January 2023

Spotlight on Success header 

Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District families,


Patrick Murphy headshot

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 Signature
Patrick Murphy



Centennial Stars shine bright at Science & Engineering Fair


Centennial Stars shine bright at Science & Engineering Fair

More than 150 students participated in the Centennial Elementary School annual Science Fair this month, making it the largest in school history.


As families, staff and guests walked through the rows of carefully thought out and beautifully constructed displays, the young scientists were ready and willing to engage visitors by explaining what they had learned and answering questions.


“Science is sometimes about failure and figuring out what to do differently, and that's OK because after, you know what the answer is to your question,” said fifth grader Josie Maier. Maier’s science project focused on foundations and skyscrapers. She used various materials for the ground, candy for her bricks and sunflower butter for the mortar.


In November students were given the option of participating in the fair and exploring their passion for science through a project of choice. Fifth grade teacher Jennifer Knight added, “We encourage the students to choose projects, reports, experiments or artwork that displays what they are curious about.”


Students from various grades presented projects which featured physical biological, earth sciences and various other hands-on science activities.


Each student began with a question. Fifth graders Elizabeth Phillips, Arielle Lewis and Edward Chan pondered; How does a potato battery work? From there, the three students explained the steps they took as their project unfolded with confidence and understanding.


Fourth grade student Aaron Wilson was excited to visit booths that displayed some of his favorite projects, including Braylen Brim’s robotic arm and Erin Rinehard’s and Sabine Cornelius’s “Evolution of a Primate.”


The science fair was just as exciting for the parents who volunteered to help; "Our kids had a lot of fun and loved their review sheets full of positive comments. It turned out amazing. Every parent had a lot of fun and agreed it was such a special event,” said CES parent Andrea Kundar.


In addition to the record number of science fair participants, more than 150 people attended the event. “I think it's such a great opportunity for students to approach learning differently and to ask the questions they want to ask," said CES parent Genevieve Chan.


Melanie Golob, whose son Keaton participated in the fair, added, "All the kids seemed to have learned something impressive and it turned out so well."


Knight coordinated the event with the help of 30 community volunteers. “This cannot be done without the support of the staff, families and volunteers who helped students create art, set up projects, gave student feedback and with speed and efficiency returned the gym to its original state before dismissal,” Knight said.


The young scientists created more than just a science experiment, they created memories, participated in hands-on learning, had fun and put on one spectacular show. We can’t wait to see what our Stars think up next year!


View our Science Fair Photo Album on Facebook



Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action: February 6-10


Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action: February 6-10

The Olympia School Board has proclaimed February 6-10 as Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action.


Board President Darcy Huffman read the two-page proclamation at the January 26, 2023 board meeting.


The school board proclamation states in part that “our students have the right to be educated within a village committed to nurturing their courage and skills to confront personal, systemic and societal bias, while recognizing the many types of privilege that exist within our society.”


The proclamation goes on to state that “students have the right to engage in reflection and honest conversations in school communities on issues of social justice, equity, the intersectionality of oppression and the legacy of institutionalized racism and oppression that has plagued the United States since its founding.”


The Black Lives Matter at School campaign first began in Seattle in 2016 and has since spread across the nation.


View the Black Lives Matter at School Week Proclamation



Career Map Meetups Connect Students With Careers


Career Map Meetups Connect Students With Careers

Olympia School District high school counselors are helping students explore career opportunities with monthly ‘Career Map Meetups.’ These meetups have been made possible with the help of Olympia Career Hub, a division of the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce.


The monthly career-themed connections offer high school students the opportunity to meet directly with local professionals in a particular career cluster. Kimari Helmer, office professional in the Capital High School Career Center, said, “They discuss what their jobs are all about, (a day in the life), their personal path that led them to their profession, what kinds of upward mobility there might be and what training or schooling is necessary or beneficial.” Students can ask questions to aid their exploration of the age-old question; “What do you want to be when you grow up?”


This month Capital and Olympia high schools welcomed first responders, including firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians (EMT’s) and flight paramedics.


“It provided useful information, and they answered the questions I had about a future in law enforcement,” said Capital High senior Myles Johnson.


