March 2023

Spotlight on Success header


Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District families,


Patrick Murphy headshotAs 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 Signature
Patrick Murphy



Education Support Professionals Week 2023


Education Support Professionals Week 2023

It takes hundreds of support staff (many working behind the scenes) to keep our schools safe and our students learning their best. The week of March 13-17 we celebrated Education Support Professionals Week throughout our district.


A big shout-out to all our support professionals: office staff, paraeducators, grounds and maintenance crews, administrative professionals, athletics staff, technology workers, custodians, transportation crew, nutrition services, family liaisons and every other staff member who contributes to making our schools great places to learn!


Included below are links to Facebook photo albums that we published during Education Support Professionals Week from all the schools and buildings across our district. We did our best to capture as many of our amazing staff as possible!


Education Support Professionals Week Photo Albums:



If you have not yet had a chance to follow us on any/all of our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube), please do. We would love to help keep you in the loop of what is taking place in and around our district!



Recess running programs build healthy habits and friendships


Recess running programs build healthy habits and friendships

As the doors flung open to the Centennial Elementary School playground, students rushed outside intent on seizing every minute of their morning recess. Only instead of stopping to climb the big toy, go down the slide, twirl on bars or shoot hoops, most headed straight for the school’s grass field.


One by one they took off running, jogging or walking around the field’s perimeter, their jackets flapping in the wind on this sunny, but cold winter day.


They had one goal in mind: To complete as many laps as possible before recess ended.


With flushed faces, they stopped long enough after each lap to get a paper “Star Striders” card punched by a parent volunteer. Once all seven numbers printed across the top of the card are punched, signifying they have completed two miles, students exchange the card for a brightly-colored plastic foot charm to string on a silver chain.


Physical Education (PE) teacher Kristen Draper, who launched the Star Striders program last fall, calls students forward during PE classes to recognize them with their chains and/or foot charms.


The fun doesn’t stop there. For most, once their first 2-mile card is full, they start a new one with renewed determination to complete more laps.


Star Striders welcomes interested students from all grades and abilities. Draper logs the total miles on class charts posted inside the gym, presents students with special numbered tokens for each 25 miles completed, and unfurls an oversized poster, signed by teachers and classmates, when they reach 100 miles.


There are a handful of 100-milers so far this year. Second grader William Hanna was the first to reach this lofty goal in February, followed closely behind by second grader Bryson Cole.


We caught up with both students at a recent recess while they were running around the field. “It feels like the journey is still going!” William said as he whizzed past. Bryson flashed a big smile and added, “I want to get faster.”


First grader Emma Lee has logged more than 25 miles toward her goal of 100 and runs rain or shine. “I like running with my friends,” she said.


Parent volunteers are key to the success of the program, Draper said. Cynthia Gervasi, who retired last November after serving 25 years in the Army, has been a regular since signing up for Star Striders last fall – often volunteering at all five daily recesses. Gervasi also occasionally volunteers in her daughter’s classroom.


“It’s a way to give back,” she said, adding she used to run in high school and college and teach middle school P.E. in Virginia before joining the military. “I see kids who run every recess, and I love that! A lot of the kids go in groups, so it’s also a social builder.”


Parent volunteer Jason Lee concurs. He works mostly at night, which frees him to volunteer during the day at his daughter’s school.


“One thing I really love about it is it’s great for kids who say, ‘I don’t know what to do at recess,’” he said. “You can see all the kids having fun out here, and it gets kids motivated and active.”


To date, 321 students have completed at least two miles and earned a foot charm and chain. Collectively, they have run 3,246 miles.


“Star Striders is definitely a popular recess activity for many of our students,” said Centennial Principal Shannon Ritter. “Some students run, jog or walk almost every day, and some students only participate once in a while. Either way, they are having a great time exercising. A sweet unexpected benefit of Star Striders has been the new friendships that have blossomed as a result of a shared interest in running. We are also fortunate that so many parent volunteers are out encouraging students as they punch their lap cards. A huge thank you to Mrs. Draper for finding creative ways of building lifelong healthy habits for our students.”


