March 2022



Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District families,


Patrick Murphy headshot

It is hard to believe that Spring Break is here and we are heading into the last quarter of the school year. While this year has proven to be one of the most challenging as we recover from the harm of the pandemic, it is heartening to see our students and staff meet those challenges and accomplish amazing things.


There was one particular recent accomplishment that symbolizes, I think, how perseverance, effort and support can help us clear even the seemingly impossible hurdles we face.


Amanda Moll, and her sister Hana, are twin sisters and juniors at Capital High School. On March 25 in Austin, Texas, at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays Track Meet, Amanda broke the national record in the girls pole vault when she cleared 14-9 ½ (4.51m). By the way, her sister Hana’s personal best is 14’-8”. Competitors are all given three tries, and it was on her third and final attempt that Amanda set the new national record.


According to the twins’ mother, the girls practice, support and compete against each other which helps them to keep improving. In addition to family support; numerous coaches, community members and staff have encouraged and assisted them through the years since they were young. Read more about the Moll sisters in an article in the August 2021 Spotlight on Success newsletter.


Individual dedication coupled with community support are the key ingredients to success in any endeavor in school. I have marveled at the dedication of our students across the district as they have worked through the challenges of the past couple of years. Likewise, I am humbled by the dedication, expertise and loving support shown by our staff to ensure that all of our students have what they need to reach their full potential. Their efforts in this most challenging of years are especially inspiring.


Each student and family has their own unique circumstances, supports and challenges. The school board is in the process of gathering community input for an Equity Policy that will augment and reinforce our strategic plan and student outcomes. Making sure every student gets the support they need will be the foundation of that plan. But it is our families who know their children’s needs best, so working with all of you is crucial to creating this policy. A steering committee is working on the community engagement process that will start up after spring break. For more information, visit the Equity Policy Development webpage.


Fiercely advocating for resources to support our staff and students has been a hallmark of Olympia long before I arrived here. I am pleased to report that for the first time in a while, those efforts, too, have paid dividends in the last legislative session. While it did not resolve all of the funding inequities that have negatively impacted Olympia, there were important bills and budget measures passed that will help us moving forward to equip our staff with resources to better support all students.


We can work exceptionally hard, but without the right equipment and staffing, we will be hard-pressed to clear the big hurdles. Amanda proved that when you have those supports, nothing is impossible. Likewise, I am optimistic as spring approaches, that we too, as a district, will continue to achieve at higher levels as we get back to better.


I wish you all a safe and restful spring break with family and friends.



Patrick Murphy Signature
Patrick Murphy


Olympia High School senior wins Princeton Prize in Race Relations


Olympia High School senior wins Princeton Prize in Race Relations

Olympia High School senior Ella Sherin has been awarded the prestigious Princeton Prize in Race Relations. The honor, sponsored by Princeton University, recognizes high school students who have undertaken significant efforts to advance racial equity in their schools or communities.


Ella is one of only 29 recipients chosen for the honor nationwide, and she represents the Seattle/Portland Region. She will receive a $1,000 cash award and is invited to participate this spring in a Symposium on Race.


During the virtual symposium, Ella will have the opportunity to meet and learn from other Princeton Prize recipients from across the country engaged in racial justice work.


"Her passion and understanding for her culture, her drive to make changes in our system and her ability to take a leadership role in our school community are unprecedented in my 20 years as principal of Olympia High School,” Principal Matt Grant wrote in his nomination letter.


Advocacy for Native education

Shortly after arriving in Olympia from neighboring Lacey two years ago, Ella arranged a meeting with Grant to talk about expanding opportunities for Native students. She also invited other regional Native education leaders, including her former school district’s Native student program specialist.


Not long after that meeting, Ella founded an after-school student group, “Olympia Native Students Union.” The group provides a space for Native students to gather for up to two hours once a week.


“Ella was clearly the leader who helped students think of the things they could do as a team and the importance of connecting as a group,” Grant said.


Over the past two years, students have participated in art activities such as beading and drum-making workshops. They have also hosted an all-Native musical group, sampled foods from different tribes, and had informal conversations to get to know and support one another.


“The after-school group is a place to create more interpersonal cultural relations with people who have the same backgrounds,” Ella said. “There is a level of comfort and a space where we can all express ourselves freely.”


Last year, for example, Ella connected a twelfth grader with community resources to teach him how to weave a cedar hat that he wore at his Olympia High School graduation ceremony – a first, to Grant’s knowledge, at a school commencement ceremony.


This year, just before school started in September, Ella spoke during an OHS staff development training about the importance of including Native history in school curriculum. She introduced herself in Cowlitz, then in Lushootseed to honor the land on which Olympia High was built, then in English. She describes her heritage as being part of three “families” – Native (a member of the Cowlitz Tribe with Abenaki Tribe Ancestry), Korean and white.


The 17-year-old also spoke about Native history this year to the OHS Ethnic Studies class, as well as to a school Community Equity Forum attended by students, teachers and families.


“Her powerful talk inspired our faculty to think about the community cultural wealth in our school,” Grant said. “I believe Ella’s passion for Native history will have a lasting impact on our curriculum.”


