December 2021



Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District families,


Patrick Murphy headshot2021 is slowly coming to a conclusion, and this Winter Break may be more eagerly welcomed than any in recent memory. I am hopeful that the stress of 2021 might be softened for all of us by time with family and loved ones in the next few weeks.


December is a time of holiday traditions for many families. For mine, Christmas has always been one of the highlights of the year. It still conjures up early childhood memories of excitement and wonder. My parents always tried to teach me and my siblings that while presents were nice, it was always better “to give than to receive.” I’ve thought of that age-old wisdom quite a bit these last few weeks, especially as I've visited schools and talked with students and staff.


There’s an old American Proverb that says “Education is a gift that none can take away.” It is that sentiment, I believe, that inspires our staff to dedicate their professional lives to our students. It is that faith that drives our parents and families to seek out the best ways to support their children in their schooling. We know, empirically and intuitively, that if our children are educated well, they are so much more likely to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. And, in the end, that is what we all want for our children.


So it was with that thinking in my head that I recently visited one particular set of kindergarten classrooms. This just happened to be at LP Brown Elementary, but it could have been at any school, at any level in our district. In this case, the assignment the students were working on was related to the gingerbread man story; where the baked gingerbread man comes to life and is chased by the baker and others and eventually is eaten by the fox while trying to cross a river. The kindergartners had to cut out squares with different scenes from the story on them, put them in chronological order, glue them to a story board and color the pictures. Lots of learning targets were evident: learning cause and effect; chronological thinking, prediction, practicing motor skills, etc.


That might sound like a pretty basic lesson for young learners and perhaps not all that exciting. That would be wrong. What I saw and heard in those classrooms was wonderful and dare I say, magical. I observed our youngest learners enthusiastically recalling the story, applying what they had learned from their teacher and talking to one another to think through how those squares should be ordered. I heard laughter and puzzlement. I saw a teacher gently and lovingly suggest a new more effective way to hold scissors that could help a little girl who was struggling. And then I saw her beam with pride and satisfaction as she cut that paper so much better with her new found skill. I had 5- and 6-year-olds tell me how silly I was for suggesting that one square depicting a scene on the timeline might go in a different place in the sequence because it was quite obvious to them that the gingerbread man could not come to life and run away until AFTER he was baked in the oven. I saw some children painstakingly and carefully apply the glue stick to position and attach the squares just so, while others rushed that process a bit, because they could not wait to start coloring. And oh what colors did they use. Purples and greens and blues, some carefully within the lines and others courageously crossing them because it just looked more beautiful to them. It was magnificent to behold and not an experience that could have been had remotely.


There is another famous quote attributed to Sir Francis Bacon but others have said it in different ways and that is that “knowledge is power.” By learning and acquiring knowledge we overcome worry and fear of the unknown. We gain confidence in our own agency and ability to control our future and destiny. It can bring us peace of mind from those things that make us anxious.


Whatever your family traditions or cultural observances, more than anything else this winter break, I wish peace for all of us.


Happy Holidays,



Patrick Murphy Signature
Patrick Murphy


Lincoln project spreads kindness through the school and beyond


Lincoln project spreads kindness through the school and beyond

Lincoln Elementary School students are learning that a little drop of kindness can create a ripple effect and brighten their entire school -- and community.


Students in fourth and fifth grades recently began a kindness cards project. They each decorate index cards with inspirational messages and fun, colorful designs. Students come up with the slogans for the cards on their own and they get creative. The cards are then distributed throughout the school both randomly and intentionally.


“Kids really jumped at this opportunity,” said teacher Michael Stine. “They developed their own affirmations, and paired those with beautiful illustrations. I'm seeing a high level of quality and care, as they realize that they have a public audience and can really change someone's day – or life, as the book points out.”


Almost every card’s message is unique. Some examples from a recent collection included: Peace with Imperfection, You Make the World Sparkle, Kindness is Evergreen, Your Life is Singing a Beautiful Song, and Creating You was Life’s Grape Idea (featured along with a drawing of grapes).


The project was inspired by a book called “Flight of the Puffin,” by Ann Braden in which the main characters begin writing notes of encouragement and leaving them all over town.


“Our students have started by anonymously placing cards with beautiful, inspiring messages around the school to uplift our school community,” said teacher Michelle Dinkins. “We are now brainstorming with our classes what places in the community we can send messages to and hope to spread kindness throughout Olympia. Our kiddos are pretty amazing! This ‘kindness project’ is our community service project for the next few months.”