Similar programs at other schools

Several other OSD elementary schools have similar recess run/jog/walk programs and provide incentives such as plastic foot charms or wooden tokens, lanyards, medals, certificates, trophies and/or T-shirts.


Boston Harbor Elementary, which has had a long-running Track Stars program coordinated by parent volunteers, held a schoolwide logo contest this year. The winning image — a cheerful bear running with a blue anchor and the words “Boston Harbor Track Stars” behind him — is featured this spring on recognitions students receive for participation and miles completed.


Parent volunteers also coordinate the Garfield Elementary Track Stars program, where students are invited to run twice a week and receive charms for miles run and recognition certificates at the end of the year.


At Pioneer Elementary, 137 – more than one third – of the students schoolwide have participated in Track Stars, logging a collective 1,595 miles this year school.


Parent volunteer Veronica Jarvis said Pioneer Track Stars is near and dear to her heart because she participated in a similar recess running group called the “100-mile club” when she attended Centennial Elementary School. She still remembers how, as a student, she earned buttons attached to a card for laps she completed.


“Participating in the 100-mile club absolutely impacted my love for running and exercise,” she said, adding she was excited to hear Centennial has a similar Star Striders program this year. “It was so ingrained in me after running at recess for so many years. I’ve always kept exercise as part of my life. I did track in middle school and high school and still run a couple of times a week to this day!”


At McKenny Elementary School, each student who completes at least five miles in their recess running program has their name added to lists displayed on a wall near the school gym — one for five miles, 10 miles, and so on in 5-mile increments. The wall of fame, officially called “The One Hundred Mile Club,” also features a colorful painted mural of children running, jogging, or rolling in a wheelchair on a track with a backdrop of trees, sky and mountains.


The student who completes the most miles each school year at McKenny has the added distinction of having their name included on a wooden plaque, also located near the gym. The reigning champ for the most miles run each of the past three years is Landon Baker, who started running in second grade and logged an all-time high of 280 miles in 2022. His numbers were down when schools temporarily closed due to COVID-19, so he said he pushed extra hard last year to build more miles.


“The reason why I ran so much was because it was fun and sort of addictive, but I felt like that is what I was meant to do,” he said. It also helped, Landon said, that recess teachers told him he was ‘an inspiration for other kids to run.’


Landon logged 505 miles total in elementary school and earned 101 colorful plastic feet – so many that he had to add an extension to his chain so they would all fit. Landon has continued his love of running as a sixth grader this year at Washington Middle School, participating in cross country and also participating in McKenny Elementary School's Running Club.


What about the necklace he earned running in elementary school?


“I keep it as one of my most prized possessions.”



Take our 2023 Family Survey


Take our 2023 Family Survey

Our district values your feedback! We encourage families to take a few moments to complete the 2023 Family Survey between March 29 and April 16, 2023.


We are surveying OSD families, staff, and students in grades 3-12, about their experiences at school. Responses will provide invaluable insights into how we can improve and adapt our district to meet our students’ needs.


You may complete the family survey online from March 29-April 16 by visiting the Panorama website:



Please complete a survey for each child enrolled in our district or for each school in which you have students enrolled. Your time and feedback are greatly appreciated and will be used by district and school leaders to guide planning for the 2023-24 school year.


To administer these surveys, we have partnered with Panorama Education. Panorama safeguards your privacy, keeping your responses confidential.


As a reminder, students will take the survey in school and use their Student ID number to access the questions.


We thank you in advance for your participation.



Capital HS teacher Kristina Cummins receives highest honor


Capital HS teacher Kristina Cummins receives highest honor

We are proud to announce that Kristina Cummins of Capital High School has been named to the Washington State Thespian Hall of Fame. “I'm truly honored to be selected by the Washington State Thespians to join their prestigious Hall of Fame. Being a part of this organization has shaped me as a theater educator. Through Washington Thespians, and as the Co-Chapter Director for the past eight years, I've had the opportunity to attend many educator conferences, participate in Leadership Summits, advocate on Capitol Hill in WA D.C., and provide opportunities for students throughout Washington to participate in our Thespian competitions and State Festivals,” Cummins said.