During National Native American Heritage Month, the senior collaborated with the local tribal community and district staff to organize a schoolwide assembly focused on Native heritage. The assembly featured a talk by Nisqually Tribal Leader Hanford McCloud, and Ella performed a Women’s Fancy Shawl Native dance, which has its roots in a ceremonial dance called the Butterfly Dance. The shawl is meant to symbolize the wings of a butterfly, and the fancy steps and twirls represent its style of flight. Ella performed the dance again last week and was paired with fellow Native student Kiikii Durant, who danced old-style jingle dress, during an OHS Cultural Assembly.


Ella said she is especially thankful that the Olympia School District hired Sandra Gordon to assume the district’s Native Education & Tribal Relations Program Manager role this year. Gordon, a member of White Earth Ojibwe & Oglala Lakota, has supported Ella in her advocacy efforts this year.


Before she graduates this June, Ella said she hopes to work with Gordon to grow Native programming for elementary and middle school students, and connect OHS Native students with other Native high school students across the district.


“We must take a deeper dive to educate people about Native history,” Ella said. “We have to be able to elevate the level of respect and bridge the gap between tribal communities and schools so people understand the Native culture.”


Gordon describes Ella as “a mature young adult who focuses on the tangible and valuable contributions she can make in the world in her work advancing Native student voice and cultural awareness in the OIympia School District … I’m very proud that Ella, a Cowlitz Tribal citizen, understands well how her efforts and post-secondary education will someday improve her tribal community and the lives of her people.”


Plans beyond high school

Ella has been awarded a Presidential Scholarship to the Davidson Honors College at the University of Montana where she plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in Native Studies. Her hope, she says, is to also volunteer in Missoula schools to work with Native students.


Her long-term goals include joining the National Native American Law Students Association, earning a law degree and practicing Tribal Law.


Princeton Prize in Race Relations

The Princeton Prize in Race Relations, founded in 2003 in the Washington D.C. and Boston metropolitan areas, is run by more than 400 Princeton University alumni volunteers dedicated to an inclusive and supportive society.


Several other Olympia School District students have been selected for this prestigious award over the past several decades. In 2007, then Olympia High student Anthony Brock received the honor. Today, Brock is principal at McLane Elementary School.


“The Princeton Prize in Race Relations is amongst the most powerful recognitions I have received,” Brock said. “While the award is in recognition of the work students have done specifically in improving race relations, the impact that it had on me specifically was transformative and ultimately led me to life's most important work: being an educator.”


Brock continued, “Through the Princeton Prize in Race Relations, I was able to meet many individuals who were passionate about improving race relations in our state and across the country. Now seeing students like Ella who are the next generation of leaders in our community is inspiring. I look forward to seeing all of the wonderful things she accomplishes as she leads in a space that is often too challenging for others.”



Capital junior Rahma Gaye wins state debate championship


Capital junior Rahma Gaye wins state debate championship

It was probably the passion in her voice that the judges noticed first. Rahma Gaye, a junior at Capital High School, recently won state champion in the Washington Interscholastic Athletics and Activities Speech and Debate Tournament with her speech, “What’s in a Name?” The speech talks about her experience of being a young Black Muslim woman in America and the need for more positive representation.


Rahma spoke from the heart, showing both deep feelings and humor. “I think as a judge, you look at the amount of feelings somebody has,” she said. “You also have to be interactive and put some jokes in there.”


This is Rahma’s first year participating in speech and debate. When she began working on her speech back in the fall, debate club advisor Jonathan Moore knew immediately it was something special.


"Rahma's speech was one of the most powerful I have heard in my life. I was immediately moved the first time I heard it," Moore said.


The actual text from Rahma’s speech is now being closely guarded from publication. She plans to use it again for the national competition in Kentucky this June. Between now and then, she may make some minor edits, but essentially it will remain the same - her personal reflection about what it means to grow up as a Black, Muslim woman in America.


Even after winning the state championship, Rahma remains humble. She remembers freezing upon hearing the news she had won. “I was really shocked,” she said. “There were so many really good speeches and it took a moment to settle in, like is it really me? Are you sure?”


Rahma’s teachers, however, weren’t surprised her speech won. "Rahma is such an amazing student. I have known her since middle school and am so proud of the young woman she has become,” Moore said. “Her intelligence and determination are two key factors that define her. She doesn't let things get in her way. When she sets out to accomplish a goal, she does so. Rahma has struggled with self-confidence this season, never thinking her speech was 'good enough.' Anyone that heard it couldn't figure out what she was talking about. I hope Rahma now realizes just how powerful and amazing she is. Nothing can hold her back."


Rahma will present her speech next in the original oratory category of the national competition in Kentucky in June. Capital sophomore Meredith Morgan also qualified for the national tournament after having taken first place at the district event in extemporaneous speaking.



Education Support Professionals Week 2022


Education Support Professionals Week 2022

It takes hundreds of support staff (many working behind the scenes) to keep our schools safe and our students learning their best. The week of March 7-11 we celebrated Education Support Professionals Week throughout our district.


