Spotlight on Success

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Spotlight on Success Header - December 2018


December 20, 2018


Superintendent's Message


Hello Olympia School District Families,

Patrick Murphy headshotThe end of the calendar year and holiday season is, for many, a time to celebrate with family and set resolutions for the new year. With the adoption of our new Student Outcomes by our school board earlier this month, I think in a way that we, too, have made a resolution. We have resolved, as a district, to renew our commitment to our students and families.

The Student Outcomes were reached after a six-month process that included extensive community input. Our board considered this input, including a two-day Educational Summit, two online surveys that elicited thousands of responses, and approximately 50 meetings with staff, students, families and community members, to create, revise and eventually adopt six “will statements” as expectations for our students. These statements look a little different than traditional school district strategic goals. They reflect ideals and traits that, I believe, we all want for our children, but perhaps have not seen stated so explicitly in the schoolhouse.

In addition to the customary and appropriate academic skills that Olympia has always placed a high priority upon and done so with great success for many in our system, these outcomes also speak to characteristics that are perhaps more difficult to measure but are yet equally important in life. We want our children to grow up to be healthy, inquisitive, ethical, caring and strong individuals who can work together with others for good. We’ve always wanted this, and our school staffs have historically worked tirelessly to create classroom environments that promote these ideals. With these outcomes, I am hopeful that, as a district, we can set goals and allocate resources to better support our teachers and support staff even more intentionally in their efforts. We believe this more deliberate focus on the whole student will lead to greater academic gains for all.

There is more work to be done. The board is committed to a process in which district leadership, with input from staff, students, families and community members, will further define and interpret these broad outcomes. That deeper explanation will be accompanied by metrics so that staff and families will know what we mean by each outcome and how we will measure if we are successful in reaching that result for all students. Our goal is to have that work completed by the end of the school year, so look for information on opportunities to participate after the new year.

In the meantime, if you have not seen the Student Outcomes for the Olympia School District, they are:


  • Our students will be compassionate and kind.

  • Our students will have the academic and life skills to pursue their individual career, civic and educational goals.

  • Our students will advocate for the social, physical and mental wellness of themselves and others and be hopeful about the future.

  • Our students will have the skills, knowledge and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic and societal bias.
    Our students will discover their passions, be curious and love learning.

  • Our students will be critical thinkers who contribute to and collaborate with our local, global and natural world.


I wish all of our Olympia School District families a happy and restful holiday season with loved ones and friends, and a wonderful New Year.

Patrick Murphy Signature


Olympia School District


LP Brown draws big crowd at ‘Books Before Bed’ family night

A cold winter’s night didn’t prevent more than 160 people, many of them students dressed in comfy pajamas and carrying their favorite stuffed animals, from enjoying a “Books Before Bed” family night at LP Brown Elementary School.

Two students smiling and laughingAn overflow crowd filled the school office and spilled into the foyer earlier this month as families waited for the library and two classroom doors to open. Inside, first responders from the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office and McLane Black Lake Fire Station, all of them dressed in uniform, waited to read aloud to students.

As families waited for storytime to begin, children selected a free book to take home from among dozens of popular titles displayed on an entry table by the South Sound Reading Foundation. 

With their new books in hand, students cheered as the doors opened to the library. Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza welcomed guests and fist-bumped one student who walked in wearing bright yellow Pikachu pajamas. Other students wore outfits featuring reindeer, super heroes, fire trucks and snowmen and quickly took a spot on the floor or on family members’ laps to hear the first story.

Snaza and his colleagues handed out shiny gold sheriff badge stickers to the children before reading “Winter Barn,” by Dorothy Ripley. The story describes how a farmer smells snow one brisk winter night. The next morning, the whole farm is cloaked in white, and the snow keeps falling. Hands shot in the air and children squealed as Snaza asked families if anyone thought it was going to snow locally. 

Student being greeted by police officerDown the hall in a computer lab and classroom pod area, firefighters shared books including popular children’s classics such as “The Polar Express.”

After the first round of stories, first responders joined families in the cafeteria to enjoy cocoa and cookies, make snowflakes and decorate cards. The hour-long event concluded with an additional story being read before students headed home for bed. 

