down the homestretch of the 2021-22 school year. While this has been one of the more challenging years for students, staff and families as we continue our recovery from the pandemic impacts, there are also lots of signs of the fog lifting and brighter days ahead.


Olympia has always been the envy of many because of the bountiful contributions of volunteers and organizations throughout our community. We average 5,000 official volunteers annually and more than 50,000 hours of service to our schools. While COVID hampered our volunteer capacity due to restrictions for being on-site, it, too, is on the rebound. Our district celebrated Public School Volunteer Week April 18-22, and we are on the road to recovery as thousands have returned to our schools under the existing safety protocols.


No organization better exemplifies the commitment to service and to our families like our own Olympia School District Education Foundation. OSDEF is committed to “Empowering every student through community support.” Its values dovetail beautifully with our Student Outcomes, and it supports the district in countless ways. Key areas include 1) the Principal’s Emergency Fund (PEF) 2) Classroom Grants 3) Mental Health 4) Hands On/Outdoor Learning.


The principal's fund gives schools critical resources to support families in need without red tape or encumbrances which is so helpful in a crisis. The classroom grants encourage innovation and give teachers a wonderful ally in their work as they constantly seek ways to make their classrooms more engaging, which is especially important right now in our recovery efforts. The last two years have impacted the collective mental health of our community and OSDEF’s support for staff training in this area has been crucial. And while some of our overnight outdoor learning experiences have been hindered this year for safety reasons, the Foundation remains committed to hands-on learning that is a hallmark of the Olympia community.


I encourage you all to follow OSDEF on social media (Facebook and Instagram) and attend or sponsor a fundraising event (PEF Golf Scramble in August; PEF Breakfast in September/October). OSD staff also can consider automatic payroll deduction. If you want to help in a more direct way with your time, consider joining the Board of Trustees (more details available on the OSDEF website in early June 2022), volunteer at an event, or work on a committee. Please reach out to [email protected] to learn more!


In addition to the OSDEF we have other strong community partners like the City of Olympia, Thurston County YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and the South Sound Reading Foundation. All of them tirelessly support our students and families and better ensure we meet our Student Outcomes. And yes, like our school district, much of their work is largely completed thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers and supporters.


Thank you to all of our community volunteers. We are able to do so much more because of all of you. As we welcome spring and the promise it holds, I wish all a successful last quarter of the school year.



Patrick Murphy



April 1, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD

Hello Olympia School District Families,

It is hard to believe that Spring Break is here and we are heading into the last quarter of the school year. While this year has proven to be one of the most challenging as we recover from the harm of the pandemic, it is heartening to see our students and staff meet those challenges and accomplish amazing things.

There was one particular recent accomplishment that symbolizes, I think, how perseverance, effort and support can help us clear even the seemingly impossible hurdles we face.

Amanda Moll, and her sister Hana, are twin sisters and juniors at Capital High School. On March 25 in Austin, Texas, at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays Track Meet, Amanda broke the national record in the girls pole vault when she cleared 14-9 ½ (4.51m). By the way, her sister Hana’s personal best is 14’-8”. Competitors are all given three tries, and it was on her third and final attempt that Amanda set the new national record.

According to the twins’ mother, the girls practice, support and compete against each other which helps them to keep improving. In addition to family support; numerous coaches, community members and staff have encouraged and assisted them through the years since they were young. Read more about the Moll sisters in an article in the August 2021 Spotlight on Success newsletter.

Individual dedication coupled with community support are the key ingredients to success in any endeavor in school. I have marveled at the dedication of our students across the district as they have worked through the challenges of the past couple of years. Likewise, I am humbled by the dedication, expertise and loving support shown by our staff to ensure that all of our students have what they need to reach their full potential. Their efforts in this most challenging of years are especially inspiring.

Each student and family has their own unique circumstances, supports and challenges. The school board is in the process of gathering community input for an Equity Policy that will augment and reinforce our strategic plan and student outcomes. Making sure every student gets the support they need will be the foundation of that plan. But it is our families who know their children’s needs best, so working with all of you is crucial to creating this policy. A steering committee is working on the community engagement process that will start up after spring break. For more information, visit the Equity Policy Development webpage.

Fiercely advocating for resources to support our staff and students has been a hallmark of Olympia long before I arrived here. I am pleased to report that for the first time in a while, those efforts, too, have paid dividends in the last legislative session. While it did not resolve all of the funding inequities that have negatively impacted Olympia, there were important bills and budget measures passed that will help us moving forward to equip our staff with resources to better support all students.

We can work exceptionally hard, but without the right equipment and staffing, we will be hard-pressed to clear the big hurdles. Amanda proved that when you have those supports, nothing is impossible. Likewise, I am optimistic as spring approaches, that we too, as a district, will continue to achieve at higher levels as we get back to better.

I wish you all a safe and restful spring break with family and friends.


Patrick Murphy


February 5, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD

Hello Olympia School District Families,

First off, I want to thank the entire Olympia community for their overwhelming support in passing our 4-year Technology and Safety Replacement Levy. At a time when school district ballot measures were struggling to pass in various places across the state, nearly 70% of our voters said “yes,” which was among the highest approval rates of any district in the state. Thanks to our generous community, we will have the resources to continue to build “back to better” as we come out of the pandemic.

Related to that, most of us are aware by now that the governor announced that on March 21, face coverings will be encouraged but no longer required in K-12 schools statewide. Our local health department intends to release updated guidance around the first week of March to school districts based on our local context in Thurston County. We knew as we came out of the pandemic that it would not be a flick of a switch, but more like a turning of a dial, as some mitigation measures are rolled back slowly over time as case counts diminish. It is encouraging news, and we will keep our community posted as we get new information.

You may have heard information over the last few months about the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s support for school districts to explore the idea of a “balanced calendar.” Olympia is one of dozens of school districts across the state that received a grant to assist in that exploration. A balanced calendar would modify the traditional 180-day school calendar to keep the learning process more continuous. Instead of a calendar dominated by a very long summer break, students would have more periodic, longer breaks throughout the school year and a shorter summer break. Students attending schools that follow a balanced calendar receive the same number of instructional days and hours as those who attend schools that follow a traditional calendar. This schedule has proven beneficial for addressing social-emotional needs of students and staff, and research has shown it to be particularly beneficial for students and families impacted by poverty. I invite you all to attend a webinar on March 15 to learn more. In addition to the community webinar, our Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) will be sharing more information in the weeks and months to come, and distributing a survey to our community in the early spring. So stay tuned for more information on that.

Lastly and importantly, the school board continues its work on the creation of a district equity policy. It is committed to a collaborative process with the community so the policy development will include extensive community engagement. The board will discuss next steps at its March 3, 2022 board work session, and we will keep the community informed about how it plans to authentically engage with all community members.

I wish everyone a strong and fruitful second half of the school year.


Patrick Murphy


January 27, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,


As we reach the midpoint of the 2021-22 school year, it coincides with the time on the calendar when our schools and district annually celebrate the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., proclaim our annual recognition of Black Lives Matter at School Week, and launch Black History Month. And at the same time, we know that combating racism and promoting racial equity is not something relegated to a specific federal holiday or a singular week or month. It is an ethical imperative that we must commit to every day, every month, throughout the year.


When racial incidents take place, like the one that occurred recently at one of our basketball games (see January 19 message to families), they must be investigated thoroughly, accountability must be firm, and restoration pursued. Given the protected privacy (FERPA) of student discipline for all students, it is understandable that some may feel unsatisfied without knowing particulars. It is also easy to understand why that level of dissatisfaction and/or skepticism may be heightened for those who distrust our system and leadership because they have their own past or present experiences with racist behavior that appeared to be dismissed or brushed “under the rug.”


I have heard many of those voices and experiences over the last week. And I heard them before this week. We have a bigger cultural, systemic and adaptive problem that our school district and our community faces, and it is not unique to Olympia. This is not new news. We’ve known this. And while this is an essential, national and global responsibility, Olympia is where we live; this is our sphere of influence, and here is where we can make a difference every day in our actions and interactions with everyone in our community.


The fact that students and community members feel empowered today to share their experiences and that they expect change is a sign, I believe, that we are in a better place than we were before. Exposure, accountability and transparency are the keys to creating an anti-racist school district and school environments that recognize, honor and respect all children, families and staff.


My sharing in this column of what we are doing in the Olympia School District to promote racial equity is not meant to be taken as some ultimate remedy or “fix'' to the problem of racism. Rather, it hopefully gives you an idea of the ongoing work we are doing to make a difference in our “sphere of influence” to better ensure that racial actions and ideas have no fertile ground in our district in which to grow.


The following is a non-exhaustive list of steps we are taking in response to this particular incident and responses to past incidents, and also some ongoing districtwide equity work and initiatives:

  • School administration has reached out directly to students, families and the greater community at CHS and spelled out initial steps.
  • CHS has reached out to student leadership at River Ridge High School and is planning for student leaders from the two schools to meet, build a stronger relationship and partner on collectively coming up with ways to create schools free of racism.
  • Principals in other schools have shared video messages and posts on school social media platforms to promote anti-racist work.
  • Schools have held schoolwide assemblies and/or grade-level meetings around ending racism.
  • There have been student cafes, and community cafes (conversations with students, staff and community members such Black Alliance of Thurston County) in response to incidents of racism.
  • An ethnic studies class was created at Olympia High School about 5 years ago, which is a product of discussions held during the student and community cafes (see bullet point above). The addition of this class, which is open to Olympia High School seniors, was a student-led initiative and we are working to make this available districtwide.
  • Avanti High School’s Social Justice Institute sponsors monthly workshops and book studies for students and staff to examine an array of topics including race, gender and class. 
  • Guest speakers are invited annually to campuses across the district to specifically address racism. They have also returned to campuses to support students when specific incidents of racism occur.
  • Olympia School District partnered the past three years with North Thurston School District and some other school leaders in the region to organize the Stay WOKE conference. The event gives students of color opportunities to talk and support one another and increase leadership opportunities. This year’s conference will be in May.
  • The Olympia School District launched a student mentorship program that provides peer mentoring and leadership opportunities with an emphasis on supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) across the district.
  • The district also has an affinity group “OSD Educators of Color” for staff throughout the district to share experiences and generate ideas to support, recruit and retain more staff of color.
  • During homerooms and advisories, including at the middle school level, there are consistent lessons that raise awareness about ongoing racism and confronting racial bias.
  • Staff throughout the district have participated in book studies related to the creation of anti-racist institutions. Additionally, the district Teaching & Learning team has supported OSD educators with participating in a statewide book study on equity that launches this month. Teaching & Learning has also worked with principals to help schools plan for and celebrate Black Lives Matter at School Week and Black History Month.
  • With board approval, Restorative Justice Centers and Practices have been put in place in our schools, in part, to respond to the historical disproportionality of school discipline and school exclusion.
  • Schools have established Equity Teams, and districtwide equity teams, including students. These equity teams are earmarked to be in our new equity policy.
  • OSD works with Panorama Education to annually survey students, families and staff on a variety of social-emotional topics including questions around climate and racial equity. The data is analyzed to inform future planning for the school and the district.
  • The District Improvement Plan contains a commitment to more diverse hiring in order to have staff and educators who more proportionally represent the races and life experiences of the children we serve.
  • Our district coordinated a Whole Child Conference for OSD staff last August, including a breakout session focused on social justice.
  • The Olympia School Board has held work sessions and most recently devoted time at its January board retreat to finalize planning for the creation of an OSD Equity Policy with an emphasis on authentic community engagement to inform and collaboratively create the policy.
  • OSD hired a Native Education and Tribal Relations Program Manager this year and has initiated government-to-government relations with local tribal leaders. Our tribal partners have worked directly with schools like the Nisqually Tribe at Capital High School in October.
  • The District Leadership Team continues to participate in trainings as they have over the past few years around creating an anti-racist organization working with organizations like Cultures Connecting and the Puget Sound ESD Equity in Education Team.
  • Elementary family liaisons are participating in training specific to supporting students of color and anti-racist work moving forward.
  • The district uses processes when adopting curriculum and instructional materials to identify and eliminate bias.
  • We adopted the use of an OSD Race and Equity Impact Decision-Making Tool last year that is used by staff across the district to help make district and school decisions. The purpose of this tool is to engage everyone involved in the Olympia School District to learn, think and address how race and equity impacts choices in instruction, programming, staffing, funding and policy.


Again, this list is only meant to give an overall idea of some work that is going on in the district and not meant to be comprehensive. I have heard suggestions from some this last week and previously, that so much talk and teaching of the impact of racism by the Olympia School District actually contributes to more racist events occurring; because it is divisive. There are national debates about that. If that were true, and I don’t believe it is, then I can’t help but wonder why we are hearing from people from years and decades ago about their experiences with racism in our school district and greater community. If we were less likely to have unfiltered candid conversations about racism then, it did not help. Putting our heads in the sand or choosing to ignore our past and present realities is never a good teaching or learning strategy. We won’t do that in the Olympia School District.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other icons of our nation's Civil Rights movement literally gave their lives to ensure that the world knew of the injustices that plagued our nation and were inflicted on Black citizens. It was their courage and tenacity that resulted in legislation and cultural change to help us get closer to our national ideals of becoming a “more perfect union.” We celebrate them in the weeks ahead, but more importantly, to fully honor their legacy, I ask that we take this time to recognize we are not there yet, and commit ourselves, or recommit more fervently to never giving up in that pursuit.



Patrick Murphy



December 17, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,

2021 is slowly coming to a conclusion, and this Winter Break may be more eagerly welcomed than any in recent memory. I am hopeful that the stress of 2021 might be softened for all of us by time with family and loved ones in the next few weeks.

December is a time of holiday traditions for many families. For mine, Christmas has always been one of the highlights of the year. It still conjures up early childhood memories of excitement and wonder. My parents always tried to teach me and my siblings that while presents were nice, it was always better “to give than to receive.” I’ve thought of that age-old wisdom quite a bit these last few weeks, especially as I've visited schools and talked with students and staff.

There’s an old American Proverb that says “Education is a gift that none can take away.” It is that sentiment, I believe, that inspires our staff to dedicate their professional lives to our students. It is that faith that drives our parents and families to seek out the best ways to support their children in their schooling. We know, empirically and intuitively, that if our children are educated well, they are so much more likely to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. And, in the end, that is what we all want for our children.

