Spotlight on Success

  • Decrease Text Size
  • Increase Text Size

Spotlight on Success header

April 19, 2019


Superintendent's Message


Hello Olympia School District Families,

Patrick Murphy headshotOne way or another, we are finally coming to the end of a very frustrating and worrisome legislative session. As you are all aware by now, we are facing one of the biggest budget deficits we have ever faced as a district due to the disparate impact of the “McCleary fix” legislation. As we have said several times, we are not alone in this predicament, as most of our Thurston County school districts are facing cuts, as well as many others across the state. That being said, we take some solace in the fact that our projected budget deficit of $8.5 million could be reduced by as much as half if the Senate and House budgets make it out of the legislative session as they currently stand. Should that happen, the district has a reduction plan in place that will be shared with the school board on Monday, April 22, that will address our hopefully lower deficit without having to invoke a Reduction In Force (RIF) of teachers. Instead, the deficit will be handled through cost saving measures and not replacing a portion of central office, teacher and para-educator retirements and resignations.

Both the Senate and House have bills that would allow districts like Olympia to collect higher local levies, but that is a serious point of contention in the Legislature. To that end, we, too, have no desire to raise our local levy. We would much rather Olympia receive regionalization funds, or adequate special education funding, or fully funded health care — all of which contribute to our deficit. But those “fixes” are said not to be forthcoming, and therefore a levy lift is currently the only way to avoid substantially deeper cuts. Unfortunately, we won’t have certainty on the final state funding plan until the close of the legislative session, which is scheduled for April 28. Until then, I want to again say thank you to all who participated in our budget informational sessions and our online survey. As always, you can get the latest budget and legislative information, including survey results, on a dedicated budget page on our district website.

Thank you for your steadfast support of our school district.


Patrick Murphy Signature

Patrick Murphy

Olympia School District


Students win top awards at state science fair

Marshall Science FairVeda Svs, an 8th grader at Marshall Middle School, won first place at the state science fair for her stellar project, “Turn that Sound Down.” Veda and three students from Jefferson Middle School placed in the top categories at the state science fair. Veda’s science project was inspired by her brother who is part of the Capital High School robotics club. When he is building robots in the workshop, he is required to wear headphones to avoid hearing damage. Veda’s science project explored the effects of noise pollution. She used an Arduino microphone, a breadboard, jumper wires and a fan, among other items. Her favorite part was “making the circuit actually work,” a process that took some problem solving.

Marshall Science FairAt Jefferson Middle School, 6th grader Shravya Gupta discovered inspiration for her science project in one of her other passions: gymnastics. “I was trying to figure out how our eyes and ears affect our balance,” Shravya said. She dubbed her project “Spinning, Twirling, Wow, my Head is Whirling.” Two of Shravya’s friends, a ballet dancer and a soccer player, helped her test her project using variables such as eyes open/closed and ear plugs. “We tested spinning ourselves in chairs,” Shravya said. She especially enjoyed learning about the human ear. She found she could apply her findings to gymnastics. Instead of closing her eyes when she completes flips in gymnastics, she now purposefully keeps her eyes open to reduce dizziness. She placed first in the junior division and Broadcom MASTERS, which will allow her to compete in the national competition.

Jefferson MS Science FairAarav Verma, a 6th grader at Jefferson, created a project called “Wind to Works,” winning first place in the junior division and also Broadcom MASTERS. Aarav built a windmill from a 2-liter soda bottle, a Gatorade bottle and a metal rod. He crafted the windmill’s rotor from pieces of a robotics kit. He wanted to discover whether including a larger number of rotors would decrease the efficiency of the windmill. He especially enjoyed building the windmill. “It was a lot of fun,” he said. He is thankful to his teacher, Larissa Maughan, for her encouragement in his project. Aarav is also thankful to his family for their support.  “My parents and my little brother helped so much in this,” he said. Aarav’s younger brother, Aaryan, a 3rd grader at Centennial Elementary School, recently took first place for his science experiment “Greasy Chips” in the South Sound Regional Science and Engineering Fair.