“The families had a lot of fun — the kids were talking all about it the next day at school,” said  Washington Reading Corps volunteer Chloe Meyer, who coordinated the event with school reading specialists Devin Alexander and Julie Tracht.

Thank you to the many LP Brown families who attended the event. Special thanks, also, to the seven first responders who shared the joy of reading with students: Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza and his colleagues Undersheriff Tim Braniff, Chief Dave Pearsall and Lt. Ray Brady; and firefighters Wyatt Frantz, Stefan Latimer and Erich Tyler.


Olympia School District Custom App now available

Olympia School District logoHave you downloaded the new Olympia School District custom app yet? It is now available for download on iPhone and Android. Simply search “Olympia School District” in either the App Store (iPhone) or Google Play (Android). Parents can use this app to search breakfast/lunch menus, bus routes, upcoming events, staff directory information, school announcements, district news and more. Anyone can use this free app to stay up-to-date on news and information from our district.

Garfield students explore computer programming during ‘Hour of Code’

Ozobots, robots and algorithms, oh my!

Two young students working with a robotGarfield Elementary students learned about all of this and more as they delved into the world of computer programming during the school’s first-ever “Hour of Code” event.

Hour of Code is an annual global computer science initiative that creates a fun and creative environment for students in all grade levels to be introduced to the concepts of computer programming.

The event takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week (December 3-9). For one hour, all eyes are on computer science, with much of the focus on problem-solving -- an essential life skill.

While several schools throughout the district participated, Garfield Elementary welcomed special guests from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and Educational Service District 113. The visitors walked from classroom to classroom, guided by fifth-grade student ambassadors, to observe students learn and discover through a variety of computer science activities.

Teacher works with students on their robotFifth graders Zadie Buker, Ryan Waltermeyer and Landin Vargas shared how they built and programmed a robot. The three students took pride in showing off how their robot could turn, spin around, follow a line and stop suddenly when faced with an obstacle blocking its path.

“It’s really fun to program robots to do a bunch of cool things,” Zadie said. Ryan added, “I like that we got to code a robot to do pretty much infinite things.” Code is defined as the language written by humans to communicate with computers to complete a process.

Happy student enjoying Hour of CodeIn another classroom, first grader Tyler Kish demonstrated Ozobots — small shiny toy robots with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that teach students how to do basic programming. Robots are trained to follow patterns on the surfaces they roll over. Ozobots can identify lines, colors and codes on digital surfaces such as a computer tablet, and on physical surfaces such as paper.

School librarian Kathryn Beattie, who coordinated the Hour of Code with fifth-grade teacher Jeremy McIntosh, said the event went “exceptionally well” as evidenced by the number of students who talked for days after about how much fun they had.

“I learned a lot from the kids,” she said. “That was one of the coolest things for me — introducing it, finding out how much they can do and naturally know, and then having them teach me about it.”



Winter Break is December 19 - January 2

OSD Winter Break graphic

All Olympia School District schools will be closed for Winter Break from Wednesday, December 19 through Wednesday, January 2. Schools will reopen on Thursday, January 3.

During Winter Break school district administrative offices will be open from Wednesday, December 19 through Friday, December 21 and from Wednesday, December 26 through Friday, December 28. 

Administrative offices will reopen on Wednesday, January 2. The Knox Administrative Center is located at 1113 Legion Way S.E. in Olympia.



Visual Arts Program inspires young artists

The Visual Arts Program is in its fourth year, bringing a variety of art techniques and expertise into elementary school classrooms throughout the school district. This program began in 10 classrooms and has grown to 52, giving students the opportunity to learn from volunteer art docents and emulate famous pieces of art. 

Beautiful student artwork on displayThe arts program uses a “Deep Space Sparkle” curriculum; however, art docents bring their own styles and teaching techniques into the classroom. Students in the program learn to work with a variety of mediums, from oil and chalk pastel, to acrylic, to watercolor paints and collages. 

Kirstin Holstrom, director of the Visual Arts Program, says, “They are so proud of the art they create!” Holstrom sees the creation process of various art pieces instill confidence in students. Brooke Guthrie, a fourth-grade teacher at LP Brown Elementary, has seen similar reactions from her students. One student, after completing her art project, exclaimed, “Wow, I did so good!”

