March 2024

Spotlight on Success header 


Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District families and community,


Patrick Murphy headshot

There is something about the arrival of spring in the Northwest that causes many of us to slow down, even for a brief moment, to appreciate the color and warmth around us. Olympia is filled this time of year with blooming daffodils, blossoming cherry trees and the welcome songs of migratory birds that have been absent during the cold, gray winter months.


Spring is also a busy time in our schools. In addition to learning taking place during the school day, our campuses are filled after school with students involved in extracurricular activities including the arts, athletics and academics. Staff are also busy beginning to prep for the next school year, including welcoming incoming kindergartners and their families at our annual Countdown to Kindergarten event on Saturday, April 13 (read more about this event in a separate article in this newsletter).


I hope you all take some time over Spring Break to pause and appreciate the beauty of the season. We will see everyone back in our schools on Monday, April 8!




Patrick Murphy Signature
Patrick Murphy



Countdown to Kindergarten: April 13, 2024


Countdown to Kindergarten: April 13, 2024


DATE: Saturday, April 13, 2024
TIME: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. (Doors will open at 9:40 a.m.)
LOCATION: Capital High School (2707 Conger Avenue, Olympia)


We would like to welcome the students and families from the Class of 2037 to join us at our annual Olympia School District 'Countdown to Kindergarten' event. This exciting and informative event is open to all parents/guardians who have children entering kindergarten for the 2024-25 school year. This event is open to all in-district and out-of-district families.


Note: Students must be 5 years old by August 31, 2024 to enter kindergarten in the 2024-25 school year.


Parents/guardians and incoming kindergartners are encouraged to attend. Also, please feel free to invite your friends and neighbors. Families will have an opportunity to learn all about transitioning to kindergarten in our district. There will be a brief presentation followed by a period of time to meet and greet school staff, enjoy activities, climb on board a school bus and much more!


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


For more information (or to RSVP) simply complete this Google Form.


You are also free to call (360) 596-6113 should you have any additional questions. We hope to see you all on April 13!!



Here are a few other district initiatives which may be of interest:




2024-25 school year calendar now available


2024-25 school year calendar now available

The Olympia School District Board of Directors has approved the school year calendar for the 2024-25 school year.


This calendar includes only districtwide holidays and events. School-specific events are not included, so be sure to check school websites/calendars for specific school-related events and activities.


Graduation dates for 2025 will be published as soon as the dates are confirmed.




Around the world with McKenny and Pioneer elementary schools


Around the world with McKenny and Pioneer elementary schools

We had the pleasure of joining students and families for a trip around the world at the McKenny Hawks Cultural Kaleidoscope event and the Pioneer Bear Cubs Cultural Fair. Imagine two trips around the world in less than 80 days! Each event offered beautifully crafted student information boards and displays that gave attendees an opportunity to learn about the cultures, customs, foods and traditions of the diverse students and families of their schools and communities.


Booths and displays allowed attendees to join in the exploration and learn fascinating facts about each other's heritage. Some booths even took you (and your taste buds) on a culinary journey with international food tasting. Smells from around the world filled the gym at the McKenny ES Kaleidoscope event providing attendees a fantastic opportunity to savor the flavors of diverse cuisines and broaden the horizons of their students and families — all while collecting a stamp in their passport.


“This is our fifteenth year hosting what was formerly known as International Night. This exploration of cultures also expands into the classrooms throughout the year with family and community participation that offers students an opportunity to acknowledge our rich and diverse backgrounds,” shared McKenny Principal Michael Havens.


At the beginning of the evening, every student was given a souvenir passport notebook. Travelers then received a stamp on their passport from each booth they visited, a journey that stretched from the Great Plains to Japan. One booth boasted cheese tasting and … cheese heads! As you may have guessed they represented the great state of Wisconsin, America's “Dairyland.” Here guests learned about the state flower (the Wood Violet) and that Lambeau Field is 1,853 miles away from Olympia. No plane or luggage was needed because just a short distance from Wisconsin travelers could stop at the Italy booth for a stamp and a bite of pizza before hopping over to Columbia for a cup of coffee, then back to New Orleans for a Mardi Gras parade that danced its way through the gym on the way to Hong Kong. “Over 400 guests joined us for the lovely night,” said Maria Garcia Lopez, McKenny’s family liaison.