Harshini Saravan, a 7th grader at Jefferson, competed for the first time in the senior division at state. Her science project was inspired by the flu. When her sister had the flu, she heard that it was a bad idea to eat a lot. She learned from her pediatrician that high body temperature affects metabolism — the process of breaking down food particles. Her science project “Speed it Up, Break it Down,” studied enzyme reactions and how they are affected by temperature using a solution from potatoes and hydrogen peroxide. She placed second at the state science fair. Harshini is especially thankful for the encouragement of teacher Katherine Halmos.

If you see Veda, Shravya, Aarav or Harshini, be sure to ask them about their science projects! Each project is fascinating and reflects the enthusiasm of these young scientists.


Join us at OSD Night at the Tacoma Rainiers May 9

Tacoma Rainiers logoTickets are on sale for our annual OSD Night with the Rainiers on Thursday, May 9. Come watch the Tacoma Rainiers take on the Reno Aces.
Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Superintendent Patrick Murphy will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at 6:45 p.m. followed by a performance of the national anthem by the Washington Middle School Choir. The game starts at 7:05 p.m.
To purchase tickets, please visit and enter promo code OSD19. Group Express tickets are $14 per person and include a reserved seat, hot dog, chips and bottled water. The Double Play tickets are $19 per person and include a reserved seat, hot dog, chips, bottled water and a limited-edition Rainiers hat.
All students, families, teachers, staff and the Olympia School District community are invited to join us for this fun-filled event.
We hope to see you there!


Last day of school this year moved to Friday, June 21

The state has approved the school district’s request to waive one of the school days missed in February when schools were closed due to snow. Assuming there are no more missed days this school year, the new last day of school is Friday, June 21, 2019.

Last day of school graphicThe waiver does not change any of the district’s high school graduation dates – all will proceed as scheduled this June.

School year calendars posted on the district website have been updated to reflect the new last day of school for the 2018 -19 school year. June 21 is a half day of school for students.

Remember to update the Olympia School District wall calendar and other personal calendars to reflect the change.

Also please note: Wednesday, June 19, will be a standard districtwide early release day.



Capital High School Thespians win multiple awards at 2019 Festival

The Capital High School Thespians won multiple awards in the Washington State Thespian Festival 2019, held this year at Central Washington University. The festival included workshops, performances and awards.
Capital HS thespiansThe following students scored in the top 10 percent at the festival and were invited to audition for the showcase: Ben Churchwell, Gracen Bayer and Johanna Chhay. Bayer’s “Stay True” was the Showcase winner for the Short Film IE category. Her film was shown during the festival’s opening ceremonies. This is the fifth year that the Capital High School Thespians have had a winner in this category.

Chhay was recognized in her audition for showcase in the solo musical category. She was also given a score of excellent for her short film submission, “Through His Eyes: A Short Documentary.”

The following students were recognized with a score of excellent for their performances at the Individual Events competition: Nathan Altman, Lena Curry, Brenner Farr, Kaylene Sandoval, Phoenix Lowdermilk, Ben Churchwell, Johanna Chhay and Gracen Bayer.

The troupe was also recognized as a Gold Medal troupe for the sixth year in a row. To win this title, troupes must complete a series of activities. This is the highest of three levels.

Being named “Best in Fest” was the crowning accomplishment for the Capital High School Thespians. This is the highest honor given at the festival and is only awarded to schools with the top score. For this 2019 festival, Capital High School was the only school awarded this title. Capital Thespians won this award with the One-Act comedy, “The Hostage,” directed by Samantha Baker and Marina Ulrich. The stunning performance of “The Hostage” was acted by Kolby King, Brenner Farr and Phoenix Lowdermilk.