The Thespian Hall of Fame was established in 1990 and recognizes members who have made outstanding contributions to theater education for 20 or more years. Induction into the Hall of Fame represents the highest honor awarded by the Educational Theatre Association to theater educators. Each year, new members are inducted at the EdTA Theatre Education Conference, celebrating the impact they have had in shaping lives through theater education.


Cummins' love of theater began in grade school when she attended a local production of Rodgers and Hammersteins’ Carousel. “My parents fostered my love of the arts, and I continued to study theater in college, receiving my Bachelor's in Theatre Arts from California State University, Fullerton.” Cummins considered a career as a professional actor but found her true calling in theater education.This led Cummins to pursue her master's in teaching at St. Martin's University; and continued to earn National Boards for English and Language Arts. Now you will find Cummins using her acting skills on a daily basis, captivating her audience of high school students.


Her passion for the work can be seen in every aspect of what she does, especially creating opportunities for her students to share that passion for theater and find their own path. “I enjoy working with adolescents and offering them a space to create freely and bravely; to find their voices, tell their stories, and build skills that will be useful in all professions. I'm especially proud of the opportunities students have in our theater program to step into leadership and create for live audiences. I often have more students working backstage than onstage, working on designing sets, costumes, makeup, lighting and props. Students are writing, directing, building, managing, sewing and rigging. It is a truly collaborative art form that allows students to grow in confidence and build meaningful relationships.”


Cummins' impact on students far exceeds the lights of the stage. The students that have passed through her program have made just as significant an impact on her. “They are my Tony Awards. I believe I have the best job in the world.” She has the privilege of witnessing personal growth and success from the front row — moments like when a freshman student who could barely speak loudly enough to be heard is now confidently performing dramatic moments on stage as a senior, or when the cast rallies together to persevere in stressful moments when the unexpected happens on stage. “The image of 80 beaming students from the cast and crew taking a bow on the stage to a standing ovation affirms the power of theater,” Cummins explains.


Cummins, along with Co-Chapter Director Steward Hark, received their awards during a teacher luncheon at the Washington State Thespian Festival on March 17 at Western Washington University. The Washington State Thespians Hall of Fame honors both Thespian Troupe Directors and non-Thespian adults.


Bravo Kristina Cummins for inspiring those around you with your passion and changing lives through the power of theater.



2021-2022 Annual and School Performance Report


2021-2022 Annual and School Performance Reports

We are pleased to announce that both our school district’s Annual Report and School Performance Reports are now available. In these reports you will find data, statistics and highlights from the 2021-22 school year.


Annual Report

Our Annual Report features numerous district accomplishments both inside and outside the classroom. Here you can find a snapshot of district enrollment numbers, financial reporting, academic performance and districtwide testing results from the 2021-22 school year.


School Performance Report

In our School Performance Reports you will find a variety of data collected from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction report card, including enrollment, demographics and building assessment scores. In addition we share the 2021-22 OSD financial report and Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) for each school (grades K-8) throughout the district.


A reminder that we are always looking for volunteers in our schools. There are many ways in which you can get involved, so please take a look at our Volunteer webpage to find out how you can become a volunteer!




Student-run ‘Lunch buddies’ brings Bulldogs together


Student-run ‘Lunch buddies’ brings Bulldogs together

Sixth grade can be hard. The transition to middle school can be overwhelming. Not having all of the people around that you’ve spent the last six years of your life growing and learning with can be a bit of a shock to the system. The Lunch Buddies program at Washington Middle School is here to help!


The idea for Lunch Buddies began to take shape in Lauren Troyer’s science classroom at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. Students were tasked with an assignment; pick an issue they would like to address and create a project (featuring a slideshow presentation) about how they could help resolve or address the issue which they selected.


WMS sixth graders Madeline Hartley, Cecil Pingrey, Rylee Sinor and Dylan Willoughby came together to try and find a way to bring their student body together and offer opportunities that they believed to be a necessity for their class and others. Next thing you know, Lunch Buddies was born.