So it was with that thinking in my head that I recently visited one particular set of kindergarten classrooms. This just happened to be at LP Brown Elementary, but it could have been at any school, at any level in our district. In this case, the assignment the students were working on was related to the gingerbread man story; where the baked gingerbread man comes to life and is chased by the baker and others and eventually is eaten by the fox while trying to cross a river. The kindergartners had to cut out squares with different scenes from the story on them, put them in chronological order, glue them to a story board and color the pictures. Lots of learning targets were evident: learning cause and effect; chronological thinking, prediction, practicing motor skills, etc.

That might sound like a pretty basic lesson for young learners and perhaps not all that exciting. That would be wrong. What I saw and heard in those classrooms was wonderful and dare I say, magical. I observed our youngest learners enthusiastically recalling the story, applying what they had learned from their teacher and talking to one another to think through how those squares should be ordered. I heard laughter and puzzlement. I saw a teacher gently and lovingly suggest a new more effective way to hold scissors that could help a little girl who was struggling. And then I saw her beam with pride and satisfaction as she cut that paper so much better with her new found skill. I had 5- and 6-year-olds tell me how silly I was for suggesting that one square depicting a scene on the timeline might go in a different place in the sequence because it was quite obvious to them that the gingerbread man could not come to life and run away until AFTER he was baked in the oven. I saw some children painstakingly and carefully apply the glue stick to position and attach the squares just so, while others rushed that process a bit, because they could not wait to start coloring. And oh what colors did they use. Purples and greens and blues, some carefully within the lines and others courageously crossing them because it just looked more beautiful to them. It was magnificent to behold and not an experience that could have been had remotely.

There is another famous quote attributed to Sir Francis Bacon but others have said it in different ways and that is that “knowledge is power.” By learning and acquiring knowledge we overcome worry and fear of the unknown. We gain confidence in our own agency and ability to control our future and destiny. It can bring us peace of mind from  those things that make us anxious.

Whatever your family traditions or cultural observances, more than anything else this winter break, I wish peace for all of us.

Happy Holidays!


Patrick Murphy


November 23, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,


Ever since I reached adulthood, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for a variety of reasons. Unlike some others, you can always count on the fact it will fall on a Thursday, and for most people, it results in a four-day weekend. For me, it has always been a time of three of my favorite “F’s”: family, food and football. For our family, it marks the beginning of the holiday season, so it has been a time of hope and optimism about what might come.


Family traditions are a part of who we are, and they change and take shape over time. Some of our families who are Native American, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian have traditions that have developed over thousands of years.


As a child, at school, I was taught a narrative that was presented as the traditional “Thanksgiving” story, in which some of the earliest European colonists arrived in North America and were challenged by their new environment. Desperate and hungry, they were assisted by friendly Native Americans, had a great feast together, and that was about all I remember learning.


Of course, since then, I have learned much more about the impact of European colonization, especially on the indigenous peoples of this continent. There are links at the bottom of this message with additional resources, and I invite you to explore them.


For too long in our society and in our schools we have disproportionately shared history from a single perspective. The story of our Native American students and families needs to be told. All students deserve to know it. We should not be afraid of our Nation's full, unfiltered history. By telling our stories, everyone’s stories, we give ourselves capacity to grow in our understanding and empathy.


Which brings me back to Thanksgiving and the first “F”, family. Like many I suspect, I spend most days preoccupied with my own personal challenges and issues. But at Thanksgiving, I find myself listening and immersed in the stories and perspectives of siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws and new significant others courageously entering the fold. Sure, those conversations can be contentious at times, but I often end up, if only temporarily, losing myself in the shared experiences of others and leave with a better awareness of who they are and ultimately who I am. I think that is how we grow and become the better manifestation of ourselves that we long to be.


I hope you all can enjoy the gift of family, friends or self-reflection during Native American Heritage Month and over this Thanksgiving weekend.


Patrick Murphy



October 29, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


It is getting darker earlier each evening and the clocks will soon be “falling back.” The blustery winds are taking their toll on the beautiful fall foliage, filling our streets with a carpet of brilliant orange, yellow and red leaves. Normally, this is the time of year when our students, staff and families start to get into the groove of the school year. But alas, as we have said many times before, this has been anything but, a “normal” school year.


There is cautiously good news on the horizon that was shared by Thurston County health officials this week. The weekly rate of positive COVID cases continues to trend down and is below 200 cases per week for the first time in a long time. And while hospital capacity is always a concern, that too, is trending in the right direction with more available beds in ICUs and space in general, than in the recent past. On top of that, elementary age children will be eligible for the vaccine very soon with doses arriving in Washington state reportedly next week. We have recently been able to implement a “Test to Stay” protocol  in our schools that allows students who are close contacts, but not symptomatic, to stay in school thanks to the hard work of our nurses and health care teams. There are lots of things on the health front that give us hope moving forward.


While we are grateful that we are able to provide full-time in-person learning for all families seeking that, along with an online option through our virtual academy that is getting fully staffed after a major surge in enrollment to start the year, this has been a difficult and tiring first couple of months of school for staff, students and families. I’ve heard universally that while there is much gratitude to have students back in-person; people, in general, are seeing fatigue and exhaustion that does not normally surface until much later in the school year.


There are lots of reasons for that. Perhaps it is fear that another variant will set us back, or that cold and flu season is upon us and has the dark cloud of COVID making it more concerning. Maybe the mitigation measures of masking and distancing are taking their toll after so many months and we are longing for unrestrained communication and connection. It could be the staffing shortages that are stretching our team like never before. Or, possibly a worse scenario, some may have had serious medical circumstances in their family or may have lost loved ones related to the virus. Whatever the reason, we knew that our recovery from the pandemic would not be a flick of a light switch, but rather a gradual turning of a dial.


We knew that meeting the social, emotional and mental health needs of our students and staff were going to be critical this year before there could be any progress in academics. That is why we invested in more support like health staff, social workers and family liaisons. We will be hosting another community webinar from 6-7 p.m. on November 3 to give an update on that part of our recovery plan and to take questions from the community. Look for a separate announcement in this newsletter about how to join us on Zoom for the student well-being webinar.


Research shows us that there are peaks and troughs when recovering from disasters. Our Department of Health has done an analysis on this volatility and turbulence and how it impacts our mental health. We will eventually get back to a new sense of normal, of stability, and of calm, but we are not there yet. We are going to be in this a while longer. It might not seem like it at the moment, but just as the falling leaves of autumn will eventually be replaced by the buds of spring, so, too, I believe, together, we will weather these challenges and come out of this stronger and better as a school district and learning community. In the meantime, know that none of us are alone in our stress. I encourage all of us to continue to invest in our own physical and mental well-being and that of our loved ones. Thanks, as always, to our families and staff for your support and uncompromising compassion.



Patrick Murphy



September 29, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


As we end the first month of the 2021-22 school year, I am grateful to all of our students, staff and families for their continued hard work, resilience, flexibility and patience. The start of school this year, like so many things these past 18 months, was unprecedented in so many ways. Thankfully, we have our students back in school, in-person, five days a week full time. This was only possible due to the amazing work of our teachers, paraeducators, principals, nurses, office professionals, custodians, food service workers, bus drivers, mechanics and so many others. They ensured that safety measures were in place, buildings were cleaned and equipped, buses were inspected and ready to go, schedules were created and adjusted, and classrooms were ready to invite our students back. Our students and families have supported our safety measures like our universal masking requirements, washing hands more frequently, and staying home when sick; and that has made a big difference.


I was able to ride the bus to school on our first day (on a new grant-acquired electric bus with no carbon footprint) and, along with our amazing driver, greeted elementary students on board the bus, all excited for their first day of school. Over the first few days of school, I saw students happily reconnecting with friends or making new ones, after some had not been in school for more than a year. I watched teachers and staff make extra efforts to make that first week special and give time and acknowledgment to the trauma we have all experienced as a community over these last several months. Our Virtual Academy of Olympia, which had a large surge of enrollment just prior to the start of school, is overcoming those challenges and is up and running and serving families seeking full-time remote learning.


The Olympia School District has always championed the belief that our students cannot perform at their best if they are not healthy, both physically and mentally. Thanks to the infusion of resources from federal and state grants related to COVID relief, we have more support and staff in place this year than ever before to support our students and families. More social workers, family liaisons, and staff from the TOGETHER! organization are in our schools helping families in crisis and supporting staff in that work. For more information, please visit our Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan if you have not already done so.


School might not look exactly like it did prior to the pandemic, yet, but kids are in school, and for that I am so appreciative to all of you.



Patrick Murphy



August 27, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


After experiencing the warmest days in recorded history in Olympia the last couple of months, it is particularly reassuring this year to feel the slight hints of chill in the late August breezes reminding us that fall is not far away. Autumn also brings all of the promise, hopes and dreams that accompany every first day of school.


Because of the trauma we have all experienced the last year-and-a-half due to the pandemic, and the enduring stresses that the latest variant is placing upon us, it is perhaps inevitable that our excitement is understandably tempered.


Our collective response to the adversity we have faced and continue to face has been admirable and inspiring. Students, families and staff members have all wrestled with uncertainty and fear and persevered. We have more obstacles to overcome, but we have learned much that we will apply to this school year that will help us “get back to better.”


For the first time in nearly 18 months, our health officials have given us revised guidance that allows us, beginning September 8, to offer full-time, every day, in-person learning for those families that seek it. That is a huge step. School closures, as we have all learned, had their own health impacts on our youth, both physically and mentally, and being able to be back in person, safely, on a regular schedule is most welcomed news. We know families have circumstances unique to them. For those who prefer to remain in a full-time remote learning program, we offer the new Virtual Academy of Olympia based out of the Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA).


We have taken the additional resources that came from federal and state emergency relief funds and created an Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan that gives our students and families access to new social-emotional supports like increased social workers and family liaisons. We have a new partnership with TOGETHER! that has a history in Thurston County of helping families and schools advance the health and well-being of young people. We have increased staffing in our schools and are implementing instructional coaches to help our staff identify student needs and apply the highest leveraged practices to address delays in learning.


We continue to partner with our local health officials to make sure we are implementing and updating our safety and mitigation strategies in our response to COVID. The details of those efforts are found in our Pandemic Safety Response Plan. We know that by masking, physically distancing, staying home when sick and practicing good hand-washing hygiene, we dramatically decrease the likelihood of spread. We know that vaccinated individuals have much greater protection against severe illness from COVID and we have hosted vaccination clinics and continue to encourage all who are eligible to get vaccinated. By order of the governor, all staff are required to be fully vaccinated, or provide a valid religious or medical exemption, by October 18, 2021. We will continue to push out information to our community about vaccination opportunities.


Yes, we all were hoping that COVID would be further in the rearview mirror at this point, but the delta variant has prevented that. But we, too, have adapted and are smarter in our efforts to combat the virus and its effects as we approach the first day of school. I am grateful that we have new staff and resources to better support our students and families. I am thankful to all of our staff for their unflinching commitment to our students. And I thank all of our parents and community for your determination, patience and support as we launch the 2021-22 school year.


We look forward to welcoming students on the first day of school and partnering with you in the year ahead.



Patrick Murphy



June 30, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


It seems fitting that we ended this school year with yet another unprecedented occurrence; a heat wave like no other. As the marine layer returned this week, and brought welcome breezes and cooler temperatures, we all could breathe a little easier as our more normal, temperate Northwest weather returned. Likewise, as our vaccination efforts across the region have taken hold and our COVID numbers have dramatically decreased, we are seeing the lifting of restrictions, a cautious sigh of relief, and the anticipation of next school year with full-time in-person learning, five days a week.


Much work has gone into the start of school next year, which includes an infusion of additional staff and supports in our schools to respond to the needs of our students after a year filled with so much change and uncertainty. If you have not seen our Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan, I would encourage you to do so as it spells out in detail our efforts to “get back to better.” While we expect the overwhelming majority of our families to choose in-person schooling at their neighborhood school, some may prefer to remain virtual. Subsequently we have created the Virtual Academy of Olympia (VAO) for those families that may choose to continue remotely. More information is posted on the VAO webpage. In addition, next year will mark a change in our school start and end times, so that our adolescent students have school hours that align with the research on teens and sleep patterns. This change affects all schools — elementary, middle and high.


Finally, I want to again congratulate the Class of 2021. As stated previously, your class, in many ways, was most impacted by the pandemic and your resilience, compassion and creativity inspired us all. Whether you are an Avanti Bulldog, a Capital Cougar, an ORLA Orca, an Olympia Bear or a graduate from the Transition Program; we could not be more proud of each one of you. As was stated at our ceremonies, we cannot wait to see how you all will collectively change the world for good and know that, wherever you go, you will always be able to call Olympia home.



Patrick Murphy



May 28, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


It seems we say this every May, but it is particularly true this year, that it is hard to believe we are coming to the end of the school year. It goes without saying that this school year has been one of the most challenging we have faced, but we are coming out of it stronger and better positioned to serve all of our students and families going forward.


Our school board just approved our reopening plan for the 2021-22 school year. Thanks to an infusion of federal support dollars, we are enhancing our staffing and supports in our schools to better ensure both the academic success and the health and well-being of our amazing students. I want to again thank everyone who contributed to the creation of that plan through participating in focus groups, completing surveys and giving feedback to the district.


Next year we look forward to getting back to full-time in-person learning, five days a week. At the same time, we are excited to apply what we have learned during this past year as we launch a Virtual Academy of Olympia (VAO) for those families that may choose to have their students continue to learn remotely. More information will be coming out about the VAO soon.


Finally, this is the time of year that we celebrate our graduates. The Class of 2021 will go down in history as the one that took on the brunt of COVID-19. The resilience, grit, compassion and commitment that they have honed over these last 15 months will serve them well in whatever post-secondary endeavors they choose to pursue. I love the fact that we will be resuming some of our cherished traditions like having our seniors visit their elementary schools before graduation. Graduation is a time to celebrate not only our seniors, but also to recognize all who have supported them in their journey: parents, families, relatives, friends, and former teachers and staff. So congratulations Class of ’21, and my heartfelt thanks and admiration to all of you who have nurtured and taught them along the way.