We’d like to give a shout-out to the teamwork of Scott Le Duc, International Baccalaureate (IB) Film teacher at CHS, and Kristina Cummins, theater teacher at CHS. These successes would not be possible without these two teachers and the enthusiasm of the students in their classes. As Kristina says so well, “Storytelling for the stage translates beautifully to storytelling on film.”



Message line for Spanish-speaking families

The district has a telephone message line for Spanish-speaking families who have questions about the Olympia School District. This message line is designed to help families get answers to questions ranging from how to register for school or volunteer, to how to locate bus routes or daily lunch menus.

An Olympia School District employee who is a Washington Certified Spanish Interpreter monitors the messages and responds to families with answers to their questions. The message line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week year-round at (360) 596-7569.

Línea de mensajes para familias que hablan español

Spanish message line graphicEl distrito cuenta con una línea de mensajes telefónicos para familias que hablan español y que tienen preguntas sobre el Distrito Escolar de Olympia. Esta línea de mensajes está diseñada para ayudar a las familias a obtener respuestas a preguntas desde cómo inscribirse en la escuela, cómo ser voluntario, cómo localizar rutas de autobús o menús de almuerzo diario.

Una intérprete de español certificada por el Estado de Washington y empleada del Distrito Escolar de Olympia se encargará de revisar los mensajes y responderá a las preguntas que tengan las familias. La línea de mensajes está abierta las 24 horas del día, los siete días de la semana durante todo el año. El número telefónico de la línea en español es el (360) 596-7569.


Student and librarian named 2019 Literacy Champion Award winners

Congratulations to Garfield Elementary librarian Katy Beattie and Olympia High School freshman Mruthula Mohanvaanathi, who are this year’s South Sound Reading Foundation Adult and Youth Literacy Champion Award winners.

The literacy awards are presented each year by the South Sound Reading Foundation during its annual “Readers are Leaders Benefit Breakfast.”

South Sound Reading FoundationOlympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy, School Board President Joellen Wilhelm, board member Frank Wilson, past board member Eileen Thomson and eight district staff members joined more than 200 guests at the breakfast on April 11.

The Foundation called each winner forward to the stage, read their nomination and presented them with an engraved plaque at the annual breakfast held at the South Puget Sound Community College Lacey campus. An additional literacy award for business partner was awarded to Olympia Pediatrics.

The South Sound Reading Foundation serves more than 56,000 children, youth and families each year with free books, story times, education classes, book talks and information about the importance of reading with children. The Foundation’s mission is “to bring the joy and promise of books and reading to all South Sound children, especially those who are at-risk, under-served, struggling or experiencing poverty.”

Katy Beattie

Garfield Elementary Principal Brendon Chertok nominated Beattie for the award. She has been the school librarian for three years and has built a library “that is responsive to student interests and reflects the diversity of our school.”

Chertok also wrote in his nomination that Beattie opens her library every morning for families and students so they can sit and peruse books, talk and enjoy activities “that have brought our community together.”

She is also a frequent storyteller at school assemblies, holds a Battle of the Books competition, has become “an exceptional” grant writer to fund more books and frequently builds baskets of books to support areas of focus for Garfield teachers. “She has created an environment that is a hub for our school,” Chertok wrote.

The Literacy Champion Award for adults is named after Lois Asay, founding volunteer of the South Sound Reading Foundation who passed away in 2013. To honor her memory, each year the Foundation recognizes an outstanding adult or team in the community who “has really gone above and beyond to promote literacy and a love of reading.”

Mruthula Mohanvaanathi

Olympia High School ninth grader Mruthula Mohanvaanathi, nominated by her mother, served as a volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club after-school tutoring program in grades 6-8. As a volunteer, she visited the club two days a week to help students in grades 1-3 with their reading and math homework. She also read books to children and answered their questions, all while helping them try new vocabulary words.