Students learned of new and exciting countries and cultures and enjoyed interacting with friends and families while learning about each other along the way. The celebration also extended to the stage, where musical grade-level performances wowed families. The U.S. Martial Arts Center excited the crowd with its technique and impressive combat choreography. “This was such a fun opportunity to learn more about each other and the cultures of our families,” said Havens.


At Pioneer Elementary travelers were greeted by volunteers from Olympia High School’s ‘Do Something Club’ who guided guests to the gym. The space was humming with music and excitement. The first stop on this journey was to learn about a student’s family heritage from Bolivia and Mexico, and the traditions of both countries. Third grader Juliet Gray’s display shared that her mother’s family immigrated from Yugoslavia to America four generations ago. Her father’s family is both Italian and Irish. Gray’s display board shared about her great grandfather and his Italian name and his time as a big band leader in the 1940s and 50s.


Across the gym fifth grader Louisa Davis-Voris shared facts about Finland. “I really enjoyed completing the project, I learned a lot about my family and about the countries they have lived in,” Davis-Voris confidently explained. Fifth grader Aubrey Beagle’s display board included a “Bonjour” (French greeting), along with a flag from France. Her board also included fun facts like; Did you know the French consume 25,000 snails a year? Beagle’s display also included perfectly formed French puffed pastries for people to view.


Third grader Travis Nguyen greeted and shared specifics about Vietnamese food, offering samples of jasmine rice. “Some of the most popular Vietnamese foods are Banh mi, which is a sandwich made with sliced meat, cucumbers, radishes, carrots and cilantro — a popular dish a lot of people know is pho (fuh), a type of noodle soup,” said Nyuyen.


As attendees made their way around the room they gained insights into other cultures and traditions. Fifth grader Sophia Robinson Morocho’s board shared about her family's Ecuadorian heritage. Wearing traditional clothing, she brought small toys and accessories as displays. “It means a lot for our kids to have pride in who they are and where they come from,” said Principal Joel Lang. “To come together and celebrate each other's background and how unique our cultures make us is such a wonderful thing.”


After the trip around the world and visiting around 40 different countries, Lang gathered the travelers together and thanked them for joining on their adventure. For the final portion of the festivities, the stage was opened up for two volunteer performances.


First up was third grader Bodhi Jerdes who performed the PRISYADKA (Russian squat kick dance). The crowd clapped along with the music to his impressive show of strength and execution of the traditional male folk dance. Next was a celebration from West Pokot Kenya, where families of students Myles Gathu and Nathan Kendagor entered the stage to the tweet of a whistle. Wearing brightly colored clothes, they circled the stage before forming lines and reciting the lyrics as they danced, stepped and moved creating rhythmic sounds with the beaded necklaces that adorned the necks of the women. “The dance represented the celebrations of their home in Kenya, as nomad farming people, our tribe would come together any time there was reason to celebrate,” explained Josphat Kendagor.


This was a fitting evening for celebration and learning of the richness of our diverse community. More than 80 states and countries were represented between McKenny and Pioneer. Both nights were a wonderful exploration of knowledge, recognition and respect for one another's culture and heritage. Thank you to the staff, students and families who graciously shared and made these events a resounding success.




Join us for our inaugural Olympia Reads!! event


Join us for our inaugural Olympia Reads!! event

Book lovers across Olympia prepare yourself because you are in for a treat. The Olympia School District is proud to announce the inaugural year of Olympia Reads!! The mission of this event, made possible through funding set aside in this year’s school board budget, is to excite readers of all ages by connecting them with published authors and illustrators. Olympia Reads!! is proud to partner with Timberland Regional Library and the Olympia Education Foundation in bringing this enriching literary event to our community.


Mark your calendars for May 7, 2024, as we gather at the Capital High School Performing Arts Center to celebrate Olympia Reads!! with author Christine Day.


Featured Author: Christine Day

This year's featured author is Christine Day, a distinguished Washington State author and a member of the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe.