CHS held its career meetups during the school day earlier this month. These casual career informational events are open to all students who would like to attend once a month.


Olympia High School held its first responder meetup in early January. Freshman Chloe Arendt attended to find out more about potential careers with law enforcement. “It helped to attend and learn more about the schedules and the training that is required to obtain a position with the police department,” Arendt said.


OHS Freshman Nathan Keller said he aspires to have a career that allows him to contribute to his community. “I am interested in law enforcement,” he said. “I could make an impact on lives for the better. I learned that in that career I would have the opportunity to get to know the people and be there to support them when they need help.”


Avanti High School Counselor Steve Aguirre is excited about collaborating to provide students with these opportunities. “As the school counselor, I seek ways to provide college and career resources for all students,” he said. “Collaborating with the Olympia Career Hub makes getting those resources into our students’ hands much more accessible and prepares them for their High School and Beyond Plans.” Last month, AHS held a meetup with Stephanie Patterson from Washington State Labor and Industries (L&I). She was able to answer student questions and provide insight into L&I apprenticeship programs.


At Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA), new school counselor Char Franz is gearing up for the second semester. “I’m excited about the new opportunities these events have made available for district students,” said Franz. ORLA’s partnership with local community organizations gives their entire student body the opportunity to explore their ideas and excitement for their future.


The topic for February's high school Career Map Meetup is behavioral health and health care. Check in with your high school's College and Career Readiness Center (CCRC) or a school counselor for additional details regarding upcoming events:


The following are Career Map Meetups currently scheduled at our high schools:



We can’t wait to see the variety of connections which will be made and opportunities that will be available to high school students across the district. For more information about public Career Hub events, visit the Career Hub Facebook page.



2023 Legislative Priorities


2023 Legislative Priorities

The Olympia School District will face funding shortfalls in the 2023-24 school year and beyond. The shortfalls are caused, in part, by long-term structural inequitable funding mechanisms (Regionalization, Staff Mix, Low State Salary Allocations) and underfunded state or federal requirements (Special Education, Health Care, K-3 Class Size).


These shortfalls are exacerbated by enrollment declines driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. To address these financial realities, the board supports requesting necessary legislative action as follows:


Provide Equitable and Flexible Funding

  • Fully fund staff salaries so that the voter-approved levy is not subsidizing state basic education responsibilities
  • Review regionalization so that Olympia is not placed at a disadvantage with neighboring districts
  • Fully fund the salaries of experienced teachers


Fully Fund Special Education

  • Fully fund the cost of educating our students receiving special education services so that the voter-approved levy is not subsidizing state basic education responsibilities


Fully Fund Transportation

  • Update the state’s transportation funding formula to cover the cost of driver compensation, and fully fund the transportation safety net for specialized transportation with low ridership


Continue Investment in Pandemic Recovery and the Physical and Mental Well-being of Students

  • Increase investments and staffing to better support students’ behavior and mental health needs
  • Support district efforts to provide multi-systems of support and ensure all staff have the training to provide trauma-informed care
  • Fully fund school meals for all students


Close Opportunity Gaps and Advance Equity

  • Support districts’ efforts to recruit, support and retain staff who reflect the diversity of the community we serve
  • Fund necessary professional development for all staff to be responsive to the diverse needs of our learning community


The legislative priorities listed above are featured in a one-page flyer, which is posted on the Budget webpage on the district website along with key legislation requests, 2023-24 budget updates including presentations to the school board, historical budget information, and contact information for Thurston County legislators.



Pioneer Elementary Celebrates the Lunar New Year


Pioneer Elementary Celebrates the Lunar New Year

Pioneer Elementary School is celebrating the Lunar New Year and it is apparent as soon as you step through the front entrance of the school! There are majestic dragons and delicate lanterns hanging from the ceiling ushering in the New Year.


“You can really feel the excitement and positive energy when the students enter the building,” said PES Family Liaison Nickie Skoog. “New Year is about reunion and rebirth. People gather to celebrate with family and friends. We couldn't ask for a better place to celebrate.”


Skoog and other volunteers spent hours decorating the school one weekend as a surprise for students when they walked into the building on Monday morning.


