Spotlight on Success

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May 30, 2019


Superintendent's Message


Hello Olympia School District Families,

Patrick Murphy headshotWe 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 Signature

Patrick Murphy

Olympia School District


Parents, students and staff dedicate Pioneer Garden

Pioneer garden dedicationPumpkins, turnips, red Russian kale, potatoes, sunflowers and more filled the ten, raised garden beds of Pioneer Elementary School’s new school garden. Angie Grant, a member of Pioneer’s PTA, brainstormed this idea two years ago. In October of 2018, work began on the garden. Parent Lucas Kennal worked with several other parents to build a low, stone wall. “When I was doing my research on school gardens, many teachers wished they had a place to teach from, or somewhere for students to sit during teaching,” Grant said. She drew a blueprint of a garden shed, and another parent, Matt Conklin, made the building of that shed possible. Parent Garth Magaro used his skills in plumbing to put in the water main for the spigot next to the shed. The Olympia High School Freedom Farmers, students who earn high school credits through farming and a variety of courses, built the raised garden boxes in the garden space.

Pioneer Garden DedicationThe day of the dedication, all Pioneer Elementary classes had the opportunity to cycle through the garden, planting the starts they had seeded earlier in the year. Other students weeded the gardens while Freedom Farmers showed them what should be pulled up, and which of the plants belonged in the garden. Extra excitement to the day was added by killdeer eggs found during recess earlier that day, just up on the hill above the garden. The students were thrilled to discover the black-speckled eggs of this medium-sized bird. The killdeer parents could be seen swiftly running through the grass, uttering their sharp call.

The weather held for the dedication that evening as students, staff and parents wandered through the garden area and ate brightly-frosted cupcakes. Two students had the chance to hold the red ribbon between them as Grant held up the scissors and snipped through the ribbon, signifying the official opening of Pioneer Elementary School’s garden.


OSD Ice Cream Social honors retirees and advocates

OSD Ice Cream Social 2019The school district’s annual Ice Cream Social was the perfect mix of good ice cream, honoring our advocates of the year and retirees, as well as a hint of jazz music from the Capital High School Jazz Band. Capital High School band students serenaded attendees as the Commons filled with people. Each table held a breath of spring, with bouquets arranged by Margret Parobek’s horticulture students.

A special presentation was made by Dan McCartan for Adam Brickell, retiring OEA President. The OEA Teacher of the Year Award was given to Dan Lundberg, District Music & Band Coordinator. The Gary Brown Award was given to Dan McCartan, Speech & Language Therapist. Retirees stood to be recognized by speeches, a certificate and a hand-crafted pen made by Washington Middle School Tech Arts students. Although we will miss those retiring, we wish them the best in their new adventures and are glad for the opportunity to honor them at this annual event.

Ice Cream Social Photo Album


Wanz inspires Marshall Middle School songwriters

Celebrities sometimes seem to belong to a different universe. When students have the opportunity to talk to a celebrity visiting their school and learn that that person was once in their shoes, the experience can be life changing. 
Wanz visits Marshall MSMichael Wansley, an American songwriter and rapper best known by his stage name Wanz, visited Marshall Middle School, inspiring students in their own creative pursuits. After giving a presentation and singing at a Marshall Middle School assembly, Wanz workshopped with a smaller group of students after school to talk with them about life, writing music and their dreams for their futures. These Marshall Middle School students are a part of The Bridge Music Project, a local nonprofit organization that teaches youth how to express themselves through songwriting.

“How many of you think you’ve written the best thing ever?” Wanz asked the students. Several students raised their hands. Wanz told the students that when they write music, they needed to write it for themselves. “That’s the way anything you create should be,” he said. Wanz also reminded the students of the power of music to connect people, and tell their story to others. “There are thousands of people like you. And what you have to say might speak to them.”

“I’ve been believing this dream since I was five,” one girl said, as they discussed writing music. “Then we have that in common,” Wanz answered. He asked the students what the secret to good music was. Several students offered answers before one student said, “Perseverance.” “Bam,” said Wanz, “That’s it.” During the day, Wanz works at his job. He told the students that when he was done with that, he did music. “Everything else supports that,” he told them.

He also reminded students of the importance of perseverance when life gets tough. “You have to go through stuff to get through stuff. The best thing you can possibly do is keep going,” he told the students.



Committee seeks input on school start times

A Citizens Advisory Committee invites students, families, employees and community members to complete an online survey about potential changes to start and end times in the Olympia School District.