“Mruthula volunteered because of her personal interest and passion for helping other kids,” her mother wrote. “Her volunteer hours were not mandatory for her educational records at her school. She has always been very determined. Not only is she hardworking and dedicated, but she always has positive, kind and uplifting words to share. She always manages to do a great job of motivating the kids.”

The Literacy Champion Award for youth is named after Shirlee Lehnis, who passed away in 2007. The Foundation describes Lehnis as “the driving force behind the Reading Foundation. She is the reason we exist. She was also an extraordinary educator who truly believed in the importance of literacy and had an affinity with children.”



Happy students

2017-18 Annual Report posted online

We are pleased to share our Annual Report, featuring highlights of the past year from throughout the Olympia School District. In this report, which features the 2017-18 school year, you will read about student and staff achievements, school performance reports, school bond construction updates, and how we are using the resources our community has entrusted to us to support student achievement.

View the 2017-18 Annual Report on the Olympia School District website.


High school students work alongside legislators to program LEGO robots

Robotics at the state houseIt’s not every day legislators work alongside high school students to build and program robots. The FIRST robotics team from OSD and other neighboring school districts held their inaugural Legislator Invitational. Skunk Works, a robotics team from the Seattle area, gave a short presentation to the gathered legislators before dividing them into teams. The goal? Build a robot from LEGOS and program the robot to follow a black outline in the shape of Washington state. Four large tracks were set up in the center of the Columbia Room in the Legislative Building where the event was held. If programmed correctly, the color sensor attached to each robot would guide the robot around the track. The color sensor is just one of the sensors that FIRST teams use. Other commonly used sensors include gyro (movement), sonic (sound waves) and light sensors.

Robotics at the state houseOften, three or more sets of hands were working on the robot at one time. Each team was encouraged to brainstorm a team name. Teams included members of both Democrats and Republicans parties, which led to one team calling themselves the “Repocrats.” Another team named themselves “Team EVE” after the loveable robot in the movie “Wall-E.” “It’s the best movie there is,” one legislator said.

A handful of "tribbles" — small, furry creatures from the Star Trek series — made a guest appearance at the friendly competition between teams. The FIRST teams are avid fans of Star Trek and a multitude of tribbles accompany them to each of their competitions and events. The tribbles are made of multicolored, faux fur with a squeaker inside. Senator Hunt also attended a portion of the event. He soon had a pink and purple tribble sticking out of his suit-jacket pocket.
Brenda Diettrich, high school robotics coordinator, says the event was “a way for legislators to see what the money is doing.” The event was hosted by Rep. Vandana Slatter and Sen. Sharon Brown, co-chairs of the Science Innovation and Technology Caucus. For many students, this was their first time in the Capitol building. “They were in awe,” Diettrich said. Legislators were just as enthusiastic as the students as they rooted through LEGO bins and carried their completed product to the boards for a test run or two.

What a fantastic opportunity for both students and legislators.



2019 Bike to School Challenge rolls out May 1-15

Walk n' RollMany schools in the Olympia School District, as well as schools across Thurston County, are participating in the May 1-15 School Bike Challenge, sponsored by Intercity Transit. The physical activity of biking to school improves health and is a good alternative to driving. Decreasing the number of cars on the road also means a cleaner environment.

Students are encouraged to log their miles from May 1-15. Schools participating in this event will hand out a prize to students who log their miles during this time. Please reach out to your school’s office staff for the mileage log handout and additional information about the challenge.

In the midst of the School Bike Challenge is National Bike to School Day, held on Wednesday, May 8. For more information, please visit Intercity Transit’s website.



Wildlife shelter staff visit Reeves Middle School science class

Wildlife in the classroom at Reeves MSMarch Madness takes many forms. For Karen McGovern’s 8th-grade science class at Reeves Middle School, it meant an opportunity to study a variety of protected species from around the world. Students were divided into teams and given the opportunity to defend the animal they studied. Winning teams progressed to the next round.