Patrick Murphy



April 30, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


As we head into the last quarter of what has certainly been one of the most challenging years we have ever faced in public education, there are reasons for optimism moving forward. And at the same time, many questions and concerns remain. I have included information below that will hopefully shed light on some of those future questions and concerns.


Combining Cohorts/In-Person Schooling 4 Days a Week

As mentioned in earlier communications, the faster than previously expected rollout of the vaccines and subsequent changes to school guidance (3-foot distancing instead of 6-foot for students) resulted in our recent announcement that beginning this Monday, May 3, we will be combining cohorts at all grade levels and offering in-person learning four days a week for families that choose that option. Given the complexity of the elementary school model (separate remote teachers for remote students), we said it may take until May 10 to get all elementary families who had previously chosen remote-only back to an in-person classroom if they changed their minds. Our elementary team is still working through that process but have made solid progress and will have placements completed for all students and families by that timeline.


Middle and high school teachers have kept their same students, regardless if they were in-person or remote, so accommodating families that have changed their minds has been much easier to manage. Contact your school if you need help in this area.


In-Person Schooling if Thurston County Changes Phases

Middle and high schools have another distinction from elementary in that they fall under different health metrics when determining what level of in-person schooling is recommended. In regards to community transmission of COVID-19, the elementary threshold to combine cohorts is greater than 350 cases per 100,000 residents. However, for schools that serve older students in middle and high school, the threshold is greater than 200 cases. When the governor made his announcement to allow closer proximity in our schools, our case rate in Thurston County was close to 80 cases per 100,000. This week, it is edging closer to that line of 200 cases. Transmission rates is one of a few metrics that our health officials monitor. Others include hospitalizations and positivity rates. I, and other county superintendents, meet with our county health officials weekly. We expect to have protocols from county health officials this weekend that will stipulate how the county will respond to and guide school districts if and when we get to 200 cases. We will share that information when we have it.  In the interim, as stated above, we are moving forward with combining cohorts and 4 days a week of in-person schooling starting this Monday, May 3.


Student Vaccinations

You will see an article in this edition of Spotlight on Success that announces we will be hosting COVID-19 student vaccination clinics. We have partnered with a state-approved vaccine provider to hold Pfizer vaccine clinics for students who are 16 years or older. Like with adults, vaccinations provide a critical extra layer of protection in our fight to stamp out COVID. While our staff have been overwhelmingly vaccinated, Thurston County as a whole has a lower community vaccination rate than many in Washington State. Improving our vaccination rate, along with following safety protocols, will help in our efforts to open our schools up more fully to serve students in-person more frequently.


County health officials have shared that a vaccine for students 12 and older could be available as soon as the end of May. We will keep you posted on that.


Fall 2021 Start Times

Prior to school building closures due to pandemic in March 2020, the school board heard from a citizen’s advisory committee that had been meeting and researching for about a year on the feasibility of moving secondary (high school and middle school) start times later. The work of that committee and the results of two separate community surveys can be found on the district website. Starting school later for adolescents aligns with a growing body of research around sleep patterns for teens and is in effect in many districts across our state and nation. Our school board unanimously endorsed the recommendation to move secondary start times later in the fall of 2021. Interestingly, we have had a little bit of a test run with this change this year as our current hybrid schedule has elementary schools starting earlier between 8 and 8:45 a.m., and secondary schools starting after 9:30 a.m. At our last board meeting in May we will be presenting new proposed start times for schools for the fall of 2021. Our goal is to have no school start before 8 a.m. and none later than 9:30 a.m.  Look for more information prior to the May 27 board meeting.


2021-22 Budget/Staffing

Lastly, you will see an article in this edition of Spotlight on Success encouraging our community to let us know their thoughts for next year’s budget. For the first time in many years, we have the opportunity to enhance and augment staffing and supports in our schools as a result of federal dollars for pandemic response. We want to use these resources wisely in our efforts to “get back to better.” So thank you for filling out the budget survey by the May 7 deadline.


With Gratitude,

Patrick Murphy



March 26, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


Yesterday marked a major, hopeful milestone in our long struggle against COVID-19 and its distressing impact on our education system. Gov. Jay Inslee, with the Washington State Department of Health, announced that our state is adopting the new federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for schools. There are many pieces to that guidance, but the most impactful is the reduction of the physical distancing requirements between students from at least 6 feet to at least 3 feet. This is particularly significant, because the 6-foot rule was the single greatest contributing factor that made it necessary to operate in-person schooling in a hybrid model with considerably less students attending each day. Classroom capacity was greatly constricted under the old CDC guidance, and this will free up space dramatically.


The governor said that school districts can choose to operate their schools under this new guidance immediately this spring, but it will be required and expected in the fall for all districts to return to full-time in-person schooling.


This change, coupled with the recent prioritization of school employees for COVID-19 vaccinations, has provided a boost of optimism that we have sought for many months. This good news allows us to take another big step toward a return to 5 days a week of schooling, every day, all day, for those families that choose it.


And, at the same time, this guidance does not mean that school will look like it did before the pandemic; not yet. There will still be 6-foot distance requirements between adults, and between adults and students in our schools. Masks will still be required for all, and 6-foot distancing will be required in places where masks cannot be worn — like lunchrooms, and in all common areas like lobbies, hallways and auditoriums. The 6-foot rule will be in effect during any student activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, band, sports and exercise.


Over the last few months, we have spent much time and work successfully preparing our schools for a hybrid model under the old health department guidance. We are committed as a school district to increasing time in and access to school for our students whenever we have the authorization to do so, which we now have. This welcome change will require some adjustments, and some of these changes will take some time to enact. Considerations that we are working through include working with our labor associations to review our existing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) and agreements and determine the impacts of these changes and possible adjustments. Health screening will still be required, and there are technical challenges around how we will screen twice as many students each morning when they arrive at school. Similarly, the 6-foot requirement at lunch will be in effect with twice as many students attending. That needs to be resolved. Our classroom settings and furnishings were set up for the old distancing requirements and will need to be adjusted again. There will likely be staffing implications in which we may have to once again shift staff to new assignments depending on family choices. Related to that, regardless of some possible shifting in family choices, we still need to thoroughly serve our families who choose remote only while we are shifting to more in-person schooling; the governor was clear about that. And, CDC requirements continue to outline health and safety protocols for students who ride our school buses.


I do not share these considerations to dampen our enthusiasm for this week’s welcome news, but merely to note that like all things that have happened during COVID, these changes don’t happen with the flick of a switch. We will continue to adjust our system responsibly and thoughtfully, and as expeditiously as is feasible and in accordance with health and safety guidelines. We will keep our community apprised of our progress and will keep moving forward.


Related to that, Monday marks the final day of hybrid launch, this time for our 10th, 11th and 12th graders. Prior to the governor’s announcement on the new CDC guidance, on March 15, in a declaration identifying a mental health crisis for our state’s children, he announced that by April 19, in-person schooling options for families must be at least 30% of the average weekly instructional hours students were receiving prior to the pandemic. In our secondary hybrid plan, we fall short of that new in-person schooling mandate by approximately 150 minutes or 2 ½ hours per week. I announced at our school board meeting last night that we are working with our labor partners and hope to have a solution to share before we recess for Spring Break at the end of next week.


Lastly, weeks ago, we surveyed families asking them to choose hybrid or remote learning for the remainder of this school year. In that same survey we did say there may be an opportunity to change that choice at the midpoint of the second semester. Our staffing, especially at elementary, is delicately balanced based on these family choices. We will be sending out another survey next week where families will be able to affirm their selections not only this spring, but also give us an idea of where they are leaning for next fall. As was stated at the beginning of this message, we expect to be in full-time learning in the fall, however some families may wish to continue with a distance format for a myriad of reasons. Getting an idea now will help us in our budgeting and planning for next year.


This past year has been more challenging than perhaps any other that we have ever experienced. And, it is in times of adversity that we often experience our greatest growth as individuals. The successful rollout of the vaccines, the diminishing transmission rates in our county and the ability to now serve more students in school, are all wonderful landmarks on our road to recovery and “getting back to better”. I want to again thank everyone for your hard work, support and understanding this past year.



Patrick Murphy



February 26, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


As most are hopefully aware by now, we are well into our implementation of our in-person hybrid learning roll out. On March 8 all elementary grades will be back in person, and our first middle schoolers (sixth graders) will be returning to campus for hybrid instruction on March 15. As stated previously, our goal is to have in-person hybrid learning in place for all middle and high schoolers by the end of March. Our students have done a wonderful job of following health and safety protocols, including wearing masks. Likewise, our staff have worked incredibly hard to have our facilities safely prepared for the return of students and staff. Seeing our students in schools, interacting with classmates and receiving warm welcomes and caring instruction from our teachers and all staff has been a long awaited and beautiful thing to observe.


At the same time, I am so appreciative of our staff who continue to work hard and serve their students remotely. We have a larger percentage than many school districts of families who have chosen to remain exclusively remote. No matter the model of learning, we have tried as much as possible to keep students with their current teachers. We have not been able to do that in all cases at elementary, but when we have not been able to, we have tried to at least keep students in their current school. In some instances, students (or staff) have had to switch schools. At the secondary level, given the complexity of matching up six (6) teachers with a families’ choice, we have created a hybrid model that combines remote learning in the morning with in-person learning in the afternoon. In this way, we can keep all secondary students at their school with their same teachers.


Hybrid learning is one more step toward meeting our ultimate goal of bringing all students back on campus for full days of in-person learning five days a week, just like we did before the Pandemic. We know for some, the transition back to school is moving too slowly. For others, it seems as if we are moving too quickly. As we have done since the Pandemic started, we continue to base our decisions on guidance from our local Health Officer based on the latest COVID-19 data. To see the latest guidance, as well as links to information about the hybrid learning plan and other resources, please visit our In-Person and Remote Learning Updates webpage on the Olympia School District website.


Thank you.



Patrick Murphy



January 29, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


2020 was a year like no other, and while the start to 2021 has certainly already had its share of challenges, it has also brought signs of hope and seeds of optimism. The immense obstacles, barriers and trials presented to us by the COVID-19 virus has forced our reliable, predictable school system to pivot in ways we might never have thought possible. And though challenges continue, I think history will reflect that our families, students and staff have responded to this test with remarkable success, fortitude and devotion.


As we all know by now, our health officials have learned much about the virus over the last year. We have been given the recommendation to proceed thoughtfully, cautiously and slowly with hybrid learning, in-person in our schools for those families and students that seek it. This recommendation comes because we have learned that with health and safety mitigation measures in place in our schools, transmission likelihood is negligible even compared to remaining in full-time remote learning. Masking, frequent hand-washing, health screening, physical distancing and maintaining small cohorts work. We have learned that from our own experience in serving students in our special education programs since September here in Olympia. We have done enormous work, partnered with facility safety agencies, hired additional nursing support and done training to be prepared. If you have not seen our Pandemic Safety plan that covers all these areas in detail, you can read it here. Similarly, I would encourage families to view our training video to get an idea what hybrid will look like in our schools if you have not already viewed it here.


We shared earlier this month that this rollout will begin with kindergartners and preschoolers on February 1, 2021. There will be a “soft launch” for our youngest learners as most of them have never set foot on their campuses. Teachers will have short “meet and greet” meetings with students and families to familiarize them with their school and classroom the first two days before hybrid learning starts in full. We will take at least two weeks to monitor and ensure that our protocols continue to be effective before adding subsequent grade levels.


We know that many families have indicated a desire to continue in full-time distance learning. We also know that staff have individual circumstances and health requirements that necessitate continuation in remote instruction and support as well. Matching up the choices of families with the availability of staff across schools, and grade levels, is a complex and iterative process that takes time, so we do appreciate your patience and understanding as we keep working through that.


One thing we know for sure is that we will need all hands on deck in the months to come. Whether your student is working remotely or coming on campus in hybrid; whether staff are working with kids online or in a mask in a classroom, we will all continue to give our best with compassion and kindness. Times of difficulty are often when we do our greatest learning, and come out stronger and better prepared for the inevitable challenges that are still before us. I have great confidence that this is and will be our story in the Olympia School District. Together, we will come out of this “better”; better at serving all children.



Patrick Murphy



December 18, 2020 (Spotlight on Success) 



Hello Olympia School District Families,


Back in mid-March, when the COVID-19 virus made its initial impact, a colleague said that closing schools would be the second hardest thing we’ll ever do. I was perplexed by that and asked the natural question, “then, what will be the most difficult?” The response was, “opening them again.”


When and how we will open our schools to all of our students has been the overarching question and concern for families and staff for several months now. With the announcement this week from the governor’s office, it is not surprising that the school board and I have heard from numerous members of our community on how to respond to that new guidance, and undoubtedly we will hear from many more in the days and weeks to come.


For some, this announcement that recommends a return to in-person learning in school at a faster pace than the previous metrics allowed, it was most welcome and overdue. For others, given the rates of transmission and the imminence of the vaccine, it seems hasty, scary or even unwise.


Even with the incredible efforts and improvements in distance learning that have been made by our educators, many families, and staff, struggle mightily in the remote learning model. The toll that our school closures has taken on the mental health of our community is real and building. And at the same time, the fear of contracting the virus and the overwhelming desire to keep our students and staff safe from infection is likewise real and magnified given the rates of transmission in our community, state and country.


Neither of these viewpoints is wrong. The question is whether we can find a way to address both concerns, or are they mutually exclusive? Given the research and experience of other schools, districts, states and countries, I believe we can do both by continuing to provide distance options for families (and staff) while adhering strictly to our safety protocols in our buildings.


Gov. Jay Inslee noted the decision to open schools rests with district leaders but also encouraged cooperation with local health officials. From the beginning, we have worked with our partners at Thurston County Public Health and Social Services (PHSS) on the safest way to move forward and will continue to do so. At the end of the day, the county health officer does have authority to close schools if she does not believe we can run them safely, so it behooves us to work together. An estimated start date for larger in-person learning opportunities is not yet set, but will be determined in consultation with PHSS and our labor partners. A lower community transmission rate, as always, will help.