Students working on the project during class last week were gleeful as they shared thoughts about their work and its impact.


“The person who gets the card knows that they are kind and different and amazing in their own way,” said fifth grader Hazel Ulvenes. “I think it’s really great because sometimes the littlest things can bring somebody out of a bad day.”


“I think maybe it could uplift their spirit a lot and they feel like they can have fun, they believe in themselves, they can be kind to others and they can be great,” Ulvenes added. “If I got something like this I would probably feel like I’m pretty special and like I must be important.”


The kindness cards are a win for everybody, said fifth grader Harper Jurss. “I think it’s a really cool thing to do because it’s art so you get to express yourself through the art and also make someone else happy. It’s really sweet and it’s fun to do.”


So far, students have distributed the cards throughout the school to both younger peers and staff members. They will soon begin brainstorming a list of local organizations that might benefit from receiving a package of cards to share to brighten someone’s day.


School is in session on January 3, 2022


School is in session on January 3, 2022

The 2021-22 Olympia School District school year calendar has been updated to reflect that school is in session on Monday, January 3, 2022.


A previously published version of this calendar mistakenly stated that there was no school on January 3, 2022. The updated OSD school year calendar is available on our School Year Calendar page.


Please also update your copy of the OSD 12-month printed wall calendar to reflect that school is in session on January 3, 2022.


We apologize for the confusion.


Olympia School District Winter Break: December 20 - December 31, 2021

  •  School Resumes Monday, January 3, 2022


The Knox 111 Administrative Center will be closed for the entirety of Winter Break. The office will reopen on January 3, 2022.


Olympia High Grad Hannah Smith performs lead in local Nutcracker


Olympia High Grad Hannah Smith performs lead in local Nutcracker

Those who watched The Nutcracker performance by Studio West Dance Academy (SWDA) in Olympia this year might have witnessed a little extra magic on the stage. The lead role of Sugar Plum Fairy was performed by 2021 Olympia High School graduate Hannah Smith. Her partner in the performance, Cole McMason as Cavalier, is also her partner in real life.


Smith returned to Olympia to play the role from her current home in San Antonio, TX, where she studies with Decruz Ballet in their pre-professional training program.


“The Nutcracker that SWDA puts on every year is a really large scale production in a real theater with a stage crew, and lighting crew, and scene changes, and a couple hundred dancers, so being able to perform like that again was so fun,” Smith said. “My boyfriend, Cole McMason, who is also with me here in Texas at Decruz Ballet, was also asked to come back and perform the role of the Cavalier, the prince who dances with the Sugar Plum Fairy. It was a really easy decision because I already dance with him so much and we were able to rehearse over here before we came. I'm really thankful I had the opportunity to guest as Sugar Plum.”


As a student in Olympia, Smith worked with Studio West for 12 years and participated in The Nutcracker almost every year. She’s performed most roles over the years, including Mother Ginger's children, party girl, Spanish lead, Mirliton lead, Snow Queen, Dew Drop, and Sugar Plum. “I've basically grown up performing with SWDA. I probably only watched The Nutcracker from the audience once or twice because I was always performing in it,” she said.


This year was actually Smith’s second time performing the lead role of Sugar Plum Fairy. Her first time was as a sophomore at OHS in 2019. “That was such a hard year, trying to balance multiple honors classes including Honors Biology on top of having the most physically demanding role I've ever had,” she said.


“I think my time at OHS really taught me to push myself to achieve whatever I want to. As cheesy as that sounds, I feel like I really learned how much I was capable of doing, especially during my sophomore year when I took on probably too many honors classes and the Sugar Plum role on the side,” Smith said. “It was so hard, but looking back I realize how much stronger that made me. It also shows me how many mentors I had at OHS, especially Wendy Rae and Becky Blocher in the main office. They gave me encouraging hugs and always supported my ambition to be a professional ballerina, even when I wasn't convinced I could make it. Pursuing a career in ballet is scary, but I know I can try for anything I want to because of what I was able to achieve at OHS.”


Those who knew Smith during her time at Olympia High School say that she left a lasting impression.


“Hannah Smith is beautiful both inside and out and it was a pleasure to have her here at OHS,” said Wendy Rae, administrative assistant to the principal. “When she left to pursue Running Start so she could devote more time to dance, I was thrilled for her and very sad for me. However, if you've ever seen her dance you would know it was the right decision -- she positively lights up and you can tell that she just loves what she does, even though it takes hours and hours of work. Hannah is one of a kind, and it was so fun to watch her grow from a freshman showing me how she sewed up her laces, to seeing her perform the role of Sugar Plum Fairy. I look forward to seeing Hannah in many more performances."


