February 2023

Spotlight on Success header


Superintendent’s Message


February 2023


Hello Olympia School District families,


Patrick Murphy headshot

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 Signature
Patrick Murphy



McLane’s Jalissa Jones named OSD Teacher of the Year


McLane’s Jalissa Jones named OSD Teacher of the Year

Every year, the Olympia School District takes great pride in selecting a Teacher of the Year. This year we have the honor of presenting Jalissa Jones, third grade teacher at McLane Elementary School, as our OSD Teacher of the Year.


Jones was nominated by Principal Dannie Clark who had this to say about Jones’s commitment to effective teaching, as well as her priorities to serve every student at McLane; “Effective educators are those who are committed to all students within a school. These individuals participate and lead opportunities to reflect on and strengthen their practice. They are committed to being lifelong learners and that is demonstrated through their engagement with stakeholders, leaning into available learning opportunities and willingness to reflect and listen to feedback as a way to grow and learn. Jalissa exemplifies all of these qualities,” said Clark.


Jones had no idea she was even nominated for this award, so it came as a surprise that she had been selected as Teacher Of The Year. When Superintendent Patrick Murphy and other district leadership showed up at an impromptu McLane staff meeting to present Jones with this award, she was caught a bit off guard. “My jaw dropped. I felt incredibly surprised by the news. As Superintendent Murphy described the person he was talking about, I was looking around the room because it sounded like it could have been any one of us!” said Jones.


Jones is in her third year teaching after receiving her graduate degree at UW Seattle. Like many others, the responsibilities of remote education during COVID-19 created new challenges during her time student teaching, but that did not slow Jones down, she just leaned in.


When Jones joined the McLane family she was excited to get back in the classroom, eager to get to know her students, the staff and families. “I try to build a positive and trusting relationship with my students' families right off the bat. I want them to be confident that I truly care about their students and will help them grow in the time they are in my classroom. I want my families to be confident in the content I'm teaching. I want them to know that I find genuine interest in their students' interests and well-being and that I'm here for them in whatever ways I can be.”


Clark describes Jones as an “inspiration to her colleagues, students, and families.” Jones often collaborates with older grades to support students. She invests time and energy to establish solid trusting relationships. Jones said, “I consider one of my strengths is talking to people. I have the ability to patiently listen and often that is what is needed. I am an advocate to help navigate the systems and build a bridge between families and school. Counselor Corrine Taji shared, “Jones makes sure every day students feel loved, seen and appreciated. She offers a nurturing yet firm environment where everyone is respected and both emotional and physical safety are prioritized.”


Outside of the classroom Jones is one of two building representatives for the Olympia Education Association (OEA). Her involvement as an OEA rep includes attending school board meetings, being a voice and support to staff.


Jones is dedicated to the McLane community as a whole, said Clark. “She plans vertically with younger and older teachers,” Clark said. “Jones plans vertically with all staff, organizing field trips to provide students with real-life experiences that embrace in-class learning. Her commitment to rigorous, engaging learning is demonstrated through her intentionality around the planning and delivery of instruction.”


Jones herself is a lifelong learner and that is evident when you see her ply her trade in the classroom. She utilizes the tools and learning to plan with intentionality. She reaches her students because of the carefully constructed processes as an effective educator. She is always reflecting on her effectiveness. She knows that her learning and growth as an educator will carry over to the success of her students. We eagerly await what comes next in her journey. Jones will be honored in-person during a special recognition at an upcoming Olympia School Board meeting that will be announced on the OSD website and social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). Congratulations Jalissa on being recognized as the 2023 Olympia School District Teacher of the Year!



Olympia Unified 'Packs Hearts' at Olympia HS


Olympia Unified 'Packs Hearts' at Olympia HS

The local Unified Basketball winter season came to a close on Saturday, February 11. To say it ended on a high note does not do it justice.


For the final games of the season at Olympia High School the Oly community packed the gym to cheer on this collection of amazing athletes. Emotions were high. This game marked the end of the season and for one of the Bears it would be the final time the four year player (senior Vienne Potter) would sink her signature five foot jump shot. Nothing but net.


Vienne, also known as Cool Breeze, is exactly that on the court. “You can feel her breeze right past you, a girl on a mission,” said Rebecca Blocher, OHS Unified head coach. “She knows the court, and she is on her own timeline. She is a force at hitting her shots.” Vienne is one of 11 students that comprises Blocher’s squad. The athletes are compassionate competitors, cheering on the opposing teams just as they cheer on their teammates – sometimes stopping mid-run to help others up if they fall. They recognize when someone needs another chance at the shot, they give each other space and are excited when the basket is made no matter the color of the jersey they wear. Blocher and the other coaches know that this time on the court is more than competition; it's about life skills. The focus isn’t on the score, it's on the values. Fairness, teambuilding, equality, discipline, perseverance and respect. Blocher went on to say; “Beyond the skills and learning about basketball, our goal is to build relationships and long-lasting bonds. A bonus is what develops between our athletes and our high school partners.”