Day's debut novel I Can Make This Promise was recognized as a National Public Radio (NPR) Best Book of the Year and received accolades such as the Charlotte Huck Award Honor and the American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor. Her subsequent novel, The Sea in Winter, earned widespread acclaim, including a place on the Top 10 Indie Kids’ Next List and recognition as a finalist for the Pacific Northwest Book Award. Most recently, Day's work has been celebrated with the 2024 American Indian Youth Literature Award for Best Middle-Level Book.


Event Details

Throughout the school day on May 7, a group of students from each elementary and secondary school across the district will gather with the author at Capital High School.


At 6 p.m., the festivities will open up to the entire Olympia community. Swing by for a reception featuring desserts from the Olympia High School Culinary Arts class. At 6:30 p.m., Day will take the stage to share her experience, insights and stories. Following Day’s presentation, there will be a book signing at 7:30 p.m., where attendees will have an opportunity to meet the author in person and have their copies signed.


Browsers Bookshop will be onsite with copies of Day's books, which will be available for purchase. Attendees are also welcome to bring their own copies of Day’s books for signing.


Student Involvement

The Olympia Reads!! logo printed on event flyers is designed by Olympia High School student Christine Zhang, who also serves as a student representative on the Olympia School Board.


Olympia Reads!! also hosted a districtwide bookmark contest this year that encouraged students from all schools to showcase their creativity and passion for reading. Selected bookmarks will be displayed at the Knox 111 Administrative Center throughout May, with winning artwork featured in district communications. Students who participated in the bookmark contest will be celebrated and winners announced at the Olympia Reads!! event on May 7.


For questions about Olympia Reads!!, or this upcoming event, simply email [email protected].


Thank you to our event partners Olympia Education Foundation, Browsers Book Shop and Timberland Regional Library.



2024 Spring Break Schedule


2024 Spring Break Schedule

All Olympia School District schools will be closed during Spring Break, Monday, April 1 through Friday, April 5, 2024. School resumes on Monday, April 8.

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 to dropins from the public during spring break (April 1-5). However, it will be open to the public by appointment only.

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.

Please plan ahead and contact Knox 111 Administrative staff before the closure if you need assistance over spring break.

Note: Over Spring Break, the Facilities Emergency Line may be reached at (360) 596-8575.



Thurgood Marshall MS is embracing clubs


Thurgood Marshall MS is embracing clubs

At Thurgood Marshall Middle School clubs are not just activities; they're empowering experiences! From yoga to coding, TMMS clubs are student-led, promoting leadership skills and independence. But that's just the start. They also foster self-esteem and positive social interactions. Whether it's collaborating on a project or leading a discussion, students learn to express themselves confidently and connect with others in meaningful ways. Keep making moves Mustangs, we are with you!




Thank you Education Support Professionals!


Thank you Education Support Professionals!

The Olympia School District joined the state in recognizing Education Support Professionals Week March 11-15, 2024.


Superintendent Patrick Murphy read a proclamation during the February 22 Olympia School Board meeting recognizing March 11-15, 2024 as Education Support Professionals Week. He also recognized members of the district's employee bargaining units.


Support staff are the backbone of our public education system. With their diverse talents and true dedication, they help nurture students throughout the school year and beyond.


We appreciate their hard work and highlight their commitment to our schools. More than 700 education support professionals work with and help children throughout our district. They are involved in nearly every aspect of education, including maintaining school buildings and school grounds; providing administrative support; preparing and serving meals; providing safe transportation; keeping school facilities clean; assisting in the classroom; providing a secure environment; providing information technology and media services; coaching and offering other specialized services.


The resolution states in part that “education support professionals are instrumental in fulfilling the state's responsibility to educate all students.” The one-page resolution also states that by supporting the learning environment, “education support professionals are crucial partners with teachers, parents, administrators and school boards.”


Thank you to our OSD community who celebrated and showed their appreciation for the unwavering dedication, hard work and positive impact these incredible staff members make daily in our schools. Their commitment to creating a nurturing and effective learning environment is truly inspiring.




Summer EBT - Boosting Access to Nutritious Food during Summer


Summer EBT - Boosting Access to Nutritious Food during Summer

As part of our collaborative efforts to enhance USDA's summer nutrition programs, the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program for Children (Summer EBT) will officially launch in summer 2024. Summer EBT provides grocery-buying benefits to low-income families with school-aged children when schools are closed for the summer. More than 30 million children across America could benefit from Summer EBT.