Smith’s current goal is to be a professional ballet dancer. Her current training program is run by former principal dancers Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz from Pacific Northwest Ballet. “It's honestly so wild that I'm training with them because I grew up with them as my idols and they're some of the best dancers of their generation,” Smith said. “They're kind of like the Russell Wilsons of the ballet world.”


Smith’s current training program involves dancing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Monday through Saturday. She plans to begin auditioning for professional companies next year. Smith earned her Associate of Arts degree along with her high school diploma in 2020. She plans to return to college in the future and study for a career in the healthcare field.


The photo (displayed above) shows Smith performing as Dew Drop in SWDA's Nutcracker in 2019. Photo courtesy of Alex Bunn.


Community invited to Academic Recovery webinar


Community invited to Academic Recovery webinar

The community is invited to a one-hour Zoom webinar on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 to learn about OSD supports for academic recovery.


The webinar will be held from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom (see Zoom details below).


Superintendent Patrick Murphy will be joined by the following panelists:


  • Carmen Kardokus: K-12 Science Instructional Coach
  • Carolyn Balderston: Elementary Instructional Coach and K-5 Social Studies Co-Lead
  • Sheralyn Weimer: Assistant Director of College & Career Readiness
  • Cherlyn Pijanowski: Senior Director of Teaching & Learning


The panelists will share how federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds are being used this year to support academic recovery in response to the pandemic. Supports are also outlined in the OSD Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan.


After a brief introduction from the panel outlining the various supports, they will address questions posed by participants during the Zoom webinar and/or emailed in advance. If you are unable to attend, feel free to email questions in advance to: [email protected].


The monthly community webinars, which started in October 2021, are recorded and posted on the district website. Listen to past webinar recordings.


January 5, 2022 Zoom details:
Please follow this link to join the webinar:


Or One tap mobile:
US: +12532158782,,88694716444# or +13462487799,,88694716444#


Or Telephone:
Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 6833 or +1 646 558 8656 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799


Webinar ID: 886 9471 6444


International numbers available:

Meet OSD Classified School Employees of the Year 2021-22


Meet OSD Classified School Employees of the Year 2021-22


Scott Boe, Paraeducator, Hansen Elementary

Patience is perhaps the most important quality that makes Scott Boe well equipped to work with kids, he said. Boe, a paraeducator at Hansen Elementary, gets opportunities to showcase his patience regularly -- when solving playground disputes during recess, directing traffic before and after school, and coaching struggling new readers.


“You just kind of have to sit back and let them feel the emotions that they are feeling and help them move through those emotions,” Boe said. “Also with kids who are struggling, it gives me time to apply my patience. You’ve got to just give them time to move through their lesson. I’ve always felt that one of my strengths is patience. I’ve always had it.”


Boe has been a paraeducator at Hansen for 14 years. He plans to continue working there until he’s ready for retirement. “The staff and students are so awesome it almost felt like it was destiny to be here, so I’m going to stay.”


Boe continued, “I’m a product of the Olympia School District so I wanted to repay what I gained from the district.” He graduated from Olympia High School in 1984.


Boe wears many hats in his role at Hansen. In addition to patrol before and after school, recess and lunch duty, he also helps with teaching small groups. Boe also holds an emergency substitute certification and is usually the first choice for teachers who need a substitute.


“Kids love it when Mr. Boe is there,” said Principal Billy Harris. “Every day no matter what, he will come in with an amazing smile and leave at the end of the day with an amazing smile, regardless if it’s been a hard day or it’s raining.”


Creating a positive environment is Boe’s biggest mission, he said. “My goal is to value each and every kid and make sure they are heard and helped and feel valued. I do that by listening to them and really honoring each kid as an individual and trying to give them as much time and focus as I can.”


Cathy Shea, Office Administrator, Washington Middle School

Although there’s a lot of paperwork and administrative tasks to handle in the office at Washington Middle School, office administrator Cathy Shea said her primary job is customer service.


“I work for the kids. This is their school, their community. And I work for the staff. If I can help them have a good day that’s the goal,” Shea said.