Each Unified team has volunteer high school partners who run on the court with the players to guide, help with passing or redirect the game when needed. Their excitement for the Unified players' success can be seen in the smiles, laughs and celebrations they share with the athletes they support. Olympia High School senior Adrea Brown has helped with the team for four years, on and off the court. Brown is a four-year cheerleader who comes off the sideline to run the court alongside players she has mentored for years. She is one of many incredible partners who volunteer with the Unified teams. “I love helping the team, it is amazing to be a part of something so incredible.” Brown has been inspired by her time with the Unified program and plans to attend Montana State University in the fall, majoring in education (with a certificate in special education) in addition to minoring in coaching.


When Olympia High School advertises Pack the Gym, the students, staff and families deliver. At a recent home game against River Ridge 150 students filled out the student section. Fans held signs for players which read; Cool Breeze, Hammer Time and Let’s Go Bears. The cheers washed down from the second level of seating in the gym to the courtside seats where the OHS Cheer team led the chants. “It was wonderful to see the excitement on the faces of the athletes, mentors, coaches and fans. What a great community event!” said Olympia School District Executive Director of Secondary Education, Elia Alai'lima-Daley.


“The goal of Unified Sports is to bring students with and without disabilities together to form positive relationships and give all the students involved an opportunity to have fun. “The impact of the whole program is unmatched. The players and student body build bonds on and off the court. You can see it in the halls when kids high five each other and the support they show at every game,” said Blocher. The coaches, partners and Unified athletes are an inspiration to not only the entire Unified league, but the Olympia community as a whole. There are few things more heartwarming than leaving a sporting event with a full heart and pride in every player on the court, regardless of the score, because the kindness and sportsmanship displayed on the court was far more memorable.


The Unified Sports program partners with Special Olympics and is dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition. The Olympia Bears hosted the final games of the season, joined by Unified teams from River Ridge, North Thurston, Tumwater, Yelm and Black Hills high schools. If you would like to check out the Spring season of Unified stay tuned for their soccer game schedule beginning in April.


Congratulations to all our Unified players for another amazing season, with a special shout-out to our Oly Bears: Caleb Tebbs, Nathan O'Dell, Vienne Potter, Jonah Hammer, Riteesh Kovuri, Rachael Butler, Spencer Wells, Garrett Piedmont, Soren Mjolsnes, Tess Corwin, Head Coach Rebecca Blocher and their many high school partners. Way to go Bears, we are proud of you all!




Countdown to Kindergarten


Countdown to Kindergarten (Class of 2036) is next week! 

The Olympia School District invites students and families from the Class of 2036 to join us at our annual Olympia School District Countdown to Kindergarten event! For the first time in three years this event will take place in person on Saturday, March 4, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Capital High School (2707 Conger Ave., Olympia) This exciting and informative morning is open to all parents/guardians who have children entering kindergarten in the Olympia School District for the 2023-24 school year.


Families will have an opportunity to learn all the ins and outs of transitioning to kindergarten in our district. There will be a brief presentation followed by time to meet and greet school staff, enjoy activities, climb aboard a school bus and much more!


If you would like to enroll your student during the event, district staff will be on site to assist you.


For more information (or to RSVP) simply complete this Google Form. You are also free to call the OSD Elementary Education Department at (360) 596-6113 with any questions. We hope to see you all on March 4!



Artist Nikki McClure makes a virtual visit to McLane ES


Artist Nikki McClure makes a virtual visit to McLane ES

In November 2023 McLane Elementary School participated in the Give a Book drive coordinated by the South Sound Reading Foundation (SSRF). SSRF is a local non-profit organization whose mission is to bring the joy and promise of books and reading to all children in the South Sound.


The goal of the Give a Book Drive is to collect as many donated books as possible. Simple as that. Any school in the South Sound area is welcome to participate. The school that collects the most donated books wins the top prize, a visit from the spectacular (local) artist Nikki McClure.


This year our very own McLane Elementary took home the top prize collecting a total of 2,444 books! By the end of the contest the entire foyer in the front of McLane was stacked with boxes and bags of books. Students were incredibly proud of their donations and the upcoming visit from one of their favorite artists.


When all was said and done the 2023 SSRF Give a Book drive included 20 schools participating from around the region, with 15,234 books donated. That’s a LOT of books!