“Lunch buddies is open to anyone that would like to attend, not just sixth graders who are new to the school. We don’t want anyone to be afraid or nervous to meet new people, and this makes it a little easier,” Pingrey and Sinor explained.


Sinor went on to say, “At lunch sometimes kids have no one to sit with, or to talk to. We wanted to make that a little easier and our solution was to create Lunch Buddies. Here anyone during sixth grade lunch can join us in the library every Thursday to eat, talk, play games and get to know each other.”


When you enter middle school as a sixth grader you are a little fish in a big pond. There are four different neighborhood elementary schools (Centennial, Lincoln, McKenny and Pioneer) that feed into WMS. That makes Washington the largest middle school in our district, with nearly twice the enrollment of other middle schools.


“When the project was introduced this year many students were looking at broad worldly issues, but this group of four chose something close that they felt affected their population of students in the sixth grade. The team had great conversations and focused on creating a plan and interviewing stakeholders at their schools, including the WMS administration,” said Troyer.


One of the points which Troyer was quick to point out was the impact that the worldwide pandemic had on students developing socialization skills and putting them into practice; “These students were in third grade when COVID began. It changed how they socialized and they missed out on opportunities for important developmental milestones around socialization. This project creates a quiet place that is welcome to any sixth grader who might feel more comfortable in a smaller group.”


It truly was a schoolwide effort as WMS Career & Technical Education teacher Andrew Callender and his students helped create and hang posters throughout the school. It was also included in episodes of the ‘Bulldog News’, the bi-monthly WMS video production that is shown to all students.


When Lunch Buddies kicked off there were eight students in attendance. That has now expanded to as many as 25-30 students on most Thursdays. The one rule? Each table participating in Lunch Buddies must be open to all and someone new must be invited to join the table.


“I like coming in to join lunch buddies. It’s a good way to meet new people, play games, and eat lunch together,” said WMS sixth grader Huxley Everson.


Pingrey mentioned that getting conversations off the ground could be challenging, so they decided to think INSIDE the box; “We wanted to help start conversations so we created the question box. We kept adding new questions to the box and drew out a couple at each lunchtime to encourage everyone to answer and talk about things like your favorite color, movie and where you went to elementary school. Different things that get kids talking and learning more about each other.”


“Our goal is to continue this next year as seventh graders, and that the other grades will see the impact it makes and hold their own lunch buddies group. Maybe every school in the district will see the benefits and join in on the project at their schools!” said Sinor.


This student-driven initiative (with direct support from WMS staff) is not only heartwarming, but one of the things that makes middle school such a special place. Yes, it can be overwhelming at first, no question. You also have opportunities to see students challenge themselves and grow in ways that maybe they weren’t expecting. This is a perfect example of four brave middle school newcomers taking a chance, making a difference and bringing new opportunities for community back to our schools. Love all of this. Great work Bulldogs!


Jefferson, Reeves and Thurgood Marshall middle schools allow all students into the library during their lunch period to play chess, card games and participate in student-run book groups. Check with your school librarian for more information!



Watch out Kindergarten…Here I Come!


Watch out Kindergarten…Here I Come!

In early March we welcomed students and families from the Class of 2036 to our annual Olympia School District Countdown to Kindergarten celebration. Capital High School hosted this year and was alive with the sounds of excited future OSD kindergartners collecting stickers and smiles as they paraded through the annual event. While hard to believe, this was the first time we’ve been able to be in-person for this event in three years, with the two previous years being held virtually due to COVID-19.


"Countdown to Kindergarten is one of our most important events. For many families throughout the district, this is their first experience with the district. Having an event like this, where families can orient themselves to the district as a whole, really provides a great opportunity for them to see the big picture in our district. I believe it is events like this that help create that unique sense of belonging and community that is so important in the Olympia School District," said LP Brown Elementary School Principal Sean Shaughnessy.