OSD SurveyThis survey is the work of a Citizens Advisory Committee tasked by the Olympia School Board with researching and developing recommendations to the board regarding school year calendar/school start times. The earliest any potential changes would take effect is the 2020-21 school year.

Please fill out a brief online survey, which includes a link to a video created by students about the committee’s work and a link to research about school start times.

The deadline to complete the survey is 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

Take the survey



Stories of stars and choreographed dancing at Lincoln Elementary School 

Stories of Stars at Lincoln ESRuth Whitenar, a Squaxin Island tribal member and masterful storyteller, visited Lincoln Elementary to share her people’s culture and stories with students and staff. Two other tribal members accompanied her, sharing from a magazine that the Squaxin Island Tribe published. “First of all, I’m going to tell you a story; one of our legends,” Whitenar began. She told of three sisters who were out too late in the forest, gathering camas tubers, blackberries and cedar. They spent the night out under the stars. “And the skies were just crystal clear. You could see every single star,” Whitenar told the gathered students and staff. While the three sisters looked up at the stars, admiring them, they giggled “Tee-hee-hee,” whispering to each other, “I’m going to marry that one. That big bright star.” Children’s laughter rippled through the crowd gathered in the Lincoln Elementary School gym. The stars caught up each of the sisters and asked them to be their wives, and the sisters agreed.

Latin dance class at Lincoln ESThe story continued as the sisters grew homesick, up there in the star land, and wished to return home. In time, the sisters returned to the earth below. As Whitenar concluded her story, she explained how stories like this were often part of longer stories, told at potlatch gatherings. She hopes opportunities like this will teach students more about the People of the Water. Sharing stories is a way for her to show students “Who we are, where we come from and what we’re about,” Whitenar says.

Latin dance class at Lincoln ESAlejandro Rugarcia also has added a taste of his Spanish culture to Lincoln Elementary School’s program. These classes, provided by a grant, are offered to Lincoln students during their PE time. Students spread throughout the gym, waiting for the cue to begin their time of dancing and movement. Upbeat music echoes through the gym as students begin their dance, choreographed by Rugarcia. Often, Rugarcia counted out the beats in the music in Spanish, sometimes transitioning to English. Caron Stehr, who teaches second and third grade at Lincoln, said of the classes, “I like that the kids are learning that they don’t have to do it right.” Although the children are led by Rugarcia, each enjoys the movement and interprets it as they wish. Wendy Trevorrow, front office staff, said, “It’s getting the kids out of their comfort zone. They’re trying something new.”

We are excited for these opportunities the Lincoln students have, whether it’s storytelling and learning more about another culture, to the confidence that comes from learning and mastering dance choreographies.


Capital High School hosts leadership event “Inter High”

Inter High at Capital HSAngel Elam, Leadership and Marketing teacher and DECA adviser at Capital High School, describes Inter High as a “leadership day.” High school students from Adna, Yelm, Kitsap, Lake Quinault and other districts in ESD 113 gather together (often decked out in their “school spirit” gear) annually for this great event. These leadership students have a chance to collaborate and share ideas on how to make their schools an even better place. For this year’s theme, students chose the phrase, “Even though the world is large, one person can make a world of difference.” Elam says her favorite thing about the event is hosting it at Capital High School. “It’s a great challenge for my kids and a chance for them to be a servant-leader to the other schools,” Elam says.

Inter High also offers the opportunity for students to hear from a variety of speakers before splitting into their breakout sessions for the day. The first to present was Capital High School Spanish teacher, Joe Alonso. This past spring break he visited his 40th country: Ireland. He spoke to the students about the kindness that many people showed him in the countries he has visited, as well as the chances he had to show kindness. Alonso encouraged the students to remember, “We have more in common than we have less in common” with those around the world.

Inter High at Capital HSStudents also had the chance to hear from Rabbi Yohanna Goldstein. Rabbi Goldstein told two traditional Hebrew tales. One, called The Story of the Starfish, describes how a young boy rescues stranded starfish, one at a time. Another story she titled “The Story of the Two Pockets.” In this story, the person has two notes--one in each pocket. Both are equally important for leadership. One note reminds us that humility is vital to leadership. The other note reminds us of our great value: “The world was created just for you.”

Students were also inspired by George Sharp, from the Economic Development Council, and Rick Morton, a representative of Jostens. At the conclusion of the presentations, students scattered for their breakout sessions. After hearing from high school presenters, the students at the breakout sessions had a chance to share ideas and ask questions. Breakout sessions included a presentation and discussion on Pack the Gym, Leadership through Technology, Winter Warmth Service Project and Assembly Planning. Students discussed the best ways to make each student feel included at their school, which “vibes” were best for which assemblies and how posters and other projects could be used to encourage their classmates.