In a news release today, December 18, PHSS Health Officer Dr. Dimyana Abdelmalek responded to the governor’s announcement. “We have been working together with school superintendents and the Washington State Department of Health to plan for this transition to a phased in approach to in-person learning in 2021 in anticipation of these new guidelines. The latest public health research shows this can be safely achieved at higher levels of disease activity than previously thought when all health and safety guidelines are strictly adhered to. We ask the public to continue to help us bring our transmission rates down over this holiday season by avoiding travel and social gatherings, wearing masks, washing hands, abiding by quarantine if exposed to COVID-19, and getting tested quickly if symptoms develop.”


Much work has gone into preparing our school buildings for a safe return of students and staff. A couple of months ago we shared with families a COVID-19 training video for families and the community that features protocols for a safe return to school. Many of these protocols are also outlined in our OSD COVID-19 Pandemic Return to Work Safety Plan, which is posted on our COVID-19 Response Protocol webpage. Lower community transmission coupled with strong safety protocols in our schools will create the safest in-person environment for our students and staff.


If you are interested in learning more about the governor’s announcement this week, the new metrics for phasing in on-campus learning, and the most recent PHSS communication, please visit our In-Person and Remote Learning Updates webpage on the OSD website.


We recognize that winter break, like most things, will be different this year. Regardless, I wish all of you a safe and restful holiday season.



Patrick Murphy



November 24, 2020 (Spotlight on Success) 

Hello Olympia School District Families,


I noted last year at this time, that it was in the midst of the Civil War in 1863, at the height of battlefield deaths and casualties that Lincoln declared the final Thursday of November to be a national day of Thanksgiving. It might have seemed contradictory to those that heard his declaration to be grateful when things seemed so bad.


Upon reflection, it makes more sense to me now that when times are most challenging, this is when it is most important that we take stock of what is good in our lives and express our thanks. Otherwise, we can get submerged and lost in the problems of our lives, in our communities, and in our world, and not see the light and the good that is all around us.


When I truly look and listen, I see it and hear it every day. I see students reaching out to one another to check in on friends to make sure they are doing okay, to work together on assignments or just laugh together about something. I see teachers and staff extraordinarily transforming the way we deliver education and working tirelessly to find new ways to replicate the connections and relationship building that was so prevalent in our physical classrooms and is harder to do now. I see adults reaching out to give to families that are in need and supporting our Educational Foundation in record numbers. Meals, Internet connection, housing assistance and countless other basic needs are being met thanks to the benevolent actions of our community.


I suspect that most of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving differently this year. Our gatherings will likely be smaller, cozier and more intimate than we had originally planned. Whatever your plans, I hope you all not only find rest, joy and hope in these trying times, but the opportunity to give thanks as well.



Patrick Murphy



October 30, 2020 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,


In what has been the most unique beginning of school in recent memory, it might be hard to believe we are almost at the quarter point of the school year. Regardless of what is going on in the world, we recognize this time of year through our senses; we see the beautiful, colorful foliage, we feel the chill in the wind when we walk on a sunny day, and perhaps we taste the difference in the meals we prepare as families as we switch from summer favorites to the comfort foods of fall. In trying times like these, I think it is especially good to be present and savor these touchstones of autumn.


The major driver of our difficulty in this moment is obvious. The novel coronavirus has shaken our foundations, altered our rituals and fundamentally changed how we deliver education. The process for that change has been an iterative one. Like a child who throws a paper airplane, observes the flight, redesigns, and folds the paper differently and tries again and again; we, too, have been tweaking and adjusting our educational model based on your feedback, our observations, and the latest guidance and directives from various agencies.


It is indisputable to me that this process, which is the way we have always learned, is adding to our stress. When you are good at something, and make no mistake about it, the Olympia School District has a long history, long before my arrival here, of providing an exemplary education to our students and families we serve; your core can be shaken when that “something” that you fashioned and honed for so long is no longer suitable to the task.


Refusing to be passive in the face of this adversity, our teachers, students, families and all staff worked tirelessly last spring and summer to plan and launch a new model of learning this year to meet the challenge of distance learning. Not surprisingly, our efforts have produced a greatly improved educational delivery system. There is predictability to the school schedule, a uniform learning management system, and innovative and creative lessons being delivered daily by dedicated staff.


And at the same time, while some are thriving, we know that learning at home is challenging and difficult for many, if not unmanageable for some. As you may know by now, thanks to the guidance from health officials that allows for small group instruction on campuses, our wonderful staff are serving many students with profound disabilities in our schools and will be able to continue to do so, even though our community transmission rates have elevated. And while the most recent information from our local health authorities indicates that we will not be adding entire grade levels of students anytime in the near future, we will likely have the ability to expand small group instruction on-site for those who continue to face heavy barriers at home.


As we head into the colder seasons, I want to once again thank our entire Olympia School District community for their steadfastness and determination to keep improving and leading with compassion and kindness. As we have said before, our struggles now will lead to an improved tomorrow. I am confident we will get “back to better” and our response to the challenges of today will result in an enriched school district that will better serve ALL of our students and families moving forward.



Patrick Murphy



September 20, 2020 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,


As we reflect on the three weeks since this school year started, there is much to celebrate. I have seen firsthand students rolling down car windows to wave and say hello to their principals, teachers, librarians and others who lined up in front of schools to pass out textbooks, library books and learning tools during drive-thru school distribution days. I have also seen photos shared by families on our district social media, some of which are featured in this newsletter, of students with big smiles in front of their computers or standing with siblings on the first day of school. Finally, I am so happy to share that we just completed our first week of in-person learning at 10 of our schools that welcomed small groups of students enrolled in two of our special education programs. For the first time in six months, students were served on our campuses. More than 100 students boarded school buses or were driven by parents to school, entered our classrooms, and were taught in person.


As we shared in a recent communication to families, our next step is to expand the number of students we serve in person. Thurston County health officials issued updated guidance last week that expedites our ability to expand the number of students who can return to on-campus learning while prioritizing high-need students, which includes our youngest learners. You may recall that our fall reopening plan calls for us to transition from distance learning to a hybrid learning model once health officials determined it was safe to do so. That time is now upon us, and we are excited to move forward with this opportunity. In the hybrid model, students are in school two days a week and learn remotely the other three days. Families may also choose to keep students in a full-time distance learning model, as we recognize for some that may be a preferred option. The details of both plans are included in the district’s fall reopening plan, which is posted on the district website.


The process of bringing students back on our campuses will be done thoughtfully and carefully with great attention given to the safety of students, families and employees.


Part of our immediate work to expand our in-person learning includes:

  • Surveying families again to find out which students will return for in-person instruction and which families prefer to keep their students in full-time distance learning. Related questions will be asked of district staff. We want the most up-to-date information to help us make informed staffing and program decisions for a shift to hybrid learning.
  • A continuation of meeting with our employee association partners to review agreements on transitioning to a hybrid model.
  • Completing all tasks necessary to safely return students to classrooms.

We will communicate regularly with you as we move forward with the next step of our reopening plan. We know that families need time to plan for the transition to in-person learning, and we will determine and communicate a reasonable timeline as soon as possible.


Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work together to provide the best education in the safest way possible.



Patrick Murphy



August 31, 2020 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,


We know this summer has been challenging, especially with all of the changing information as we continue to tackle the COVID-19 virus as a school district, a state, a nation and a world community. And while it may not be the start of school we were hoping for, I am proud of the work of our staff and families in preparing for the uncertainty and want to welcome you to the 2020-21 school year.


Few things can get students, staff and families as excited as the anticipation and excitement of the start of a new school year. Even in the midst of the Pandemic which has caused us to begin school for most students with remote instead of in-person learning, there is still an eagerness to get back to school, meet new teachers and see friends.


As mentioned, our dedicated staff have been busy this summer preparing for the best start possible. We are better equipped to begin this school year in a distance learning model based on our reflections and feedback from you, our families and staff since last spring. Our teachers have been training on technology tools and best practices for distance learning, understanding that our students and families need consistency and flexibility. We have identified essential learning standards, and students will be able to learn remotely via live and recorded lessons. We know it is not best practice to try to replicate a typical in-person school day online. Asking students to sit in front of a computer screen all day is not the most effective way to learn remotely. Like in-person schooling, our plan is to provide a balance of direct instruction and independent learning time, and time to collaborate with peers. We are also committed to student wellness, as identified in our Student Outcomes, to make sure students have the social, emotional and mental health support they need to succeed.


The Pandemic has forced us to do things differently. This is our opportunity as educators to become better at what we do, and find new ways to meet the needs of all students that we will benefit from long after the COVID-19 health crisis is over. I like to say it’s an opportunity for us not to return to normal, but to get back to better. Through our work this summer to create a fall reopening plan with input from hundreds of staff, students, families and community partners, we are already seeing signs of how we can be a stronger school system. This includes our ability to build more effective individual connections with students and families. The closure of our school buildings has opened a new window to see, front and center, how poverty impacts a student’s ability to learn in school. We can help respond to at least one of these needs, the need for school supplies, thanks to the annual Little Red Schoolhouse fundraiser. The success of this regional school supply collection and distribution project is staggering. Our school district received thousands of school supplies to share with families in need, including 336 boxes of crayons, 275 dozen pencils, 1,440 pocket folders and 460 backpacks, to name a few. We have also worked throughout the summer to disinfect our school sites and implement enhanced health and safety measures so that we are ready to welcome students back on campus as soon as public health guidelines allow. Health officials have given permission for us to serve small groups of students this fall who need specialized in-person learning services.


As we edge closer to that all important first day, whether your student is marking significant milestones such as the first day of kindergarten (Class of 2033), first day of middle and high school, or the start of their senior year, our dedicated staff across the system are ready and excited to welcome everyone to school.


Be sure to stay up-to-date on important district communication by visiting our website, following us on social media, reading our Spotlight on Success newsletters and keeping your contact information up-to-date in our Skyward Family Access student information system. We look forward to partnering with you again this year. 



Patrick Murphy



June 25, 2020 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,


The 2019-20 school year will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most challenging, unusual and probably influential in the recent history of education. As we all know, COVID-19 forced school districts across the world to change their delivery model overnight. We also know that the results and impacts of that sudden and dramatic change on families and staff were wide-ranging.


I want to express my gratitude to all of our students, staff, families and community members for their exceptional effort, resilience and perseverance under these extraordinary circumstances. I want to say a special thank you and congratulations to the graduates of the Class of 2020. Your send-off into the next stage of your life has been as unique as the times we are facing. Our staff in our high schools and programs have worked so hard to honor and congratulate all of you in special ways. Whether it was virtually, through parades and drive-up ceremonies, or via local radio broadcasts, we want all our graduates to know how proud we are of you all and how we look forward to hearing about your future adventures and achievements.


As we see our graduates off, we are all keenly interested in what school will look like in the fall. We have fall planning committees with more than 100 people including staff, students, and families working diligently to review guidance from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and health authorities, as well as OSD survey data, in an effort to determine our best path forward. We all want our children back in school in the fall so they can meet face-to-face with their teachers and have in-person interactions with their peers. The effort of our staff to create a distance learning model so quickly this past spring has been commendable. And yet, at the same time, we know that not being in our school buildings is taking not only an educational toll, but it is impacting the social and emotional well-being of our students, families and staff. Our committees are working hard to find a way to get our students and staff back in our buildings safely under whatever conditions will be in place as set forth by our health officials. We know those conditions can change, so we need to have flexibility in our plan.


If you have a student in one of our schools and have not yet taken our fall school reopening family feedback survey, we encourage you to take the survey by the June 30 deadline. Also, if you want to follow the work of our Fall Contingency Planning committees, we have posted agendas, meeting summaries, committee membership, research and resources, and other information on the district website.


I suspect like everything else, this summer will be unlike those that have preceded it. Regardless of the phase we are in, or the limitations COVID-19 imposes, I do hope all of you have a safe, restful, rejuvenating summer. There will be more information than normal that we will be sharing with families this summer, so please stay connected to our district communication tools such as email, texts, social media and the website.



Patrick Murphy



May 21, 2020 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,


As a former history teacher, I can’t help but wonder how future historians will record the unprecedented times in which we are now living. I suspect history books will portray COVID-19 as the greatest medical challenge the world has faced since the 1918 influenza pandemic.   


History books will likely describe how in the early spring of 2020, life as we know it changed in the blink of an eye as schools, businesses and tourist attractions closed across the country and around the world during stay-at-home directives. Once bustling streets and cities around the world were suddenly deserted. I expect there will be photographs with captions describing heroic first responders donned in protective gear reporting to hospitals and clinics to serve the sick in their community.


Undoubtedly, the impact on education will be recounted, detailing how students exhibited resilience, grit and perseverance in a new learning environment that they did not choose. Perhaps the Class of 2020 will be highlighted, and the story will be told of how despite losing out on some time-honored traditions, they finished their classwork, proudly donned their caps and gowns, and participated in graduation ceremonies that looked different, but nonetheless honored their years of hard work all the same.


There will be descriptions of how all industries were faced with monumental changes, and how teachers shifted from decades of in-person teaching practices to a distance learning model from their homes in remarkably quick fashion. Support staff, likewise, will perhaps be highlighted describing how they, too, shifted and ensured kids were fed and technology was distributed to families, and facilities were maintained to provide last resort childcare to first responder’s children.


I could imagine chapters describing how our parents and community members were thrust into the unfamiliar role of being the in-person provider of school education at home. There may be pictures of Moms, Dads and other caregivers encouraging and supporting their students in their schoolwork, often while working themselves.


The medical data on infections and fatalities will of course be told, but I suspect there will also be text dedicated to the emotional and mental health impact of the COVID-19 virus on society. I am optimistic that the history books will say that humanity learned from this experience and came out of it with healthier systems in place, more responsive to the individual needs of those in duress, and an enhanced, even more compassionate education system that was better prepared to react to the next crisis.