“I love the relationships with the kids. I love small talk with them about how their day is, their hobbies outside of school and things like that,” Shea said. “And then, when they come back to the school to visit and say ‘Mrs. Shea do you remember me?’ Of course I do. I love that. I cry a lot. It’s very sweet if they just come back and say ‘thank you.’”


It’s not just her employment that makes Shea feel such a strong connection to Washington. She also lives in the neighborhood. “I think I take more pride because it’s my community, my neighbors. Kids live next door and behind me, so this is my community,” she said. “I just feel like I’m an ambassador for the schools and I can just make everyone feel comfortable when they come in.”


Students at Washington agree that Shea sets a positive tone for the school. “Mrs. Shea is super cool,” said 8th grader Ethan Sharp. “She is kind and respectful to all students and teachers. She has a happy and outgoing attitude and always greets us with a smile.”


Nguyen Phan, Lead Custodian, Pioneer Elementary

At Pioneer Elementary School, lead custodian Nguyen Phan is like a constant ray of sunshine, colleagues say. His attitude is always positive and he likes to spread good cheer among everyone he crosses paths with. For example, every Friday Phan sends out an email to all school staff wishing them a good weekend.


“We’re always laughing and having fun every day,” Phan said. “I’m trying to figure out the best way to make everybody comfortable.”


Phan’s formula for success in his role involves hard work, skill, communication and relentless positivity, he said. “You need the skill and you need good communication and a good attitude, and when you combine those you will be successful.”


As a lead custodian, Phan’s job involves more than what one traditionally thinks of as a janitor, Phan said. In addition to keeping the campus clean and sanitized, Phan completes basic repairs, sets up for lunches and is responsible for campus security.


He also engages with students when they have a problem, for example if they approach him for help cleaning up a mess on the playground. “I pick it up right away so the kids have safety,” Phan said. “There’s no reason to get mad or upset. They are like the customer, and we need to serve the customer.”


Getting to work among children is one of the perks of the job, Phan said. “On the one side, you have a lot of responsibility and on the other side, you love the job and the kids.”


School board elects officers in annual reorganization


School board elects officers in annual reorganization

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


At its December 9 meeting, the board elected Maria Flores as this year’s board president and Justin McKaughan as vice president.


The oath of office was also given to newly elected board member Darcy Huffman, as well as Director Scott Clifthorne. Huffman was elected to the District 3 position, and Clifthorne was re-elected to the District 5 board seat, in the November General Election.


Board members are also appointed annually to serve as liaisons with various community groups and state agencies. The board made the following appointments for the 2021-22 school year:


  • Justin McKaughan, board representative to the Olympia School District Education Foundation.
  • Hilary Seidel, board representative to the Thurston Regional Planning Council.
  • Scott Clifthorne, board representative to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
  • Darcy Huffman, legislative representative to the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA).


Capital HS toy drive benefits fathers at Green Hill School


Capital HS toy drive benefits fathers at Green Hill School

For the second consecutive year, Capital High School football players held a Cougar Toy Drive to benefit fathers residing at Green Hill School.The fathers will be allowed to choose from the toys, stuffed animals and books and then wrap them and mail them to their children.


Green Hill School is a rehabilitation facility for young men ages 17-25 involved in the justice system with treatment ranging from several months to years. Visitation remains limited and many residents are unable to see their children and young siblings.


“Toy drives are always focused on families in need which is amazing,” said Capital High football coach Terry Rose, who is facilitating the toy drive. “I took that idea and reached out to the director of the facility at Green Hill School about doing a toy drive for the fathers that have children at home that they cannot go shopping for. This is something that has never really been looked at before. In the end last year it was one of the most amazing experiences I have been a part of.”


Rose continued, “This is something we feel is important for our team to feel and be a part of,” Rose said, “The inspiration came from me visiting the school a few years ago and being blown away in my talks with the residents there. I felt like I wanted to help connect with them and keep their eyes forward.”


The goal is for each father to have something to wrap and send home to their child or children, Rose said “My goal is to let these young men know that we see them and recognize them as human beings and the impact this could have on their children could be life changing.”


Register to Vote for the February 2022 Special Election


Register to Vote for the February 2022 Special Election

Thurston County residents may register to vote online, by mail or in-person at the Thurston County Auditor’s Office for the February 8, 2022 Special Election.


Following are voter registration deadlines for the upcoming Special Election:


  • January 31, 2022: Deadline to register to vote online, by mail or by voter registration drive.
  • February 8, 2022: You may register to vote or update your current voter registration information in person only until 8 p.m. on Election Day, February 8. In-person voter registration is done at the Thurston County Elections Division, 2000 Lakeridge Dr. S.W., Bldg. 1, Rm. 118 in Olympia.