Due to scheduling conflicts it was determined that a Zoom visit made the most sense for both McClure and McLane. One of the big benefits of this was that since McClure was going to be on her own turf she would be able to take students on a virtual tour of her studio. As you might imagine this was a huge hit.


“After the visit from Nikki McClure my daughter Kayli spent the weekend with her grandparents where she begged them to take her to the library,” said McLane parent Hillary Landon. “She had told them all about the Zoom and only checked out Nikki McClure books. She told them all about Nikki, recapped the Zoom and discussed all her books in detail.”


McLane fifth grade teacher Melisa Walker had this to say; “It was an amazing assembly. Nikki was warm and inviting, and it felt really cozy in her studio. Students were enamored with her stories interwoven with her explanations of how she approaches her art and craft. She gave thoughtful answers to students' questions, and really shared her love of nature with the students. It was incredible! The students were amazed when she created Mac the Owl (the McLane mascot) out of a black piece of paper and an exacto knife. We felt so honored to get to see her studio and see her process. What an awesome experience!”


The books donated by the McLane community (and the other participating schools) are cleaned and processed by SSRF then reshared with children, youth, families and community partners throughout our region. They take their book van to Boys & Girls Clubs, literacy nights, before- and after-school programming, summer meal sites and food banks. SSRF also stocks bookshelves at local agencies and organizations such as Department of Social and Health Services, SafePlace, Family Education & Support Services and even little free libraries!


Jennifer Williamson Forster, executive director of the South Sound Reading Foundation, had this to say about this year’s drive; “Books are magical, and the Give a Book drive gets the magic of books to the kids and families in our region who need them most. We are so grateful to McLane Elementary School for their extraordinary efforts in making this magic happen, and to our local treasure, Nikki McClure, for sharing her time and talent with McLane students. Reading and books are magical!”


The Give a Book Drive started in 2006. As SSRF grew as an organization they realized, and research supported the fact, that many low-income families lacked access to books for kids. These families and the organizations that served them needed books, so their Free Books for Kids program grew. Summers and back to school time demand always left SSRF with very little stock, so they developed a fall book drive challenge to build their inventory, which allowed SSRF to continue to provide free books throughout the year.


SSRF has been serving the South Sound region since 2001 by educating families and the community about the importance of reading, engaging children and youth in reading activities, and providing free books for kids; books they get to choose, keep, read, re-read and cherish. Presently SSRF shares over 80,000 free books each year!




Take the 2023-24 OSD budget survey


Take the 2023-24 OSD budget survey

Each spring as the district plans the next school year’s budget, students, staff, parents/guardians and community members are asked to share their priorities for how the district should spend its local, federal and state resources.


Please complete the 2023-24 budget survey by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 13, 2023.


We anticipate that this survey will take approximately 5-10 minutes to complete. You are welcome to answer all or only some of the questions.


Results will be presented to the Olympia School Board in March and April and posted on the district website. Results are anonymous; however, we ask you to provide voluntary basic demographic information so that we can have a general idea of who participates.


Please submit one survey per person:




Excellence! at the Avanti Exhibition and Talent show


Excellence! at the Avanti Exhibition and Talent show

Avanti High School students showcased their unique individual talents at the Avanti Exhibition Night and Talent show earlier this month. Avanti holds four of these amazing events each year. All students are invited to participate and share their passions, strengths and talents with the community.


After stepping into the Avanti High School foyer, students, families and other guests were welcomed by smiling faces, delicious treats for sale and of course original student artwork. Tables displayed easels of contemporary fine arts, paintings, sculptures, architecture, fashion, and photography. “I really enjoyed getting to see so many different types of art. I loved seeing my friends up on stage showing off their talents. The bake sale was stocked with yummy treats. The exhibition night is always great to attend because there's always so much to see, watch, listen to and eat,” said Avanti High School junior Elliana Sarno.


As the evening progressed and the crowd gradually migrated to the gymnasium, talented musicians, dancers and singers took to the stage. AHS senior Atlas Hellyer toured the artwork on display before performing. Hellyer was excited to share the competition piece that had been months in the making. “It is empowering to perform. My peers have always been very supportive of my dance career. I love how expressive we all are. Avanti events have something for everyone. I feel like you can find all kinds of art, ceramics, fabric arts, drawing, painting, singing, dancing, theater and more. Even during COVID our school held similar events online so that we remain a community. I am reminded at these events that our school is a welcoming and safe community full of love and support. We are a big family.”


Senior Grace Martin created a clay sculpture of a guinea pig wearing a costume. Martin explained the process of her art; “I looked at pictures to help form the shape and curvature of the body. I used clay to create the piece, being careful not to use too much or it would explode in the kiln. When I completed the project I was excited, it was really cute and my class loved it.” Martin's clay guinea pig was on display wearing a taco costume, a tutu, a monocle, top hat, mustache and a cape. “I loved seeing all of the artwork and talents within the school, each and every piece had its own unique features and style.”