This speculation on how generations to come will view the present crisis puts greater emphasis on what most of us have been thinking about for some time. What will next fall look like in our schools? While we can’t say definitively how the structure will look, as there are still too many unknowns, we can say that it almost assuredly won’t be business as usual. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has put together a task force to talk about how schools might operate this fall. That group has looked at a continuum of possibilities. Instruction could continue to be delivered in a distance learning model. We could have an on-campus learning model with physical distancing protocols in place that warrant altered schedules. Or perhaps some type of combination of those approaches might be the preferred course. Time will tell as state leaders and health officials continue to track COVID-19 cases locally and statewide, and determine the pace at which sites can reopen. In the meantime, we, too in Olympia, have formed two planning teams to begin mapping out needs for various scenarios this fall. One of the groups is addressing academic needs, and the other is looking at how we could safely operate school inside our physical buildings, even if only for a limited number of staff and/or students. These same groups are planning ways to safely gather and distribute materials going into the summer. Some students and parents are helping educators with this planning work, and we will share ways the entire community can be engaged as we move forward. As always, we will continue to follow guidance from the governor, health departments and education officials.


In closing, I want to express my appreciation to the entire Olympia School District community for your continued support during these uncertain times. I know how hard our staff and students are working every day to finish this school year in the best way possible, as well as those who are working on planning for the start of the new school year.



Patrick Murphy




Olympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy routinely sends messages to Olympia School District families and the community. His messages are sent monthly as part of the school district's Spotlight on Success e-newsletter, as well as via occasional direct emails.



February 3, 2020 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


There is an anecdote I find amusing that goes something like this: A man standing on the bank of a river decides he needs to get to the other side. He jumps in and begins to swim and gets halfway there, but decides he is too tired so he turns around and swims back to where he came. It’s silly because he ended up swimming the same distance but did not get to his desired destination. I guess the moral is if you are halfway there, you might as well keep going.


Well, this is the halfway point in our school year. And yes, there are challenges ahead, and sometimes we get tired, but we, too, need to keep going … and the destination is worth it. Early February also means we are a few weeks into the legislative session. It appears at this point that there is very little legislation with funding for K-12 this go-around. We will continue to advocate for equitable revenue distribution for all school districts, especially those like Olympia that did not fare as well as other districts that received regionalization. Many of those districts can incur increased costs and continue on with business as usual, while we, and many others, have to wrestle with reductions.


This winter season has also been marked with celebration. During the month of January we held ribbon cutting ceremonies at the newly remodeled Centennial, McLane and Roosevelt elementary schools. Thanks to the generosity of our voters and community, the fruits of the 2016 building bond are evident at these three schools. If you get a chance to visit, walk through these modernized buildings to see the remarkable new learning spaces for students and staff.


And speaking of ballot measures, just a reminder, our Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy is on the current Special Election ballot. These ballots must be turned in by February 11. Even with the reduced levy authority as a result of the McCleary fix, the local levy accounts for nearly 17% of the district’s overall operating budget. To learn more about the levy and specific staff and programs funded by it, please visit our school district website Levy 2020 webpage.


As always, thanks to all of you for the time you spend in our schools and at home helping students to succeed. I wish all of you a wonderful and productive second half.



Patrick Murphy



December 18, 2019 (Spotlight on Success)  


Hello Olympia School District Families,


Incredibly, we are in the last couple weeks of the teen decade of this century. That means on January 1, we will officially start the 2020s. There have been many predictions about what life would be like in the 2020s. One of the more interesting ones was in 1900 when Ladies' Home JournalOpening in a new window asked John Elfreth Watkins Jr., of the Smithsonian Institution, for his educated guesses about the 21st century. He predicted that sometime in the early 2000s, "there will be no C, X or Q in our everyday alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary." He said we would be spelling mostly by sound and would only communicate with "condensed words expressing condensed ideas." So, in 2020, we may say to our friends, "Me happy good, hi!"  Looking at my most recent text messages, I think Mr. Watkins may have been on to something. As we head into winter break, I do hope that your time with family and friends is not so condensed, but rather is unhurried and truly enjoyable.


You all hopefully know by now that with the new year, there will be an Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy on the February 11 Special Election ballot. School levies are the only locally approved ballot measures that directly pay for classroom and educational needs of students not funded by the state, of which there are many. Staff like nurses, counselors, social workers and security are disproportionately funded by local levy dollars. We have included information about the proposed Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy on our Olympia School District website. Visit the Levy 2020 webpage.


Also, with the ringing in of the new year, the Legislative session starts up in January. While the inequitable funding refrain may be getting tiresome, sadly it still exists for us in Olympia. Yes, we have had last minute assistance from the Legislature the last two years to help us avoid significant reductions; however, a long-term sustainable funding solution still alludes us. Unlike districts to the north of us, Olympia did not get regionalization dollars to offset the reduction in our local levy collection. Subsequently, we will be wrestling with reductions again this spring without some changes. That is why our school board recently approved legislative funding prioritiesOpening in a new window to guide us as we continue our advocacy and pursuit of equitable, maintainable funding for Olympia students.


While that work awaits us, at the same time we are so grateful for the amazing students that come through our doors every day and the incredibly generous support from our community. I do wish you all a safe and restful winter break with family and friends. See you in 2020!



Patrick Murphy



November 26, 2019 (Spotlight on Success) 

Hello Olympia School District Families,


In the 1860s, in the middle of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving. As a former history teacher, I recall teaching about that conflict of “unequalled magnitude and severity.” And yet, in the midst of that misery and despair, Lincoln felt it was important to note all those things for which we are grateful. We all know that there are plenty of difficult things in today’s world too. Those challenges do not have to prevent us from acknowledging those things for which we are thankful.


Like many of you, I am so thankful to be a part of the Olympia School District community. We live and work in a community that is committed like no other to the education of our children. As I have said in previous messages, our school district is so fortunate to have an abundance of volunteers who are so giving of their time in support of our schools. The numbers are staggering, as we average 5,000 volunteers per year giving more than 50,000 hours of time. One would be hard-pressed to find similar numbers in any comparable district to Olympia. Every time I visit our schools I see and hear our students who are hard-working, compassionate and caring. This is obviously a reflection of their supportive families and the hard work of our staff.


Recently we notified our school board that our most recent graduating class, the Class of 2019, posted the highest on-time graduation rate in the history of the district, since that statistic has been kept. That 91.1% on-time graduation rate is surely the result of persistent effort by dedicated teachers and staff from preschool through high school.


I am grateful that I get to work in a district that celebrates our successes but also never rests on our laurels. Through the leadership of our school board and using the lens of our recently adopted Student Outcomes, we consistently look at our data to see who is not achieving at the level of success we would want for all students.


As many of you know, it was this commitment to continuous improvement that moved our board to create a committee to explore later start times for our high schoolers. Driven by Student Outcome 3 and its focus on our students’ physical and mental wellness, our board could not ignore the growing research that later start times can positively impact the health and performance of adolescents. At our most recent board meeting, directors accepted a report from the board-appointed Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) on School Year Calendar/School Start Times. That report was largely informed by a recent survey that many of you took and had just under 5,000 responses. Before taking any action on the report and its accompanying recommendation, the board charged staff with taking the next few months to look for ways to mitigate concerns that were raised in that survey. While there were many concerns shared, the two most pressing involved 1) challenges around earlier start times for elementary schools, and 2) missed class time and challenges around athletics and extracurricular participants in high school. Staff will be reporting back to the board in the spring on ideas and possible solutions. For more information, feel free to visit the CAC webpage on the school district website.


One of the final comments from the CAC members during their presentation to the board was that “change is hard.” Indeed, it is, and life can be hard too. But it does not stop us from recognizing all the good around us and being thankful. So thank you all for your dedication and commitment to the children of the Olympia School District.



Patrick Murphy



October 30, 2019 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,


With the arrival of November, we are officially into the full swing of the school year. Fall sports are finishing and winter sports are just around the corner. Our musicians are busily preparing for upcoming holiday performances. The last vestiges of summer apparel have been replaced with winter coats, scarves and warmer clothing in preparation for the inevitable cold weather. This is a good reminder, if you have not already done so, to check out our inclement weather school contingencies in case we have a delay or cancellation. This information, including snow bus routes, is posted on our district website.


It is also a good time to thank our incredible parent and community organizations for their amazing support of our schools. Many of you are probably aware that the Olympia School District Education Foundation had its annual Principal’s Emergency Fund Breakfast. Once again, the Foundation raised tens of thousands of dollars to ensure our students and families experiencing financial difficulties are supplied with seasonally appropriate clothing, proper fitting shoes, eye glasses, groceries and bus passes among other things. In addition, the OSDEF awards teaching and learning grants, supports outdoor learning and is sponsoring mental health initiatives in the district.


Similarly, we recently hosted a Parent Group Leader dinner and annual training for leaders of our local school parent organizations, such as PTOs, PTAs, and Community Councils. We collectively learned about best practices around fundraising and how to best partner in meeting our students’ needs. Our parent organizations also support classroom needs and teacher and staff recognitions, as well as hold wonderful events to build a stronger sense of community in our schools. It is the unsurpassed community support that makes Olympia such a strong and vibrant school district. So thank you!


I also want to remind everyone that our school board recently approved an Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy request. This proposal will be on the February 11, 2020 Special Election ballot and would replace an expiring four-year levy approved by voters in 2016. Once again, it would fund those things that are not fully funded by the state like additional teachers for science, mathematics, fine arts and special needs education; school nurses; social, mental health and security staff; and athletics and extracurricular opportunities. Look for more information about the levy in this issue of Spotlight on Success and on the Levy 2020 webpage on our Olympia School District website.


Lastly, our board recently approved our new District and School Improvement Plans based on our six (6) adopted Student Outcomes. Outcome 6 speaks to our students having the ability to “be critical thinkers who contribute to and collaborate with our local, global and natural world.”  In addition, there is an indicator under that outcome that says our students will: “Participate on teams and know the power of teamwork.”


We want to be sure that we model whatever we ask of our students. Fortunately for us, we have such a supportive, collaborative and involved community that this is one outcome that we can illustrate quite effectively. Thank you again.



Patrick Murphy



September 24, 2019 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

The first few weeks of school are just about complete and not surprisingly, our students, families and staff have slowly begun to reestablish their routines and rituals. It is the predictability and reliability of school that can be comforting. At the same time, we know that our most powerful learning experiences in school, and in life for that matter, do not take place when we are most comfortable. On the contrary, they are more likely to occur when we are outside of our comfort zone. That is one of the great challenges for our teachers — to create a learning environment where all feel safe and valued while simultaneously providing opportunities for our students to stretch themselves, experience new learnings and ultimately create new ideas and understandings.

We are so fortunate in Olympia to have schools filled with dedicated educators who constantly work to do just that. In fact, as I visited all of our schools the first couple of weeks of school, I saw teachers and staff setting the foundations for strong relationships with their students. At the same time, I saw them challenging students to think critically about new concepts and ideas. It’s not only in our classrooms that students are already stretching themselves. In school gyms and performance halls, and on playing fields, our athletes and musicians are likewise pushing to get better and strengthen their teamwork.

I think our school board was cognizant of this need for balance when they constructed our recent Student Outcomes, which drive our strategic planning. Under Outcome 5, which states that we want our students to “discover their passions, be curious and love learning,” there are two indicators that read as follows:

Our Students Will:

  • Broaden their perspectives and seek out various opportunities to explore new ideas, particularly those areas that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable to find their interests.

  • Experience failure, setbacks and disappointments as an expected and honored part of learning.


So as September rolls into October, and our students research topics, study for exams and prepare for presentations and performances, know that we are committed to providing a safe and caring learning environment where our students can grow and reach their full potential.


Patrick Murphy

2018-19 School Year

August 29, 2019 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

It is hard to believe that the start of school is already upon us. If you did not know, we will be celebrating the graduating class of 2020 at the end of this academic year; 2020! As I mentioned at a Welcome Back event with all staff this week, the Class of 2020 was the incoming kindergarten class of 2007-08. Where did the time go? So much has happened in the world in those 13 years. Nothing has been more impactful perhaps than the total infusion of technology and digital connectivity. At the same Welcome Back event, we had a guest speaker who is an expert in technology and education, and he reminded us that this current generation of students will never know a world without the internet. Being digitally connected all the time is as normal to our students as being in water is to a fish. That is not the world I grew up in, and I suspect many of our parents did not either.

A big part of our focus this year, as we expand our one-to-one take-home Chromebooks to most of our secondary schools, is to better understand how that connectivity makes our current students’ experiences different than our own. They may often communicate differently, and experience the world in another way, but like us, and all people, our students want to feel valued and respected.

I think our school board had that in mind when they reached out to our greater community and used that input to create our Student Outcomes. They know students today are living in a different, fast-paced world that is exciting and full of promise. At the same time, all of the information coming at our students, and us, so fast and consistently can cause worry and anxiety. Stress can be good, but too much can be detrimental.

Our Outcomes speak to the needs of educating the whole child so when they leave our system, they will have the skills and attributes that will allow them to live healthy, productive and satisfying lives. You may recall the Student Outcomes are:

Outcome 1: Be compassionate and kind.
Outcome 2: Have the academic and life skills to pursue their individual career, civic and educational goals.
Outcome 3: Advocate for the social, physical and mental wellness of themselves and others and be hopeful about the future.
Outcome 4: Have the skills, knowledge and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic and societal bias.
Outcome 5: Discover their passions, be curious and love learning.
Outcome 6: Be critical thinkers who contribute to and collaborate with our local, global and natural world.

Each Outcome has an accompanying set of indictors to expound upon its meaning and how those skills will be manifested in our schools and classrooms. To see the full set of indicators, visit the district website Strategic Planning webpage. We are committed to using these Outcomes and indicators to drive the work of the district and to inform decision making around things like budget, programming and staffing. Look for future communications on how we will be measuring these important ideals and goals.

School districts need high quality educational facilities in order to provide environments that allow us to meet high expectations like those embedded in our Student Outcomes. We are so fortunate to live and work in a community that so generously supports our district through approving bond measures to fund school improvements. Many families will see those bonds at work as there are several construction projects across the district; some just finishing and some just starting. We know the final products will be beautiful; but, we want to thank you all for your patience and understanding with all of the inevitable disruptions that come with projects like these.

In closing, I want to encourage you to volunteer at your child’s school. We are so fortunate to have an abundance of volunteers in Olympia, and it makes a huge difference. We can always use more help to make sure every child in every school gets the support they need to reach their full potential. Sign up to volunteer on our district website.

Thank you, again, and have a great 2019-20 school year! 