What a great way to collaborate with schools across our region, as well as hear from some phenomenal speakers.



Summer weather accompanies Night with the Tacoma Rainiers

OSD Night at the Rainiers 2019

Storm troopers, Jedi knights and Star Wars aliens greeted those coming to Olympia School District’s Night with the Tacoma Rainiers. Parents, students and Superintendent Patrick Murphy posed with the Star Wars characters as they came in the gate. The weather couldn’t have been better, with temperatures in the 80s. For those arriving early, a taste of excitement was added as a fire alarm went off briefly and everyone filed out of the gates. The Storm Troopers made the most of the opportunity, reminding people in their robotic voices to “Move along.”

The Washington Middle School Choir, led by Stacy Brown, sang the National Anthem beautifully. Superintendent Patrick Murphy walked to the pitcher’s mound, wearing a Rainiers jersey, and threw the ceremonial first pitch. The Tacoma Rainiers beat the Reno Aces, 10-2. The evening was a treat of good baseball, a hint of Star Wars theatrics and a summer-like evening spent with family and friends.

OSD Night at the Rainiers Photo Album


Garfield families celebrate school cultures at Heritage Night

Garfield Heritage NightGarfield Elementary students, staff and families learned more about the world and each other during Heritage Night, an evening filled with music, dance, student reports, family photo collages, a paper community quilt art project, community information booths and ethnic food.

The May 17 cultural celebration began in the school gym, where a standing-room only crowd clapped and cheered as students, family members and community members presented a series of stage performances.

First on stage was Samba Olywa, an amateur percussion and dance community group that performs throughout the Puget Sound. Several Garfield Elementary employees help make up the Samba Olywa group, which is dedicated to building community through the learning and sharing of Samba and other rhythms.

Garfield Heritage NightThe more than 100 people in the audience then welcomed a group of five students from Garfield and Centennial elementary schools who performed a Bollywood dance. They were followed by more than a dozen Garfield students who performed a series of Taekwondo demonstrations led by Master Andrew Topasna from the U.S. Martial Arts Center in Olympia.

The performances concluded with a favorite for all ages — a lion dance performed by Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth from Saint Michael Parish in Olympia and led by Garfield Elementary parent Hue Le. The Lion Dance is a traditional dance from China and Vietnam. During a lion dance, dancers mimic lion movements in a costume to bring good luck and fortune.

Families also visited community booths set up in the gym to learn more about Olympia Parks and Recreation, Timberland Regional Library, Family Education and Support Services, Snap-Ed, Safe Place and the Olympia Boys & Girls Club.

Garfield Heritage NightGuests spent the remainder of the evening visiting, making hexagon-shaped paper quilt pieces by drawing or writing words that represented themselves or their families, pinning flags on an oversized world map on the wall to mark where their families originated, and trying ethnic food including Vietnamese, Thai, German and Indian cuisine donated by parents, local restaurants or school staff. School halls were lined with class projects, including reports and photo collages of students’ families.

Thank you to the school Site Council that spent the past year planning this fun family event, as well as to everyone who participated in celebrating Garfield Elementary School’s diverse community!



Work begins this summer on several major school construction projects

Construction updatesIt will be a busy summer of construction around the school district as work advances on several major building improvements approved by voters in the 2016 school bond.

Learn more about the following projects on the Olympia School District School Improvement Bond Projects webpage, and be sure to follow the district on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to see photos and videos of progress on each of these projects this summer:

  • Capital and Olympia high school projects break ground
  • Centennial, McLane and Roosevelt elementary schools remodels near completion
  • District administrative offices move to new building, and Avanti High School plans for remodel
  • Other building improvements districtwide



Olympia HS computer coding students create projects

Coding at Olympia HSAndrew Woodbridge’s Exploring Computer Science classes are inventing a variety of projects to make our world a better place. Students brainstormed with representatives from Olympia Orthopedics, Morningside, Developmental Disabilities Administration, staff from the Olympia School District and other members of the community to come up with project ideas. The Olympia High School classes are split into 11 teams with 11 different projects.