It can be laborious for the artists and performers leading up to the night of the Expo, but the reward far exceeds the stress of preparation. Sophomore Malaika Mabwa Childress created three ceramic sculptures of Chefchaouen (The Blue City, Morocco). “Everyone's emotions come out with the preparation of the show. It's sort of like a mountain; the incline represent the tense weeks leading up to it, but once we reach the peak we can relax and enjoy the gallery walk. I really enjoyed seeing all of the projects together up on the wall. They were all so unique and intricate, and I could really see the work that was put into them.”


The remarkable array of talent on display at these events is breathtaking. If you have not attended, mark your calendars for April and June 2023 when the next Avanti Expo will take place. Stop by and grab a treat from the bake sale before taking in all the sights and sounds. You are guaranteed to leave with a full heart and a newfound respect for not only the talent, but the sense of community that makes Avanti High School so special.


If you can’t wait until then, take a peek at our Facebook Photo Album to see some of the remarkable artwork that was on display as well as a few of the thrilling stage performances. Way to Go Boxers! We are so proud of you!


Upcoming Exhibition Nights:

  • April 19, 2023 from 5 - 6 p.m.
  • June 14, 2023 from 5 - 7 p.m.


Where: Avanti High School,1113 Legion Way SE, Olympia, WA, 98501



OSD student developed equity surveys now available


OSD student developed equity surveys now available

The Olympia School District’s Equity Policy Steering Committee (EPSC) is pleased to announce the launch of the OSD Student Developed Equity Surveys for OSD secondary students, educators and families.


In partnership with OSD Board Members, the Superintendent’s Office, the Teaching and Learning Department and supporting team members from across the district, student board representatives met over the last few months to develop and refine the survey questions. Survey questions are directed at topics and issues directly affecting students daily lives; some questions may be difficult to answer.


The survey data collected is anonymous and all questions are optional. Honest opinions and thorough participation in these surveys and the data collected will be used to help Olympia students and the EPSC inform the development of our district’s Equity Policy this spring to serve ALL interested parties districtwide. For more information, visit the OSD Equity Policy Development webpage.


Participate in the OSD Equity Policy Surveys:


Submit questions to the OSD Equity Team. For more information on this process, or should you have any additional questions, please email [email protected].


Transitional Kindergarten a Full-Go at Madison Elementary


Transitional Kindergarten a Full-Go at Madison Elementary

Our new Transitional Kindergarten (TK) pilot program is off and running at Madison Elementary School! TK provides free full-day schooling for students who have not participated in a regular early childhood program. This program is designed to support students who face barriers to future school success. Students can be eligible to participate in this program the spring semester prior to their kindergarten year.


Our TK pilot program is located at Madison ES and staffed by a teacher and paraprofessional using developmentally-appropriate curricula. There are spaces for up to 18 students in the classroom. Interested in enrolling your child? Space is still available and applications continue to be accepted from across the Olympia School District.


“We are so lucky to have such an exceptional team supporting these students and families. I would like to offer a big 'Thank You’' to the Madison Elementary staff and community for welcoming our Transitional Kindergarten program into their building. We are looking into the possibility of continuing to offer this exciting program for the 2023-24 school year,” said Thomas Parnell, Assistant Director of Student Support for Early Learning.


OSD's Transitional Kindergarten program is designed to meet the needs of students who have not had access to a regular early childhood program. Olympia School District is committed to non-competition with community-based regular early childhood programs.


If you are a parent/guardian who is interested in learning more about the Olympia School District TK program, or submitting an application for your child, please visit our Transitional Kindergarten webpage.


We were lucky enough to get into the TK classroom earlier this week to see how things were going. It was quite apparent after about 30 seconds that this was going to be the highlight of our week! Students were attentive, inquisitive, happy, frustrated, chatty and pretty much any other big feeling or emotion you can name. All age appropriate. One thing you could not miss were the smiles on the faces of the 15+ students as they went about their business in the classroom. It was heartwarming. You don’t have to take our word for it, check out our Facebook Photo Album that features photos and videos from our TK classroom!



Upcoming Events


  • March 1: 50-Minute Early Release

  • March 2: OSD Board Work Session at 6:00 p.m.

  • March 4: Countdown to Kindergarten at 10:00 a.m (Capital High School)

  • March 8: 50-Minute Early Release

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

  • March 13 - 17: Education Support Professionals Week

  • March 15: 50-Minute Early Release

  • March 22: 50-Minute Early Release

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

  • March 27 - 31: Elementary School Conference Week (Half Day)

  • March 29: 50-Minute Early Release (MS & HS)



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.