Patrick Murphy




June 21, 2019 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

As we finish the last day of school today, I wanted to send you all a message thanking you for another wonderful year and wishing you a safe and restful summer break with family and friends.

There were so many great accomplishments this year in our classrooms, on our performance stages, on our playing fields and in our gyms. Our graduation ceremonies always serve as the perfect venue to highlight and appreciate all the hard work of our students, our families and our staff. This year’s commencement exercises were no exception. Student and staff speakers thanked parents and elementary school teachers for helping them get to the next stage in their lives.

Our graduates’ speeches and future plans were reflective of the recently board-adopted Student Outcomes. They spoke of compassion, and a determination to create a more just and equitable world free from bias. They encouraged their classmates to keep finding their passions and to never stop learning. They spoke of a desire to see and contribute to the world in productive and meaningful ways. There were amazing stories and celebrations of resilience and inspiration as our high schools recognized graduates who were recent arrivals to our country who spoke little to no English, and are now going on to college and building a strong future for themselves and their families. From continued pursuits in higher education, entering the world of work or serving our country in the armed forces – the Class of 2019 will undoubtedly be changing the world for the better.

Perhaps, like me, from time to time you worry about the future of our community, our country and our world. Our graduation ceremonies temper that fear and give us hope and optimism about the years to come.

In closing, take care of yourselves and each other this summer. We sent home some tips to all families to make sure we all stay safe when taking part in summer activities. Rest up, and we will see you all next year as we prepare to welcome next year’s kindergartners — the Class of 2032!



Patrick Murphy




May 30, 2019 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,

We seem to say this every year, but wow – it’s hard to believe we are reaching the end of another school year. While there have been challenges, in many ways this school year seems to have gone by so fast. It reminds me of the popular TV ad campaign by the Idaho Department of Tourism entitled “18 Summers.” The gist of the campaign is you only have 18 summers to make memories with your kids, it goes by fast, so make them count. I find that kind of powerful. Time can go by quickly, we want to make every school year count and we want to savor all those formative moments, perhaps none bigger than our high school graduations. We look forward to celebrating with the graduates and families of the Class of 2019. Before doing so, I want to give a few end-of-year updates and thank yous.

First, we know the school year is going a little longer this year (finishing on Friday, June 21) due to some particularly snowy weather this winter. The 2019-20 calendar, which is linked from this newsletter, has a built-in snow day which we will use first if there is a weather-related district closure before adding on to the end of the school year. That “snow” day is the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.

Besides weather, another challenge we certainly faced this year was the uncertain nature of our finances and budget going into next school year. Given where we were projecting our deficit to be and where we landed at the end of the Legislative session, the Olympia School District is in a much better place going into next year. Our deficit was cut by about 80%. As a result, the budget we will bring to the school board for consideration on June 3 will have no reductions of returning staff. I believe our community’s collective effort in persistently pushing out information about the gravity of our situation, as well as highlighting the egregious funding discrepancies between Thurston County and districts to the north, contributed to the legislative decision to raise the levy restrictions and add last minute “hold harmless” money for districts like Olympia that were particularly harmed by the original McCleary Fix legislation. So a huge thank you to all of you, first for your patience. And secondly, thank you to all who attended our community meetings, read our updates, watched us on Facebook Live and did all you could to support our students, staff and schools.

I also want to thank two members in particular in the Class of 2019: our outgoing student representatives to the school board, Anna McClatchey of Olympia Regional Learning Academy and Grant Erickson of Capital High. We recognized both students with family and friends present at our May 20 board meeting. We will be forever grateful for their thoughtful contributions to our strategic planning process and for speaking loudly and passionately for the needs of their fellow students. Their voice was critical to many challenging topics addressed by the board this year.

I also want to give a quick shout-out to the staff, students and families of Boston Harbor Elementary, McLane Elementary, Jefferson Middle School and Avanti High School for continuing a longstanding tradition in Olympia of being recognized at the state level for outstanding academic achievement (see article about their state awards in this newsletter). Their recognition is a tribute to the dedication of the teachers and staff, and the hard work of students and support of families.

Thank you all for helping to make the 2018-19 school year such a wonderful year for our students. I hope to see you at many of our great end-of-year activities.



Patrick Murphy


April 19, 2019 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,

One way or another, we are finally coming to the end of a very frustrating and worrisome legislative session. As you are all aware by now, we are facing one of the biggest budget deficits we have ever faced as a district due to the disparate impact of the “McCleary fix” legislation. As we have said several times, we are not alone in this predicament, as most of our Thurston County school districts are facing cuts, as well as many others across the state. That being said, we take some solace in the fact that our projected budget deficit of $8.5 million could be reduced by as much as half if the Senate and House budgets make it out of the legislative session as they currently stand. Should that happen, the district has a reduction plan in place that will be shared with the school board on Monday, April 22, that will address our hopefully lower deficit without having to invoke a Reduction In Force (RIF) of teachers. Instead, the deficit will be handled through cost saving measures and not replacing a portion of central office, teacher and para-educator retirements and resignations.

Both the Senate and House have bills that would allow districts like Olympia to collect higher local levies, but that is a serious point of contention in the Legislature. To that end, we, too, have no desire to raise our local levy. We would much rather Olympia receive regionalization funds, or adequate special education funding, or fully funded health care — all of which contribute to our deficit. But those “fixes” are said not to be forthcoming, and therefore a levy lift is currently the only way to avoid substantially deeper cuts. Unfortunately, we won’t have certainty on the final state funding plan until the close of the legislative session, which is scheduled for April 28. Until then, I want to again say thank you to all who participated in our budget informational sessions and our online survey. As always, you can get the latest budget and legislative information, including survey results, on a dedicated budget page on our district website. 

Thank you for your steadfast support of our school district. 



Patrick Murphy



March 21, 2019 (Spotlight on Success) 



Hello Olympia School District Families,

Any time an organization contends with difficult situations like our recent budgetary worries, it is always good, I think, to key in on those things that the organization values and stands for. Core values help us prioritize and remember why we dedicate ourselves to this work and fight each day to get better.

In the Olympia School District, our key beliefs and goals are bound up in our recently adopted Student Outcome statements. These statements, approved by the Olympia School Board last December, are part of our school district’s Strategic Planning process. As you may recall, the Student Outcomes are:


Outcome 1: Be compassionate and kind.
Outcome 2: Have the academic and life skills to pursue their individual career, civic and educational goals.
Outcome 3: Advocate for the social, physical and mental wellness of themselves and others and be hopeful about the future.
Outcome 4: Have the skills, knowledge and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic and societal bias.
Outcome 5: Discover their passions, be curious and love learning.
Outcome 6: Be critical thinkers who contribute to and collaborate with our local, global and natural world.

The next big step of the Strategic Planning process is to expound and explain what we mean by each outcome. That deeper explanation will be in the form of “indicators” under each outcome so that students, teachers and parents know what this means in our schools and classrooms.

For example, under Outcome 4, which says our students will “have the skills, knowledge and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic and societal bias,” an indicator could be:

  • Our students will develop an appreciation of world cultures, which may include the understanding of the basic structure of another world language


Or under Outcome 2, when we say that our students will “have the academic and life skills to pursue their individual career, civic and educational goals,” an indicator could be:

  • Our students will read, write and speak effectively for a wide range of purposes, including the interpretation and analysis of both literary and informational texts


Other examples of possible indicators, as well as background about the Strategic Planning process, are included on the district’s Strategic Planning webpage. This type of specificity will help students, staff and parents better understand how the outcomes will be realized in our schools. We will be pulling together a targeted group of students, staff and community members to help us on the "indicator" development at a gathering this Friday, March 22. If you are unable to attend either of the community meetings and would like to comment online, please share your thoughts on a Student Outcome Draft Indicators online feedback form. The deadline to submit comments is Monday, April 8, 2019. 



Patrick Murphy




March 15, 2019 (Email to all OSD Families)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

As we enter the second half of the state legislative session, I am deeply disappointed to report that we have not seen lawmakers propose and support the kind of clear-cut financial resolutions to adequately address our projected $8.5 million budget deficit for the 2019-20 school year.

We are at a point where we would be remiss in our duties if we did not begin more formal planning for spending reductions in the event there is no legislative fix, or an inadequate one, by the end of the session. Schools need to prepare their staffing and programs now for the coming year.

We will look across our entire system to identify potential spending reductions while trying to minimize impacts to the classroom. We will again be asking for your help via an online budget survey to help us set budget reduction priorities. We will also use our recently adopted Student Outcomes, developed as part of ongoing Strategic Planning work, to help in this process.

For those of you unfamiliar with the history leading up to our projected deficit, we have been clear since the adoption of House Bill 2242 in 2017 that the so-called “McCleary fix” legislation did not help the Olympia School District. Instead, it resulted in a disproportionate allocation of revenue to districts across the state, thus creating winners and losers. Unfortunately, our district is in the latter category.

We have shared in previous messages to our community how the Olympia School District failed to receive state regionalization dollars. This is particularly perplexing as every other district on the I-5 corridor that touches Puget Sound received this money. Lawmakers have been unable to explain why we were left out of receiving regionalization given that Olympia housing prices exceed housing prices in several districts that received regionalization funds.

Equally concerning, the state eliminated a long-time funding mechanism that apportioned more funds to districts with more experienced and thus higher-paid staff (staff mix funding). The elimination penalizes districts like Olympia with more highly educated and/or highly experienced teachers. In 2018, the Legislature agreed to allocate $2.3 million to Olympia beginning in the 2019-20 school year to address this problem, which we were grateful to receive. However, even with this new funding, we still would have received millions of dollars more and been better off under the state’s old funding model. This was confirmed by a recent study of the Washington Association of School Administrators. The association calculated that the Olympia School District should receive $5.9 million in hold harmless funding because our district, like 83 other districts in the state, would have been better funded under the old funding rules.

Additionally, state funding for our students with special needs continues to be inadequate. We subsidize our special education programming between $4 and $5 million annually out of our local levy funds. There is proposed legislation to increase state funding; however, the legislation we have seen is sorely lacking in its ability to make up for this subsidy.

Without any regionalization and staff mix funding, we were especially hard struck by the new state-imposed restrictions on our local, voter-approved levy collection. The McCleary legislation imposed an arbitrary limit of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value for school levies. As a result, our local levy collection has been cut in half. We previously used that levy to pay for teachers, nurses, librarians, principals and other critical support staff. Other districts in north Puget Sound with higher property values are collecting all or nearly all of their previous levy amounts. And in many cases, those same districts are collecting significant regionalization dollars on top of that. The result is that some districts saw hefty increases in revenue while others saw minimal or fractional gains. Once again, Olympia is in the latter category.

We have heard some legislators — not from our legislative district — declare that budget deficits are a result of school districts irresponsibly bargaining pay increases. To be clear, our district’s significant deficit was projected long before any salary bargaining had occurred. We value our staff greatly, as they are the key to the quality of our educational programming. We are committed to attracting, recruiting, retaining, and supporting the finest educators in the state, and we have. It is frustrating that we are planning for reductions to support this commitment while other districts are implementing enhancements. Again, this is due to the disparate revenue disbursement to districts as a result of the McCleary fix.

While we have been sharing the message about our projected shortfall with you for nearly a year now, as stated, we had hoped that there would be a clear legislative fix by now. The governor’s proposed budget and at least one proposed Senate bill (SB 5313) were encouraging, but the Senate bill never made it out of committee. A new House bill (HB 2140) is now under consideration, and while we remain hopeful there will be relief before the end of this legislative session, time is getting short in our budget planning process for the 2019-20 school year.

We also want to make it clear that increasing the levy is not our preferred way to address the revenue inequities facing Olympia. We would rather legislators give us state regionalization or special education dollars; but, if those solutions do not become reality or do not close the gap, we believe our voter-approved levy should be an option for our community.

We will continue to advocate, educate and implore our local legislators to help push through sensible, sustainable funding for the students and families of the Olympia School District. Many of you have asked how you can contact your local legislators. A list of our local legislative contacts, and more information about the budget, are posted on the school district website.

Thank you for your ongoing support of our schools,

Patrick Murphy, Superintendent


February 1, 2019 (Email to all OSD families and staff) 


Good afternoon OSD families,

We want to take a moment to update you on some exciting events and activities from around the district. Also, be sure to stay up-to-date on district news by visiting our district website, reading our monthly Spotlight on Success newsletter and following us on our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).

Below is a summary of some news/event information and links to our website to learn more about these topics:

Measles outbreak in Washington

Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency in all Washington counties in response to confirmed cases of measles in the state. While there are no confirmed cases of measles to date in the Olympia School District, we encourage families to learn about this highly contagious infectious disease. The Washington State Department of Health urges everyone to check their immunization records to verify they are fully immunized.

Read more about the measles outbreak and related resources for families

Snow in the forecast

The latest weather forecasts for next week indicate a chance of snow and colder temperatures. The school district will make every effort to operate normally, despite the weather. On rare occasions, however, weather conditions may make it necessary to delay the start of school, modify bus routes with emergency snow routes, and potentially close school. The Olympia School District will inform you as soon as possible when school schedules change through our phone/email/text messaging system, our district website and district social media (Facebook and Twitter). We also encourage you to monitor local radio and/or television stations for up-to-date information about weather-related closures or delays. Please familiarize yourself with a list of our emergency snow bus routes on our Snow Bulletin webpage.

Kindergarten registration, and Countdown to Kindergarten event February 9

Kindergarten registration for the 2019-20 school year begins on March 4, 2019. Parents and guardians who will have children in kindergarten in the 2019-20 school year are invited to learn about transitioning to kindergarten by attending this year's "Countdown to Kindergarten" event. The event is from 10-11:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 9 at Capital High School, 2707 Conger Ave. N.W., Olympia. The event begins at 10 a.m. with a welcome and presentation by Olympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy.

Are you interested in serving on a new School Year Calendar/School Start Times Citizens Advisory Committee?


The Olympia School Board agreed in January to form a new School Year Calendar/School Start Times Citizens Advisory Committee.