Many classrooms participated in the celebration, creating handmade dragons or paper lanterns, while others read or watched videos of various Lunar New Year customs and traditions. Other classes read or listened to books about the celebrations.


There are a number of different colorful dragons adorning the hallways, all created by different classes. Second graders in Jennifer DeSelle-Milam’s class, for example, created dragons that spiral from the ceiling. Second graders in Karen Hougan’s and Cindy Johnson’s classes, as well as third graders in Suzette O'Donnell’s class, traced their hands on paper and cut them out to create the body of a long dragon that soars through the air on popsicle sticks. Starr Smythe’s fourth grade class watched videos and created art from the choice board for their hall.


While crafting dragons in O’Donnells class, Skoog spoke to students about her childhood. “When I was little I lived within walking distance to a lion dance school. We could hear the rumbling of drums beating as they started to dance by. My siblings and I would run out and sit on our front porch and it was truly a memorable part of my childhood.”


Fifth graders created Lunar New Year themed drawings and in the process learned about the traditions surrounding mythical Chinese dragons vs. European dragons by reading books by author Grace Lin.


When you enter the front doors you won’t be able to miss a seven foot long dancing green dragon that stretches across the ceiling. This remarkable creature was made by students in Bonni Cazier’s and Erin Erbele’s classes. Students created the dragon by decorating paper plates using scrapbook paper, paint, tissue paper and glitter.


The Lunar New Year theme continued in the library, where students have listened to books such as “How to Catch a dragon,” “The Great Race,” and “Nian.” There were additional books added to the PES library collection this year, including the story “Tet,” which is based on the Vietnamese New Year.


Skoog and Paraeducator Tracy Curran have enjoyed helping bring these new traditions to Pioneer. Skoog said, “I was born and raised in Singapore and Mrs. Curran was born in Taiwan. We celebrated Chinese New Year back home. Here at Pioneer we wanted to showcase the Lunar New Year, a holiday celebrated by Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean cultures.”


PES Administrative Professional Julie Shanafelt has a front row seat from the office as students and guests enter the building and react to the colorful and welcoming Lunar New Year decor.


“The look on the kids' faces says it all,” she said.


This beautiful Lunar New Year tradition has been celebrated for thousands of years, and we are thrilled to see it find a home in the Pioneer Elementary School community. Love it Bear Cubs!


View our Lunar New Year Photo Album on Facebook



Save the Date: Countdown to Kindergarten March 4, 2023


Save the Date: Countdown to Kindergarten March 4, 2023

The Olympia School District welcomes students and families from the Class of 2036 to its annual Countdown to Kindergarten celebration. This exciting and informative event is geared toward parents/guardians who have children entering kindergarten for the 2023-24 school year. Families are encouraged to attend this event to learn about the transition to kindergarten in the Olympia School District.


The event kicks off at 10 a.m. in the Capital High School Performing Art Center with a presentation by Superintendent Patrick Murphy and Executive Director of Elementary Education Autumn Lara. Families will then move to the CHS Commons to meet school and district staff, tour a mock classroom, climb aboard a school bus and much more.


We cannot wait to meet the Class of 2036! We hope you join us at Capital High School for this joyful event. Additional information will be available soon. For details on enrollment visit our Student Enrollment page on the Olympia School District website.


Countdown to Kindergarten

Capital High School (2707 Conger Ave. NW)
Saturday, March 4, 2023
10 a.m. - 12 p.m.


To reserve your spot at Countdown to Kindergarten please complete this Google Form. We look forward to seeing you there!



Thurgood Marshall strengthens ties in our community


Thurgood Marshall strengthens ties in our community

Thurgood Marshall Middle School takes pride in its commitment to continue the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., specifically when it comes to his legacy of service. In 1994 Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act. With this Act, Congress delegated the Corporation for National and Community Service (Americorps). Like many of our schools, Thurgood Marshall has a tradition of recognizing Dr. King’s contributions to our society with what they now call their ‘Day of Service’.