Many of the art docents are members of the community who volunteer their time to teach the creative process they love so well. Linda Ouye, mother of fourth-grade teacher, Brooke Guthrie, is one of the art docents for the program this year. Ouye says, “It has been very exciting to be working with the children as we explore art produced by the world masters.” Guthrie enjoys the opportunity to work with her mom. Guthrie says, “The students love having my mom come into the classroom. They get excited when she comes in. I think that is the best part.”   

More beautiful student artwork on display!Signe Feeney enjoys volunteering as an art docent in the same school where she used to teach. Feeney began teaching at Garfield Elementary in fall 1982. She added her own spark to a recent lesson by bringing in a lamp to show students the effect of different angles of light on a still life. Feeney says the most memorable moments were “when students who don’t think they can do art create something they like.” She also takes time to teach students the value of turning “mistakes” in art into “something wonderful.”

Angela Hannah, a teacher at Lincoln Elementary, has enjoyed the opportunity of having art docents teach in her classroom the past two years. This year, she taught the Visual Arts Program curriculum herself, putting her own artistic spin on a pop art project. She took the students’ art, made four photocopies of each drawing and had students add color to their four pieces of art. “In pop art, you see that replica,” Hannah said. She also enjoys delving into the meaning behind each student’s art. 

The Visual Arts Program is always looking for more art docents. The district offers flexible schedules for docents, as well as art supplies and curriculum. The volunteer time is from late October to May of each school year and includes a commitment of 1-2 days a month. Volunteering as a docent is a rewarding experience in a program that adds a unique creativity to our elementary classrooms. As Ouye says so well, “Who knows how many latent artists in this little pool of fourth graders have had a door opened to expressing their observations of the masters’ works.”

If interested in volunteering, contact Holstrom at


School board elects officers in annual reorganization

OSD Board of DirectorsEvery year in December, the Olympia School Board elects officers for the coming year during its annual reorganization.

By a unanimous vote on December 10, the board elected Joellen Wilhelm president and Scott Clifthorne vice president. Clifthorne will also serve as the board’s legislative representative.

The board also appointed the following:

  • Leslie Huff, board representative to the Olympia School District Education Foundation Board of Directors.
  • Hilary Seidel, board representative to the Thurston Regional Planning Council.
  • Frank Wilson, board representative to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.



Canned food drives, dyed hair and a jump into an icy lake

Olympia schools have been busy with canned food drives in the weeks leading up to Winter Break. Friendly competitions between classes and schools, as well as all-school challenges, have generated a flurry of activity throughout the school district.

Young Lincoln ES student collecting cansOlympia High School began its canned food drive in late November, and continued the collection for two weeks after Thanksgiving Break. ASB Leadership students collected cans from classrooms in the morning and counted them at the school’s loading dock later in the day. This year, all ASB students volunteered to go to elementary and middle schools in the Olympia High School attendance area to pick up donations and count cans. Kristin Costello, ASB Leadership Advisor, says, “I was impressed with their willingness to drive all over town… It is so heartwarming to watch them get involved in their community and understand the importance of giving back.”

Lincoln Elementary School’s staff included a fun incentive for fundraising this year. Teacher Matt Samson volunteered to be duct-taped to the wall if the all-school goal is reached, while teachers Maribeth Wheeler and Michelle Dinkins, volunteered to dye their hair blue and pink for a week. Annie Maclay, part of Lincoln’s office staff, says, “We are continuing to collect cans through this week in hopes of duct-taping Matt to the wall.”

Olympia HS students posing after collecting can donationsLincoln Elementary families also got involved this year by volunteering at the Thurston County Food Bank’s warehouse. “Your mission today is to sort the food so that when the people come to the food bank, they can find the food they want,” Heather Sundean, an operations manager at the warehouse, told the elementary students and their parents. Soon, busy hands were carrying cans, sometimes stacked under the chin, to each bin.

Perhaps the most inventive fundraising was done by Washington Middle School sixth grader Carter Fabritius. Carter’s unique challenge with his dad, Skip Fabritius, a teacher at Olympia High School, has been in full swing since Carter’s first-grade year. If Carter can raise $300 for the canned food drive, his dad has agreed to jump into Ward Lake. But this fundraising fun is not just about a jump into an icy lake. Skip praises his son, saying, “Carter has always been a generous kid with a big heart… I believe he fully grasps what he is doing and has a true appreciation for the good he does.”  