Superintendent Patrick Murphy and Executive Director of Elementary Education Autumn Lara kicked off the event by welcoming attendees in the Performing Arts Center. Elementary principals and front office staff from all 11 schools also were on-site to greet prospective students and their families at tables set up in the commons. Students were also invited to participate in interactive art, music and physical education activities and visit a mock kindergarten classroom. “The excitement from new families and established families enrolling their kinders at their neighborhood schools was incredible. It is such a joy to connect with families as they prepare for a successful introduction to school,” said Garfield Elementary's front office manager Michell Orwig.


Numerous other district departments were on hand to assist families with on-the-spot online enrollment and provide valuable information for the exciting transition. OSD Child Nutrition Services team members provided children a nutritious snack and drink. “It was great to see so many smiling children, each one excited to be starting kindergarten in the fall!” said Madison Elementary School Principal Domenico Spatola-Knoll.


In addition to district staff being available to answer pressing questions, the YMCA was on-site to provide information about before- and after-school programs as they are a valued community partner. Every interested student received a book to take home with them from South Sound Reading Foundation (SSRF). We truly appreciate our partnership with SSRF that helps introduce the joy and promise of books and reading to all children of the South Sound.


A little rain couldn’t quell the excitement of heading outside to climb aboard and explore a big yellow school bus. Our amazing Transportation Department had staff available to assist with information, answer questions about busing and of course to give guided tours of the bus!


If you are a parent or guardian of an incoming kindergarten student and were unable to attend Countdown to Kindergarten, please visit our registration page for enrollment information or contact our Elementary Education Department at (360) 596-6113 to kick-off your adventure. We can’t wait to see our Class of 2036 this fall!



Spring Break Schedule


Spring Break Schedule

All Olympia School District schools and the Knox 111 Administrative Center will be closed to the public during Spring Break. Spring Break is from Monday, April 3 through Friday, April 7, 2023. School resumes on Monday, April 10.


While Knox Administrative staff will be working on-site and remotely over Spring Break, the Knox building at 111 Bethel St. N.E. will be closed the entire week to the public. Any deliveries for the Knox Administrative Center during this week should be made at the lower level of the Knox building, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia.


Stopfinder coming soon to the Olympia School District

Stopfinder coming soon to the Olympia School District

In the month of April the Olympia School District will roll out a new application for parents/guardians called Stopfinder. Stopfinder is an easy to use, all-in-one application that allows you to have the most accurate information about your student’s bus schedule at anytime from anywhere.


In addition to displaying your student’s transportation information, Stopfinder features a messaging feature that will allow you to communicate directly with the Olympia School District Transportation Department. You will also have the option of creating GeoAlerts for your student, which will notify you when the bus has arrived at or departed from any location on your student’s route, including their assigned bus stop and school. GeoAlert ‘Alert Zone’ can be created for individual students, allowing you to customize the ‘Alert Zone’ based on their specific bus route.


As a guardian you will receive a communication from Stopfinder once the product is implemented. This will include additional information about the application, how to get started using it and tips/tricks to using the various tools it has to offer. Below you will see a mock-up of what that initial communication from Stopfinder will look like:


The primary guardian email address that is currently on file with the Olympia School District will be used for Stopfinder setup. Please contact your child’s home school for help changing your primary guardian email address prior to Friday, April 14, 2023.


Stopfinder can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play. Stopfinder will require an invite and registration through the OSD prior to accessing your student’s transportation schedule.


Please watch for a Stopfinder email invitation between April 10-12. Please contact the OSD Transportation Department at (360) 596-7700 with any questions.


You can expect this initial email in your email inboxes once school resumes after Spring Break!



Upcoming Events


  • April 3-7: No School: Spring Break

  • April 10: Online Community Budget Forum at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

  • April 11: OSD Board Work Session at 6 p.m.

  • April 12: 50-Minute Early Release

  • April 13: OSD Board Meeting (in-person and online via Zoom) at 6:30 p.m.

  • April 17-21: Public School Volunteer Week

  • April 19: 50-Minute Early Release

  • April 25: Special Election Day

  • April 26: 50-Minute Early Release

  • April 27: 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.