On Friday, January 13, the entire TMMS staff and student body spread out across Olympia to volunteer at various locations and organizations. As Dr. King once said, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve…You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”


“Marshall’s schoolwide Day of Service has become a treasured tradition for our school community,” said Citizen Science Institute (CSI) teacher Thomas Condon. “It has taken all of our staff’s efforts, ideas and sacrifices to make this an on-going special day for all we serve. Our dream is to see that one day, our movement becomes more than once a year, and all schools participate.”


TMMS seventh and eighth grade teacher Jennifer Mettler coordinated with various community organizations to offer the helping hands of more than 450 students, staff and volunteers. Buses departed following the annual MLK Jr. school assembly to drop off students at their predetermined volunteer locations. Eric Durbin's class headed to L.P Brown Elementary School where students constructed a Gaga Ball Pit. This was a very welcome addition to the elementary school playground!


Rain did not stop nearly 200 student volunteers from getting their hands dirty during the Day of Service. TMMS students volunteered at numerous locations, including; Hansen Elementary School, GRuB, Billy Frank Jr. Wildlife Refuge, the Kiwanis Garden and 5 Hearts Farm. There was plenty of work to go around and students spent time weeding, spreading bark, feeding animals and much more. Near the TMMS campus students cleared blackberry bushes, and trekked to the highest point in Olympia (Cooper Crest Point) to plant 900 native plants. Each one of these plants was grown in the TMMS greenhouse and native plant nursery.


There were many other groups that contributed by making ‘No-sew’ hats and scarves to donate to the residents of Mother Joseph's rehab facility. TMMS volunteers even found ways to help their four-legged friends by creating dog and cat toys to donate to Animal Services. Other groups of volunteers spent time at the Harlequin Theater and South Sound Reading Foundation. Two more TMMS classes spent time at Lincoln and Garfield elementary schools helping in classrooms and reading with students.


Shawna Cardona’s sixth grade students spent their day at McLane Elementary School helping in classrooms with art and reading while also buddying up with students at lunchtime. "This MLK day was really cool, I got to help at the elementary school and be a role model," said TMMS sixth grader Wesley Lindros.


The time spent volunteering made a noticeable impact on the visiting students. Sixth grader Tyler Lattin was inspired; "I really liked the Day of Service. It was neat to get to help the first graders and help the fifth graders with their reading buddies. I hope we get to go and mentor the kids again. It was cool."


A big ‘Thank You’ to the TMMS community for your thoughtful, selfless actions that brought joy and connectedness to our community. You are leading with your hearts and hands to make a difference. We see you!



Upcoming Events


  • February 1: 50-Minute Early Release

  • February 2: Half Day (MS/HS Grading)

  • February 3: First Semester Ends

  • February 3: Half Day (ES/MS/HS Grading)

  • February 6-10: Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action

  • February 8: 50-Minute Early Release

  • February 9: OSD Board Meeting (in-person and online via Zoom) at 6:30 p.m.

  • February 14: Special Election

  • February 15: 50-Minute Early Release

  • February 20 - 21: Mid-Winter Break (No School)

  • February 22: 50-Minute Early Release

  • February 23: OSD Board Meeting (in-person and online via Zoom) at 6:30 p.m.



OSD Notice of Nondiscrimination

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 Olympia School District offers many Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs/courses in the following areas:  Skilled and Technical Sciences/STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics); Agriculture/Natural Resources; Business Marketing; Family and Consumer Sciences; and Health Sciences. For more information about CTE course offerings and admissions criteria, contact Pat Cusack, Director of College and Career Readiness, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506, (360) 596-6102. Lack of English language proficiency will not be a barrier to admission and participation in CTE programs.


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:


Elia Alailima, Title IX Officer

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-8545

[email protected]


Autumn Lara, Executive Director of Elementary Education

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-8534

[email protected]


Ken Turcotte, Section 504 and ADA Coordinator (Students)

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-7530

[email protected]


Starla Hoff, ADA Coordinator (Staff)

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-6185

[email protected]


Scott Niemann, Affirmative Action Officer and Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-6185

[email protected]


Paula Perryman, Director of College and Career Readiness

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506


[email protected]


All six individuals may also be contacted at 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA, 98506.