Washington MS students posing in front of schoolThis year’s fundraising has included a handmade sign and made-up songs in the early hours of the morning as Carter and his classmates raised awareness for the canned food drive. A rousing rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” with the addition of “and please donate now,” added pizzazz to a handmade canned food drive sign. The students stood outside the school entrance, even on frosty mornings.

Washington MS choir teacher Stacy Brown praises Carter’s enthusiasm for this wonderful fundraising event that benefits families in the community. Carter’s enthusiasm has rubbed off on the other students in her choir class, and they hope to win a competition with the band class.

Carter is thoroughly enjoying this year’s challenge. He says, “My dad keeps trying to confuse me. He says he doesn’t have to jump in if the lake is frozen over.” Stacy Brown was quick to add, “Oh, he’s jumping in. Even if we have to break the ice for him.” Skip Fabritius might look for the loopholes, but he is very enthusiastic about this annual challenge with his son. Skip says, “He seems to drive pleasure from seeing me jump in the lake.”

We would like to give a shout-out to our schools for the willingness and enthusiasm that went into this year’s canned food drive. All donations from the Olympia School District canned food drive will be given to Thurston County Food Bank. If you see Skip or Carter Fabritius, be sure to ask them about the jump into Ward Lake!

Congratulations OSD Schools of Distinction!

McLane ES - School of Distinction

The Olympia School Board recognized Marshall Middle School and McLane Elementary School on December 10 for each being named a 2018 School of Distinction.

Staff from both schools shook hands with board members and gathered for a photo with their new 2018 School of Distinction banner before a standing-room-only crowd.

Marshall MS - School of DistinctionThe award is presented annually to the top 5 percent of schools statewide that have made sustained improvement over the past five years in English language arts and math.

This is the first year that McLane Elementary has been named a School of Distinction and the second year in a row for Marshall Middle School. They are among 91 schools statewide, representing elementary, middle/junior high and high school, that received a 2018 School of Distinction honor.


Board seeks input on proposed dress code policy and procedure

OSD School BoardThe Olympia School Board continues to seek input from OSD students, families, employees and community members about a proposed districtwide student dress code policy and procedure.

Written comments about the proposed policy and procedure may be submitted through Friday, January 4 on a brief online feedback form. The form includes a complete version of both the policy and procedure.

In addition to the online feedback form, comments about any policies before the school board may be emailed to Links to the proposed student dress code Policy 3224 and procedure 3224P are included on the district website Board Policy Review webpage.


School board honors Classified School Employees of the Year

2018 OSD Classified School Employees of the Year (2018)In recognition of their support for students, the Olympia School Board honored this year’s three Classified School Employees of the Year at the December 10 board meeting.

The principal from each of the honoree’s schools read aloud the letter submitted as part of the award nomination process. The board then called the honorees forward and presented each one with an engraved plaque. 

Congratulations to:

  • Travis King, paraeducator at Centennial Elementary School. This is King’s fifth year at Centennial Elementary, where he works as a behavior technician.
  • Denise Pigue, paraeducator at Garfield Elementary School. Pigue is in her fourth year at Garfield Elementary School, where she works as a behavior technician. She has worked for the district since 2008. 
  • Todd Thornton, head custodian at Roosevelt Elementary School. Todd has worked as head custodian at Roosevelt for four years and for the district since 2006. 


Upcoming Events



  • December 19 - January 2 – Winter Break (No School)



  • January 1 – New Year's Day
  • January 3 – School Resumes
  • January 7 – Board Meeting: Knox Administrative Center at 6:30 p.m.
  • January 8 – Middle & High School Parenting Workshop: Positive Constructive Communication with Teens, from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m at ORLA
  • January 14 – Board Meeting: Knox Administrative Center, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
  • January 15 – Joint City Council & OSD Board Meeting: Olympia City Hall from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
  • January 16 – Temperance and Good Citizenship Day
  • January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (No School)
  • January 22 – Board Meeting: LP Brown Elementary School at 6:30 p.m.



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.