Summer EBT is based on USDA's Summer EBT for Children demonstration projects and Pandemic EBT, which have been proven to reduce child hunger and improve diet quality.


Students currently receiving Free or Reduced Price school meals will receive Summer EBT benefits in the form of pre-loaded cards that families can use to purchase groceries. Beginning in summer 2024, families will receive $40 per eligible child, per month. These benefits work together with other available FNS nutrition assistance programs, such as summer meal sites, SNAP and WIC, to help ensure kids have consistent access to critical nutrition when school is out.


For more information about the traditional Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) visit the SFSP program page.


If you think you might qualify, please visit our Free and Reduced Information web page to apply.



Blaze Rowan takes poetry from the page to the stage


Blaze Rowan takes poetry from the page to the stage

Olympia High School senior Blaze Rowan was one of the nine finalists who competed this month at the state finals for the Washington State chapter of Poetry Out Loud. Rowan was selected from 9,000 high school students who competed from 42 different schools across the state. Rowan represented the emotion behind the poems, reading with elegance and inflection. When all was said and done, Rowan was crowned the 2024 WA State Poetry Out Loud (POL) Champion!


POL is a national recitation contest that celebrates the power of the spoken word and a mastery of public speaking skills while cultivating students’ self-confidence and an appreciation of their literary heritage. There are nine regional champions (from across the state) which are represented as; Central WA, Eastern WA, Northwest WA, Southwest WA and WA POL Virtual. These regional champions competed against one another on March 9, 2024.


"POL has greatly enhanced my love for poetry, and has served as an incredible learning experience for me. I have absolutely loved how positive this experience has been, as the competitive nature takes a back seat to the experience of sharing poetry with a group of like-minded youth," shared Rowan.


Rowan was one of two champions (representing the southwest region) who competed in the finals at the Tacoma Little Theatre after being selected as a top student from the classroom, school level and regional competitions. Student recitations are judged according to the POL evaluation criteria, which include physical presence, voice and articulation, interpretation, evidence of understanding and accuracy. Rowan explained, “I had refrained from getting my hopes up through the competition, so I was shocked when I was selected as the winner.”


OHS English teacher Carolyn Gilman has been leading the POL program at Olympia HS since 2008. She and the other ELA staff encourage their students' growth and passion for poetry. “OHS has one of the highest participation rates in Washington state. It is a part of our culture at OHS, nearly every English teacher holds a classroom competition, including students in all four grades and at every level (standard English, Honors English and AP English.) Roughly 1,000 students at OHS memorized and recited a poem this year in their English classes. Thirty-four classroom winners competed for the OHS title. Our classroom winner competed at the Regional Level. In the 16 years, 11 of our students have gone on to the state level. Two of those students were finalists (honorable mentions), one student won second place, and this is the second year in a row we’ve sent an OHS student to Nationals,” shared Gilman.


Rowan recited, [What horror to awake at night] by Lorine Niedecker, History Lesson by Natasha Trethewey and Epitaph by Katherine Philips. “I chose the three poems after reading through options on the POL website, clicking through and reading until I found selections I could really connect with. They each held a significant meaning but I believe I connected best with “History Lesson” by Natasha Tethewey. The ending holds a lot of weight with me as an African American,” explained Rowan.


Students select poems from an anthology of more than 1,100 classic and contemporary poems. Rowan shared, “The POL program has given me an opportunity to boost my confidence around public speaking and has allowed me to push myself to discover talents I was unaware I even had.”


As state champion Rowan received a $200 cash prize and an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. where he will represent Washington state (and Olympia HS) in the National Finals. The national champion receives a $25,000 scholarship and a school stipend for poetry books.


Nationals are quickly approaching and Rowan is preparing for the exciting trek to our nation's capital. “I look forward to meeting the winners from other states and territories. I'm sure it will be very fun to get to meet such a wide variety of new people who all share a common passion for poetry,” Rowan shared.


Please join us in wishing Blaze the best of luck in Washington D.C. We all look forward to following you along your journey!



Upcoming Events






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 Paula Perryman, 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:


James Whitehead, 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.