In the midst of this March Madness, McGovern’s class had a visit from some unique guests from West Sound Wildlife, located in Bainbridge Island. The first visitor presented to the class by her handler was a turkey vulture with the prestigious name “Princess Remington.” Once Remi warmed up to the class, one student even got a vulture bow, which her handler, Kathleen, called “a turkey vulture greeting.” Kathleen taught the students how to identify a vulture from a hawk or other large bird. “You’ll know it’s a vulture when you see the silver lining of its wings,” she told the students.

Wildlife in the classroom at Reeves MSBefore Kathleen returned Remi to her crate, she left the students with a couple of interesting facts about vultures, saying, “The facts are gross, so you’ll probably remember them.” Kathleen asked the students if they knew how turkey vultures defend themselves. Hands flew up around the room. “Oh no!” Kathleen exclaimed, hiding a smile. “I thought I was going to surprise you.” The students had done their research well. Vultures do indeed regurgitate their food on predators to give themselves a chance to escape.

The second and final visitor presented to the class had sustained head trauma before finding a home at West Sound Wildlife. “He is very imperfect and beautiful,” Fawn, the peregrine falcon’s handler, told the class. Fawn’s desire to care for the environment and the creatures within it began when she was a child, watching “Fern Gully.” Scout, the peregrine, perched on her glove, often tilting his head to watch Fawn. “He has sharp talons, curved beak, amazing eyesight. And he keeps looking at me because we feed him on the glove,” Fawn told the class.

Scout has been with the West Sound Wildlife Shelter for just over a year. He originally came from Olympia. As Kathleen told the class early on, “These animals are still wild animals. They are not like a cat or a dog.” Fawn enjoys the opportunity to travel, educating people on how to be good stewards of their environment.


Olympia High School accounting students visit Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines visitSkip Fabritius, a Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher at Olympia High School, led his accounting students on a tour last month of Alaska Airlines in SeaTac. “The world of business is bigger than just a high school accounting course,” Fabritius says. Trips like this give students a broad scope of the careers they are interested in, as well as how skills in the classroom apply in the work world.

Alaska Airlines visitIsabel Anteau, a senior at OHS, says, “Not only did employees from multiple departments talk with us, the CFO actually sat down and took his time telling us about the company face-to-face!” Students also had the opportunity to fly in the simulators that pilots use for training, including both taking off and landing a “plane.” They toured the control room where planes are tracked and the weather is monitored. Additionally, plane technicians shared with students about plane engines and repair work, including the expenses of running an airline. Fabritius says, “There is nothing I can do in the classroom to replicate what we learn on trips like this.”

Brandon Pedersen, chief financial officer of Alaska Airlines, spoke with students about the career paths he took to get where he is now. “It helps you realize there are many paths to success,” Fabritius says. “Seeing how business works in a real life environment really emphasized what we learned in class in a big way,” Morgan Suttle, a sophomore at OHS, says.

As Fabritius says, “What an eye-opening day for students interested in accounting. Or history. Or engineering. Or material science. Or just about any other career!”


Upcoming Events



  • April 22 – Special Board Meeting: Knox Admin. Center, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

  • April 24 – 50-Minute Early Release

  • April 29 – Special Board Meeting: Knox Admin. Center, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.



  • May 1 – 50-Minute Early Release

  • May 6 - Board Meeting: Olympia Regional Learning Academy at 6:30 p.m.

  • May 6-10 - Teacher Appreciation Week

  • May 8 – 50-Minute Early Release

  • May 9 - OSD Night with the Rainiers – Cheney Stadium at 6:45 p.m.

  • May 14 - Elementary Parent Workshop: Anger: ORLA from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

  • May 15 – 50-Minute Early Release

  • May 20 - Board Meeting: Olympia High School at 6:30 p.m.

  • May 22 – 50-Minute Early Release

  • May 23 - Elementary Parent Workshop: Safety Without Fear at ORLA from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

  • May 27 – Memorial Day (No School)



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

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

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