One team is working on gamifying physical therapy movements to reduce the monotony of some of the exercises. Another team is creating a joystick for toddlers with mobility challenges to operate with ease. The team also plans to build a prototype of the wheelchair sample they currently have. Another project includes what they are calling a “magic mirror” that will alert users with visual disabilities which pieces of outfitting match. The outfits will each be fitted with a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag. The tags will be programmed to notify the main system when a match is made, alerting the user if they have chosen an outfit that matches. Yet another project includes an audio-only game that will help the user practice situations like crossing the street, for those with vision loss.

We are excited to see the final products of all this hard work and inspiration.


2019-20 OSD CalendarBoard approves 2019-20 calendar

The Olympia School Board has approved the school year calendar for the 2019-20 school year. This one-page calendar includes districtwide holidays and events. Be sure to check school websites and calendars for school-specific events and activities.


Four Olympia schools win state recognition


WA State RecognitionAvanti High School, Jefferson Middle School, Boston Harbor Elementary and McLane Elementary will each be honored in June as a 2017-18 “State Recognized School” for their work in demonstrating exemplary performance or making significant progress closing opportunity and achievement gaps.

“There is incredible work happening in our schools every day … The educators, students and families of recognized schools have a lot to be proud of,” said Chris Reykdal, state superintendent of public instruction. 

  • Avanti High School is being honored for closing gaps and demonstrating improvement among student groups identified for support.
  • Jefferson Middle School and Boston Harbor Elementary School are being recognized for high achievement in math and English language arts.
  • McLane Elementary School is receiving the award for growth in Washington School Improvement Framework metrics while narrowing the gap between the highest and lowest performing student groups.


In all, 216 Washington schools will receive a State Recognized School award at concurrent awards ceremonies planned June 6 in Olympia and Spokane. The Olympia School District is among only 11 school districts statewide that won four or more recognition awards.

“The staff, students and families of Boston Harbor, McLane, Jefferson and Avanti continue a longstanding tradition in Olympia of being recognized at the state level for outstanding academic achievement,” said Olympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy.

Murphy added, “These schools are the first in Olympia to be recognized under the new Washington School Improvement Framework (WSIF) tool which helps schools identify ways to improve education for all students. These four schools exceeded expectations in overall English language arts and math achievement or in narrowing opportunity and achievement gaps. Their recognition is a tribute to the dedication of the teachers and staff, and the hard work of students and support of families.”

Over the past year, the Washington State Board of Education, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee created a new system of recognizing and celebrating schools’ achievement. The new State Recognized School awards program places more emphasis on schools that are making progress closing achievement gaps among student groups, as well as schools who have lower levels of achievement, but are seeing high levels of progress.

To learn more about the new awards, visit the Washington State Board of Education website.


Upcoming Events



  • June 3 – Public hearing for proposed 2019-20 school year budget, Knox Admin. Center at 6 p.m.

  • June 3 – Board Meeting at Knox Administrative Center, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

  • June 5 – 50-Minute Early Release

  • June 6 – Avanti HS graduation in the Knox Auditorium at 6 p.m.

  • June 7 – Transition Academy graduation in the Knox Auditorium at 7 p.m.

  • June 7 – Half Day (Elementary and Middle School)

  • June 8 – Free sports physicals at Capital High School Gymnasium from 8:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.

  • June 10 – Screening of “LIKE” at Capital High School, 6 p.m.

  • June 11 – Screening of “LIKE” at Capital High School, 6 p.m.

  • June 11 – ORLA graduation: Indian Summer Country Club at 6 p.m.

  • June 12 – 50-Minute Early Release

  • June 13 – Screening of “LIKE” at Capital High School, 6 p.m.

  • June 14 – Capital High School graduation: St. Martin’s Pavilion at 7 p.m.

  • June 17 – Olympia High School graduation: St. Martin’s Pavilion at 7 p.m.

  • June 19 – 50-Minute Early Release

  • June 21 – Last Day of School (Half Day)

  • June 24 – Board Meeting: Knox Administrative Center from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.



The Olympia School District will provide equal educational opportunity and treatment for all students in all aspects of the academic and activities program without discrimination based on race, religion, creed, color, national origin, age, honorably-discharged veteran or military status, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, marital status, the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. The district will provide equal access to school facilities to the Boy Scouts of America and all other designated youth groups listed in Title 36 of the United States Code as a patriotic society. District programs will be free from sexual harassment. Auxiliary aids and services will be provided upon request to individuals with disabilities.

The following people have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies, reports of alleged sexual harassment, concerns about compliance, and/or grievance procedures: 

All four individuals may also be contacted at 1113 Legion Way S.E., Olympia, WA, 98501.