The committee is charged with developing recommendations to the school board regarding potential changes to the academic calendar and school start times. Anyone interested in serving on the committee is encouraged to attend the first committee meeting on February 12, 2019 or contact Olympia School Board Vice President and committee facilitator Scott Clifthorne. Please email Clifthorne at an OSD email set-up for this committee work at [email protected]. The meeting is scheduled from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Knox Administrative Center Board Room, 1113 Legion Way S.E., Olympia. Learn more about the committee and see the board-approved committee charter on the SY Calendar/Start Times Advisory Committee webpage.

Budget outlook and funding priorities for 2019-20 school year

The school board approved a resolution in January declaring the school district's legislative and funding priorities for the 2019 Legislative Session. View the resolution and see related budget links, including questions and answers related to the 2019-20 budget and projected deficit, on the Budget webpage.

Nominate someone for OSD Teacher of the Year

The Olympia School District is accepting nominations through Friday, February 15, for one or more staff members to be honored as OSD Teacher of the Year. The program recognizes the work of teachers who have made a positive difference in their profession. 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 to be nominated.

What are the OSD Student Outcomes?

The Olympia School Board unanimously agreed in December to approve a set of Student Outcomes as part of its Strategic Planning process. The Student Outcomes were reached after a six-month process that included extensive community input.

The school board unanimously approved a new student dress policy during its regular meeting on January 22, 2019. View a copy of Policy 3224 and accompany Procedure 3224P.

In-person new voter registration ends February 4

There is still time to register to vote for the February 12, 2019 Special Election. Thurston County residents have until Monday, February 4, 2019 to register to vote if not currently registered in Washington state. This registration must be done in person, as the deadlines have passed to register online or by mail. There are no Olympia School District candidates or measures on this Special Election ballot; however, we notify our families annually about election dates and encourage people to vote.

Stay connected

Be sure to read our latest Spotlight on Success newsletter. Remember, too, to follow us on social media where we feature numerous photos and videos of student learning and school activities. We are proud of our students, staff and community!

February 25, 2019 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

There is a saying that the month of March “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” meaning the weather is cold and harsh to start, but by the end of the month the milder climate and conditions of spring start to arrive. Given the record amount of snow we had in February, I think we would all be happy with months full of lambs.

Given that we had to miss four days of school due to the snowstorm, our calendar has been adjusted. By contract, any missed school days are made up at the end of the school year. Currently our last day of school has been changed from Tuesday, June 18, to Monday, June 24. However, because the storm was declared a “state of emergency” by the governor, we are eligible to apply for a waiver for one or more of those days. We know that having the school year end the following week is problematic for some families who have other commitments. We also need to be mindful of our graduation dates for seniors and any ramifications a later end to the school year could have on those ceremonies. We intend to keep those graduation dates as they are currently scheduled. We also know that every day of instruction is important, and that many of our students and families rely on the school for a variety of services that, if possible, we don’t want to limit.

As many of you have seen in weather forecasts for this week, we are not out of the woods yet with potential inclement weather, so we are holding off on any decision regarding a waiver submission until we get closer to spring. That being said, we know that families and staff need time to prepare, so look for a final word on that mid-way through the month of March. Lastly related to weather, I want to remind families to keep your information up-to-date in Skyward Family Access so you receive all emergency communications in a timely manner.

Having our school district located in the state’s capital, we more than most are very aware that we are in the middle of a legislative session. We continue to closely follow proposed legislation and how the proposed bills could help with our projected budget deficit. We’ve stayed in close contact with our local legislators to make sure they are fully aware of our financial outlook. There have been some encouraging bills that could substantially help with our projected shortfall. We will keep the community informed of related developments as the session continues.

Lastly, with winter coming to an end, lots of other events and happenings are right around the corner. We will be welcoming incoming kindergartners at a Countdown to Kindergarten event on Saturday, March 2. That cohort will be the high school graduating Class of 2032….that’s incredible. Our student performers and athletes throughout the district are working hard to prepare for spring concerts, theater productions, athletic events and regional/state/national competitions. If you haven't visited our schools in a while, consider attending a concert, watching a stage production or cheering on students at an athletic event. You won't be disappointed.

Thanks as always for your amazing support for our Olympia Schools.


Patrick Murphy

January 24, 2019 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

I hope the new year is off to a good start for all of you. You may already know, but the end of January marks the midpoint of the school year calendar. I can’t believe that the school year is already half completed. Our students in the Olympia School District continue to do remarkable things in the classroom, on performance stages and athletic fields, and in gyms. At a recent school board meeting we reported that our on-time graduation rate for the Class of 2018 was approximately 90% and the extended graduation rate (5 years) was just under 95%. While we will always strive for 100%, these results continue to be among the highest in the state for a district our size. You may remember in past articles, I‘ve mentioned how we are excited about our strategic planning work and the school board’s commitment to support our staff and families to better meet the needs of the “whole student.”  Because of the feedback from students, families and staff, social-emotional learning and physical and mental wellness are key aspects of our new strategic goals that we believe will further strengthen our academic performance and help us reach our goal of 100%.

It is in the midst of this success and excitement about the future that we sadly once again face a significant budgetary predicament that can’t help but dampen enthusiasm. I mentioned in the November newsletter that like a “broken record” we once again face a substantial deficit going into the 2019-20 school year. The reasons for that deficit are multilayered, but the fact is that the legislative “fix’ to the McCleary Decision resulted in a disproportionate allocation of revenue to districts in the state creating winners and losers.

This is confusing for people because there was indeed a significant infusion of new dollars by the Legislature to public education since the 2017 session, but the methodology was flawed and as a result some got significantly more than others. Things like receiving zero “regionalization” dollars and the elimination of the “mix factor” particularly injured the Olympia School District. (Read more about regionalization and mix factor in the November Spotlight on Success newsletterOpening in a new window). But Olympia was further damaged, and the inequity further exacerbated across districts, when the Legislature reduced the Olympia community’s ability to make up for state deficits through local levy funding. Instead of being able to collect up to 28% of a voter-approved levy to enhance and fill in gaps in state funding, the new state law imposes an arbitrary tax limit of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value on local levies. Subsequently, Olympia’s ability to backfill our state funding shortfall has been cut in half. This was not, however, the effect on all districts. More property-rich districts were already generating a 28% enhancement to their district budgets through a local levy of $1.50 or even less, so the net impact on their revenue was zero or negligible.

Because of this, our school board has adopted a resolution of legislative funding priorities that we are sharing with legislators. A list of these funding priorities is posted on our district websiteOpening in a new window. The first request supports the Governor’s recent budget proposal to restore the ability of school districts statewide to raise levy lids to 28%. That change alone could reduce our projected deficit of at least $8.5 million by almost 80%.

But our board also calls out the need to fully pay for staff and teachers so as not to incentivize principals and school districts to hire the “cheapest” teacher as opposed to the “best.” We asked the Legislature to fully fund special education and pay the full cost for proposed increased health care benefits that would be a great thing for our employees. Lastly, in the board’s resolution directors ask the Legislature to support not just the academic but the mental and emotional health of our students by funding more counselors, social workers and nurses, just as our community and our school board call for in our newly adopted student outcomes.

While the Governor’s proposal is hopeful, we will not stop in our ceaseless advocacy for our students and staff until a viable, sustainable solution for the Olympia School District comes to fruition. We also know that the solution needs to be fair for the taxpayers and supporters of education in our community.

I believe we do the world’s most important work: educating the leaders of tomorrow. It is also, I believe, the most rewarding work one can do. But that said, we also know that teaching and mentoring and guiding our children can be challenging and requires great love, strength and stamina. Doing that work in an unstable and unpredictable financial environment makes it harder for all of us. We will keep close tabs on the legislative process and keep people up-to-date (see budget page on our district websiteOpening in a new window) while we simultaneously prepare for potential cuts that we hope we will not have to make. Thank you, as always, for your steadfast support as we navigate an uncertain budget process yet again, with hopefully a predictable, maintainable outcome for Olympia at the conclusion.




December 20, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

The end of the calendar year and holiday season is, for many, a time to celebrate with family and set resolutions for the new year. With the adoption of our new Student Outcomes by our school board earlier this month, I think in a way that we, too, have made a resolution. We have resolved, as a district, to renew our commitment to our students and families.

The Student Outcomes were reached after a six-month process that included extensive community input. Our board considered this input, including a two-day Educational Summit, two online surveys that elicited thousands of responses, and approximately 50 meetings with staff, students, families and community members, to create, revise and eventually adopt six “will statements” as expectations for our students. These statements look a little different than traditional school district strategic goals. They reflect ideals and traits that, I believe, we all want for our children, but perhaps have not seen stated so explicitly in the schoolhouse.

In addition to the customary and appropriate academic skills that Olympia has always placed a high priority upon and done so with great success for many in our system, these outcomes also speak to characteristics that are perhaps more difficult to measure but are yet equally important in life. We want our children to grow up to be healthy, inquisitive, ethical, caring and strong individuals who can work together with others for good. We’ve always wanted this, and our school staffs have historically worked tirelessly to create classroom environments that promote these ideals. With these outcomes, I am hopeful that, as a district, we can set goals and allocate resources to better support our teachers and support staff even more intentionally in their efforts. We believe this more deliberate focus on the whole student will lead to greater academic gains for all.

There is more work to be done. The board is committed to a process in which district leadership, with input from staff, students, families and community members, will further define and interpret these broad outcomes. That deeper explanation will be accompanied by metrics so that staff and families will know what we mean by each outcome and how we will measure if we are successful in reaching that result for all students. Our goal is to have that work completed by the end of the school year, so look for information on opportunities to participate after the new year.

In the meantime, if you have not seen the Student Outcomes for the Olympia School District, they are:


  • Our students will be compassionate and kind.

  • Our students will have the academic and life skills to pursue their individual career, civic and educational goals.

  • Our students will advocate for the social, physical and mental wellness of themselves and others and be hopeful about the future.

  • Our students will have the skills, knowledge and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic and societal bias.
    Our students will discover their passions, be curious and love learning.

  • Our students will be critical thinkers who contribute to and collaborate with our local, global and natural world.


I wish all of our Olympia School District families a happy and restful holiday season with loved ones and friends, and a wonderful New Year.



November 27, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

Hopefully all of you enjoyed a restful and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. As we approach the winter holidays, it is a good time to reflect on all of the things that we are thankful for in the Olympia School District. The greater Olympia community continues a long history of supporting our schools in so many ways. Thousands of volunteers continue to dedicate tens of thousands of hours of help in our classrooms every year. We have talented, dedicated teachers and support staff serving our students skillfully and compassionately. As evidenced by strong achievement results, our hard-working students continue to excel academically, artistically and athletically. All of this makes Olympia a destination for families and staff in search of an extraordinary community in which to live and work that is committed to public education.

As the calendar year comes to an end, this is also the time that we refine our budget projections for the upcoming school year. You may recall from an earlier newsletter message that we are once again looking at a significant shortfall in the 2019-20 school year. I suspect for some that this is probably beginning to sound a little like a broken record, but the fact remains that the McCleary “fix” — legislation passed in 2017 — was not a fair solution for all school districts in the state. There were winners and losers because the revenue was not distributed equitably, which has actually caused more inequality between school districts. Several factors have contributed to this disparity in funding and our bleak financial outlook:

  • The state issued “regionalization” funding bonuses ranging anywhere between 6% and 24% to about one-third of the state’s nearly 300 school districts. This “no-strings attached” addition to these chosen districts’ state apportionment was reportedly distributed in part because of a higher cost of living in certain areas of the state. But when looking at a map of the districts that did or did not receive “regionalization,” it does not make sense. Olympia School District received zero regionalization dollars.
  • The McCleary fix created a new state education tax, which was funded in part by markedly reducing school districts’ abilities to raise funds through local levies. The new local levy formula, like “regionalization,” has had a massive unequal impact across school districts. The new formula states that local communities can only run local levies at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. In Olympia, we ran our previous, voter-approved Educational Maintenance and Operations levy at a rate of just over $3 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. As a result of the new law, we will only be able to collect about half of our previously approved amount. Instead of a $27 million collection in 2019, we will only collect about $14 million. The infusion of new state dollars does not cover that dramatic reduction. The inequity is glaring in that some districts, particularly to the North with higher property values, will still collect 100%, or close to it, of their previous levy amounts under the new funding formula. Compounding the inequity, some of those districts that will collect their full levy amount will also collect 18% in regionalization.
  • The Legislature eliminated a long-time funding mechanism that apportioned more funds to districts with more experienced staff who earn more. As a result, the change penalizes districts with more senior and experienced teachers and staff. As stated previously, in Olympia we have a significant number of experienced and dedicated teachers, high above that state average, who are committed to our community and stay in our district. This was one area in which our advocacy efforts last year paid off and resulted in an increase in dollars for Olympia beginning in 2019-20; however, that increase does not fully make up for the funding we would have received under the old formula. In fact, it falls about $2 million short.
  • Increased health benefits for part-time staff, special education requirements and mandatory class-size reductions in the lower primary grades will cost millions of dollars to implement because they are underfunded state mandates.


All of these factors together have us currently projecting a budget deficit of between $8.5 and $9 million in 2019-20 if we continue to operate all schools and programs as they are currently staffed and funded. To reduce our budget by that amount would result in about a 6% reduction in our approximately $137 million operating budget.

As mentioned previously, we are not alone in facing a significant budget shortfall next year. You will hear similar messages from many districts in Thurston County, as well as other counties statewide, because the factors that are impacting us are also impacting many of them.

We will be providing our community with more information and feedback opportunities for how best to approach the projected budget deficit. As stated previously, we had some success last year but will need to be even more successful this longer legislative session, which begins in January, in urging lawmakers to find long-term solutions for Olympia School District students, staff and families. And given prior history when the Legislature faced major policy and budget decisions during a longer session, any possible financial solutions will not likely be finalized until June. Unfortunately, that would be too late for some of the budgetary decisions we will have to make due to legal and contractual timelines.

This budgetary challenge will undoubtedly be stressful. While we are committed to a transparent process with ample opportunities for all stakeholders to provide feedback, we know there will not be any easy or pain-free solutions. And while we relentlessly educate and advocate for our district with state officials, we will do all we can to protect those things that make Olympia such a wonderful learning community.