To register to vote you must be:


  • A citizen of the United States.
  • Residing at your current address for a minimum of 30 days before Election Day.
  • A legal resident of Washington state.
  • At least 18 years old by Election Day.


Note: Citizens may pre-register to vote at age 16 and will be automatically eligible to vote and sent a ballot during the first election after their 18th birthday.


For additional voter registration information, visit the Thurston County Auditor’s Office Elections Division webpage.


OSD buses earn perfect score on surprise inspection


OSD buses earn perfect score on surprise inspection

Those working in the OSD Transportation maintenance department never know precisely when the Washington State Patrol might stop by for their annual winter surprise inspection. Their goal is to always be ready.


The buses were definitely ready earlier this month when WSP inspectors stopped by unannounced. OSD earned 100 percent passing.


Inspectors pulled a random sample of 25 percent of the fleet – a total of 22 buses. The inspection included mechanical function, all exterior and interior areas, and safety items. Major things like faulty brakes can cause a bus to go out of service. Buses can also be taken out of service for things like not having enough bandaids in the first aid kit or a piece of metal sticking out on the side of the bus that could snag a student’s jacket.


Something as small as a piece of scrap paper or other loose items left on the dashboard can put a bus out of service, said mechanic Jose Alvarez. “If it were on the dash and it goes flying down while you’re driving, your instinct is to look down and that takes away from your attention to the road.”


Bus drivers are an important piece of the equation for keeping the buses safe, Alvarez said. They help by keeping their buses clean, performing their own inspections before and after each trip, and communicating promptly with the mechanics when there’s an issue.


“It takes a village. It takes a lot of help,” said Damon Camus, OSD vehicle maintenance manager. “We try to build a very good rapport with the drivers. The drivers are trained to recognize out of service items and bring them to the shop. It’s very important that the drivers feel comfortable coming up to the shop so we try to build that rapport.”


In order to keep the buses safe and ready for inspection at any time, the transportation team conducts their own inspections regularly. Drivers inspect their buses before and after each route. And every 1,500 miles, mechanics conduct thorough inspections on each bus. Depending on the route, it could take anywhere from two weeks to three months to go 1,500 miles.


Camus, who’s been with the OSD transportation team for 28 years, said he recalls that more than 15 of the annual inspections have achieved 100 percent. “It’s a very big deal because we’re providing the very safest transportation out there for staff and students,” he said.


In Washington, buses undergo WSP inspections twice a year - a surprise inspection in winter and a scheduled inspection of all the buses in the summer.


Report school safety concerns with SafeSchools Alert


Report school safety concerns with SafeSchools Alert

Every day, Olympia School District staff work to keep students and staff safe on campus. Families, students and community partners can do their part by promptly reporting safety concerns to their school principal, law enforcement, or by using SafeSchools Alert.


Any safety issue can be reported through SafeSchools Alert including bullying, harassment, drugs, weapons, vandalism, threats, mental health, violence or any other concern. Every tip is logged and sent to district administrators who then review it, send it to the correct staff for follow up, and report to police if necessary. You can submit tips 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year.


Those who make reports may be contacted for further information. They may also choose to remain anonymous by filing a report on the website and selecting the “Report Anonymously” checkbox.


You can submit safety concerns through SafeSchools Alert in five different ways:




Upcoming Events


  • December 20-31: No School (Winter Break)
  • January 3: School Resumes
  • January 5: 50 Minute Early Release
  • January 5: OSD Academic Recovery Community Webinar at 6 p.m.
  • January 12: 50 Minute Early Release
  • January 13: OSD Board Meeting in-person and online via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.
  • January 17: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • January 19: 50 Minute Early Release
  • January 20: OSD Board Work Session in-person and online via Zoom at 6 p.m.
  • January 26: 50 Minute Early Release
  • January 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:

Title IX Officers

  • Autumn Lara, Executive Director of Elementary Education: [email protected], (360) 596-8534
  • Michael Hart, Executive Director of Secondary Education: [email protected], (360) 596-8545


Ken Turcotte, Section 504 and ADA Coordinator (Students)


Starla Hoff, ADA Coordinator (Staff)


Scott Niemann, Affirmative Action Officer and Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator


Pat Cusack, Director of College and Career Readiness


All six individuals may also be contacted at 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA, 98506.