October 17, 2018 (Email message to all OSD families)


Dear OSD parent or guardian,

The safety and security of our students and staff are always of the utmost importance. Subsequently, we continuously review our policies and procedures to ensure that recent research and best practices support our safety protocols. As we see a need to modify our practices, we do so after careful research, consultation with our law enforcement partners and consideration of what is best for students.

To that end, we want to make you aware of some new additions to our safety training, used in school districts nationwide, that will be presented to our students beginning this fall. We invite you to learn more about the training at one of two parent meetings:

Tuesday, October 23 at Capital High School, 2707 Conger Ave. N.W. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the theatre.

Tuesday, October 30 at the Knox Administrative Center, 1113 Legion Way S.E. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. on the first floor in the board room.

The Olympia School District has partnered with the Olympia Police Department to present the A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) training to our staff and students. Your school principal will be emailing you a follow-up letter soon outlining when your child’s school is scheduled to deliver the training to students.

Preparing our students for emergency situations at school is not new. As you are probably already aware, we host a variety of drills at our school throughout the year to help students understand how to respond in the event of emergencies such as an earthquake or a fire. Sadly, in more recent years, we are also preparing our students and staff in the case of an armed intruder.

The number one goal of A.L.I.C.E. and our school is to keep students and staff safe and away from harm. The training is basically an enhanced lockdown drill. During an enhanced lockdown, students lock themselves inside a classroom or other school space when directed to do so by school staff. Blinds are closed, lights are turned off and teachers and students may barricade the room if possible. Additionally, A.L.I.C.E. gives staff or students the option to evacuate or flee an area if that is the best course of action.

This training also teaches staff and students, particularly in middle and high school, to be prepared as a last resort to “counter” – apply skills to distract, confuse and gain control.

We have given careful consideration to presenting the A.L.I.C.E. training in an age-appropriate way. Students in grades 6-12 will be trained by staff and/or Olympia Police officers on the full A.L.I.C.E. protocols.

Students in elementary school will be trained in their classrooms in the context of a lockdown drill. The protocols that we teach elementary students will be personalized to their environment and grade level. We will emphasize that students listen and follow directions from their teacher.

We certainly understand that it is difficult to think about potential emergencies, especially the thought of a violent intruder in our schools. We recognize, also, that this particular training may be a difficult topic for some students and families. While we hope that we never have to apply this training in our schools, we would be remiss in our duties if we did not prepare our students and staff how to be as safe as possible. If you have concerns about your student participating in this activity, I encourage you to contact your school principal.

For more information, we hope you are able to attend the October 23 or the October 30 parent meeting. More information about the A.L.I.C.E. training and tips for parents in talking with your child are also posted on our district website.


Patrick Murphy

October 24, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

That extra chill in the wind and the colorful leaves littering the streets of Olympia are letting us know that the sunny warm weather we’ve so enjoyed is fading fast and winter is not too far away. As we break out the winter clothes and gear up for the cooler temps, I want to take one more opportunity to encourage you to give us your feedback and ideas around the draft student outcomes created by our school board.

You might recall in last month’s Spotlight on Success message that I mentioned the board’s community outreach efforts to gather feedback on the draft student outcomes that will be the driver of our new Strategic Plan. The school board, like a strong classroom teacher, knows the importance of establishing learning targets before making lesson plans. Learning targets guide teachers on what materials they will need and which instructional strategies to use. Likewise, the school board wants to firmly establish the outcomes we want for all of our students to help inform decisions on budgets, staffing and programs.

To date, we have met with more than 40 focus groups, including school employees, students, parent organizations, community groups and service clubs. We’ve had more than 300 responses to our online survey. The board is hoping to solidify the outcomes at a November board meeting, so if you have not had a chance, please take a moment to answer the brief questions on the feedback formOpening in a new window before November 1. Thank you for your help with this important work.


Patrick C. Murphy, Ed. D.


September 28, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

As we complete the first month of the 2018-19 school year, hopefully we are all getting back into the routine of school. From your morning rituals, to preparing lunches, daily schedules, bus rides, car pools, sports practices and homework; there really is a rhythm to school that takes a while to establish, but once you find it, there is a comforting quality to it that is quite reassuring. As we settle in, I wanted to take a moment in this column to update you on a couple of important items.

First, our school board is diligently moving ahead with its community outreach efforts to gather feedback and input on the Draft Student Outcomes that will be the driver to our new Strategic Plan. From staff meetings, to PTA’s, to community organizations, directors are determined to hear from as many of you as possible to get your thoughts on the goals for our students that will drive our decision making for years to come. If you can’t make it to the input gathering session at your child’s school, you can always share your thoughts on our online feedback formOpening in a new window.

Secondly, we will be coming out later this fall and winter to provide information on our budget projections for the 2019-20 school year. Some of you may recall that last year we had projected a significant deficit for this current school year that would have required significant cuts. Those cuts were averted due to a last minute infusion of funding at the end of the last legislative session. However, that was one-time funding and did not represent a long-term fix for the Olympia School District. Unfortunately, we are once again looking at a significant shortfall in 2019-20 and have no reason to suspect that a fix — short or long-term — will be forthcoming.

You may recall from last year’s communication that Olympia was not helped by the funding formulas that came out of the Legislature’s response to the “McCleary Decision.” While the Supreme Court has ruled the state is in compliance now due to a significant infusion of new dollars into the state education coffers and a restructuring of how taxes are collected and allocated, the fact is that that revenue has not been distributed equitably and has caused more inequality between school districts. We are not alone in facing significant shortfalls next year.

We will be providing our community with more information on this troubling fiscal situation in the months to come and provide feedback opportunities for how best to approach the projected budget deficit. We had some success last year in our advocacy efforts and hope we can be even more successful this session in urging the Legislature to find long-term solutions for Olympia School District students, staff and families. Stay tuned for more information.

In the meantime, enjoy the last burst of summer weather mixed with the beautiful autumn colors and falling leaves that surround our school campuses. As I visit school open houses, drop by classrooms, and attend campus activities and events, I am so proud of the hard work and learning taking place around the district.


Patrick C. Murphy, Ed. D.


2017-18 School Year

August 30, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District families,

There is an old classic Peanuts comic strip where Charlie Brown is complaining to Linus about how summer is almost over and he wonders, “Where did it go?” Linus ponders for a moment and replies, “Summers always fly, Winters walk.” That adage can feel particularly true when we see “back to school” ads on TV in the midst of hot summer weather. And yet, at the same time, few things can get children (and parents) as excited as the anticipation of the upcoming start of a new school year.  I can tell you we in the Olympia School District are incredibly enthusiastic to welcome all of our students back to school, including our brand new preschoolers and kindergartners. If any of you, like me, had the opportunity to attend our graduation ceremonies this past June, you might better understand why we are so eager to welcome our students back to school. Our recent graduates are a talented, caring, thoughtful, hard-working group of individuals who I have no doubt will change the world. They didn’t get that way through happenstance. I have learned that there is an incredible partnership in Olympia between our nurturing and devoted families and our compassionate and highly skilled school staff. This special connection between home and school begins in pre-K and continues all the way through elementary, middle and high school, producing amazing young adults well-prepared to pursue their dreams.

At the end of the day, that is what we all want — to teach and develop our children so they can go on to live healthy, productive and satisfying lives. Our school board spent time this summer thinking about that ultimate goal. During their summer retreat, the directors created draft student outcomes to drive the goals of the district's new Strategic Plan. We will be embarking on an intensive community outreach campaign to solicit input on the draft outcomes that will include meetings and focus groups with staff, students, families and community.  Families’ voices and thinking is critical to this process to not only solidify the outcomes, but also to create the metrics and action plans to ensure that all families in the Olympia School District are well served and our students meet their full potential. Stay tuned for opportunities to participate in feedback sessions at your school or in the community. We also invite you to share your feedback on the draft student outcomes by filling out and submitting a brief online feedback formOpening in a new window. Lastly, we hope you stay informed about our Strategic Plan work this year by visiting a Strategic Planning webpageOpening in a new window on our school district website.

As we launch a new school year, I want to close this message by affirming how fortunate we are in the Olympia School District to have such a supportive community. From bond measures, to volunteerism, to advocacy; I’ve never seen a school system so wholly strengthened by the region it serves. So thank you, again, for your continued dedication and service to the children of Olympia.

Patrick C. Murphy, Ed. D.



June 19, 2018 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District families,

It is hard to believe that we are reaching the end of the 2017-18 school year. As I complete my first year in the district, I want to again express my appreciation to all of the families, staff and community members for your warm welcome this year, but more importantly, for your unwavering support to our students in the Olympia School District. As expectations have increased and technology continues to “flatten the earth,” the impressive Class of 2018 leaves us equipped with perhaps a stronger academic foundation and deeper understanding of the world than any group that has proceeded them. A tradition I’ve discovered this year in Olympia is that our seniors make a point of visiting their former elementary schools in their caps and gowns to thank their former teachers and staff. What a wonderful ritual to recognize the collective effort of our community to launch our graduates to their next stage of life. And speaking of elementary schools, this year’s kindergartners will be the Class of 2030. I can’t help but wonder what they will be achieving and creating when they walk across the stage 12 years from now.

Related to that future wondering, you may recall from previous messages that we have a five-year Strategic Plan that expires this school year. As such, we have been engaging our community in a vigorous and healthy process and conversation through surveys and a recently completed Educational Summit to help flesh out the long-term strategic direction for our district based on shared values and agreed upon student outcomes.

We had thousands of responses to our budget and pre-Summit surveys that helped inform the two-day Educational Summit. More than 130 people filled the banquet room at the Hotel RL in Olympia at the end of May. In addition to 40 students, who were the largest represented group in the room, there were family members, teachers, principals, custodians, bus drivers, other support staff, and community members from many backgrounds. Our school board set goals last summer to focus this year on four major themes: equity, early learning, mental health, and closing opportunity and achievement gaps. While Olympia is a very high performing school district by most traditional metrics, we know that there are troublesome gaps that consistently impact certain demographic groups of students in our system — students of color, students receiving special services and students impacted by poverty. We also know that stress and anxiety is overwhelming many of our students and families and impacting the ability to learn. We know the incredible importance of preschool and of a solid foundation in the early years of learning, and yet too many of our students, especially those in poverty, are underserved in this area.

Because of this, the Summit invite list was intentionally weighted to bring people together that had experience, expertise and ideas related to these key focus areas. There were two days of fruitful and powerful conversations which produced much information for the board to consider. This summer the board will use this data and other information in the drafting of student outcomes to drive the measures for determining school district performance and the creation of the new Strategic Plan. While there were dozens of ideas and areas of focus that came out of the summit, participants narrowed key focus areas to the following:

  • Assuring Foundational Skills/Lifelong Learning
  • Addressing Bias and Inclusion
  • Focusing on Safety
  • Producing Global Navigators
  • Maximizing Choices/Pathways
  • Ensuring a Strong Sense of Self-Worth

To learn more about the Educational Summit, including details related to these big ideas, results of a pre-Summit survey, photos from the event and other relevant data, visit a new Strategic Planning webpage on the school district website. The school board will have an opportunity to expand upon its own takeaways from the Summit at an upcoming study session on July 2 and at its summer board retreat in mid-July. It is during the retreat that the board is expected to create a draft of student outcomes to drive the goals of our new Strategic Plan. The community will have a chance to review these student outcomes and submit additional input this fall, but the board appreciates input at any time. Stay tuned for more information. 

Thank you all, once again, for a great 2017-18 school year. I wish you and your family a restful, joyful and relaxing summer break.


April 24, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families and Community,

It is hard to believe Spring has arrived and we are on the verge of the last couple months of the school year.  Where did the time go? Someone told me once that the years are no shorter now than when we were children; it’s just that a year makes up a smaller percentage of one’s lifetime with each year that we get older, and so in a way it feels shorter.

Whatever the reason, this year has been a bit of a whirlwind, and at the same time incredibly gratifying.  You might recall, as I started the school year as your new superintendent, I created an entry plan to better know and understand the district. I compiled a reportOpening in a new window at the end of that entry plan in which I mentioned the goals set by the Board of Directors this past summer. I put particular emphasis on the board’s goal #3 which states:

By June 2018, with the engagement of the local community, create a new Strategic Plan for the purpose of managing the future work of the district: That work will include establishing agreement among Olympia School District stakeholders around shared core beliefs and student outcomes, setting priorities, focusing resources, strengthening operations, and ensuring that all staff are working toward common goals.

The 2018-2023 Strategic Plan must include and embed:

  • The continued development of a district vision for equity and the organizational development required to enact the vision;
  • Attention to the social/emotional aspect of student mental health;
  • Initial steps based on recommendations from the 2017 Early Learning Report;
  • Actionable goals/objectives to close the achievement/opportunity gaps.


The work of bringing together stakeholders to establish core beliefs will begin in earnest on May 29 and 30 during an Olympia School District Educational Summit. More than 100 individuals consisting of students, staff, families and community members will meet for two days to build a foundation for our strategic planning. By establishing agreed-upon student outcomes, we will not only have a Strategic Direction in which to tether our plan, but we will then be able to identify and develop the appropriate metrics and benchmarks with which to measure the progress and eventual success of our plan. It’s an ambitious idea, and one I am excited to embark upon.

As we developed our list of invitees to the Summit, we placed an emphasis on ensuring strong representation from historically underrepresented groups like students and families of color, those impacted by poverty, English Learners, and our students with special needs and their supporters. A stronger presence in our planning process by these students, families and supporters is critical if we are to effectively address and eliminate the achievement and opportunity gaps that these students, in general, persistently experience year after year. We created a Summit Planning Committee with this in mind to ensure diverse representation on May 29 and 30. Ultimately, as stated previously, our goal is to reach consensus on student outcomes for our graduates. We want to get clear about those characteristics, skills and attributes that we want all of our graduates to possess upon leaving our system so they are adequately prepared for the challenges and opportunities they will face when leaving our system. That clarity will help us set clear strategic planning goals, action plans and metrics moving forward.

While there will be more than 100 people in the room at the two-day Summit, we would like input and ideas from our entire community to help inform the conversation those two days. Next week, we will email all OSD families and staff a link to a brief survey requesting input on the four board goals referenced above — equity, mental health, early learning and closing achievement and opportunity gaps. Our district Communications department will follow up the emai