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


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


Education Support Professionals Week Photo Albums:


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



Sweat, dirt and laughter during Thurgood Marshall’s annual Day of Service


Sweat, dirt and laughter during Thurgood Marshall’s Day of Service

Hundreds of Thurgood Marshall Middle School students made the community a little brighter this spring as part of the school’s annual Day of Service.


This was the first time that students have been able to take the project out into the community after two years of pandemic-related closures and cancellations. Students were divided into nearly 20 teams and visited locations throughout Olympia completing outdoor projects such as planting native plants, removing invasive species, clearing trails, garden maintenance and more. Some students also did service projects on campus.


Eighth grader Hailey Damerow worked with a team in the middle school’s garden to transplant 300 plants and build five garden beds. “It is really beneficial and rewarding for us to be able to work on all these tasks,” she said. “After we were finished I felt a lot of satisfaction. In one day we got a lot of work done. I loved seeing the garden get cleaned up.”


The day of service was inspired by the principles of Martin Luther King Jr.’s message that life’s most persistent question is 'What are you doing for others?' said Principal Condee Wood. ”We believe that happiness comes from being part of something bigger than ourselves,” she said. “Middle school years are important formative years where identities are shaped. We believe that students who feel connected to their community, and engage with the community, stay engaged.”


In previous years, the Day of Service has included activities at the food bank, senior center and retirement homes. This year, the theme was environment, climate justice and food security.


The goal of this year's Day of Service was to engage students in the service of our environment. “We are not just asking and discussing the issues of water quality, state of our ecosystems or climate change; we are doing something about it,” Wood said. “Solutions-based education matters because it allows students to be agents of change. It opens the opportunity for students to have agency in the challenges our local communities face.”


A total of 450 students from Thurgood Marshall participated in the project with 65 staff and 20 parent volunteers. Students from Capital High and McLane Elementary schools also chipped in. The team planted a total of 1,000 ferns and 400 potted native plants, and cleared acres of invasive species.


“This is an incredible opportunity for our students to see that they have power to act as change agents, that what they do matters,” said Tom Condon, a teacher at Thurgood Marshall who helped facilitate the project. “If our planet is going to survive, our children need to know that each of them can contribute to the fight against climate change. This starts now, and it will continue throughout all of our lifetimes.”



Thousands of pages read for annual Battle of the Books


Thousands of pages read for annual Battle of the Books

March is that special time each year when in classrooms, on school buses and in homes throughout Olympia, children’s noses are buried deep into books. Students in elementary and middle schools prepare vigorously for the annual Battle of the Books event by reading up to 10 books and memorizing important details in order to participate in a gameshow-style trivia competition.


It all began in middle schools

Participation in Battle of the Books began with Reeves Middle School around the year 2000. Teacher-librarian Christie Budsby enjoyed it so much that she called Washington Middle School's teacher-librarian Mary Mathis to join them in a cross-district books battle the following year. She thought it would be fun if students from the two schools had a chance to interact before becoming classmates at Olympia High School. So, the next year, each of these two schools participated in Battle of the Books and pitted their winning teams against each other. The winning school gets the honor of having their name engraved on a trophy that remains on site until a new school takes the top spot. The next year, the Washington team traveled to Reeves for the competition, and they have been alternating their location each year. Soon, Thurgood Marshall and Jefferson middle schools joined in the fun, and the tradition has continued ever since. Even neighboring Griffin Middle School has participated for a few years. Thurgood Marshall Middle School has retained the championship title the past two years.


High schools find a small following

Somewhere around 2012, a senior decided to put together a high school level Battle of the Books for a culminating project. Students did all the work to contact other schools and organize the questions. The number of participants is smaller in high school; however, it’s a loyal crowd and there has been a battle every year since.


More elementary schools form battles each year

More and more elementary schools throughout the district adopt their own Battles of the Books each year. Students in each classroom compete to determine a classroom team, then the grade levels compete to choose the top team in each grade level.


Centennial Elementary has had a Battle of the Books for as long as teacher-librarian Heather Slater can remember. She appreciates seeing students grow excited about books from diverse genres. “It's just fun to see students pick books they wouldn't normally choose on their own and then end up loving it,” Slater said. “I also enjoy watching teams grow and work together and the rich conversations that come from reading the same books.”


At Roosevelt Elementary, the annual battle began about five years ago. “Most kids are very excited about it, and the anticipation grows as the competition goes on,” said Roosevelt teacher-librarian Jean Schuna. In non-Covid years, all of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes, as well as parents, come to the final battle held in the gym. This year we will battle in the library without an audience, but possibly live-stream it into classrooms.”


At Pioneer Elementary, students read about 15 books before participating in the battle. The grand finale occurs during spring conference week. “We have read books which have taken us all over the globe,” said teacher-librarian Annette McQueen. “This is a beloved annual event. We plan to continue the tradition and ‘Battle on!’”


At ORLA Montessori, students in grades three, four and five have participated in Battle of the Books each spring for the past several years. Students read 10 books from a selection of 18.


At McLane Elementary, fourth and fifth graders battle from December to March each year. McLane Elementary teacher librarian Joan Moore told us she began her battle after hearing about it from a colleague at McKenny. As the word spreads, more and more students are finding themselves involved. And whether it’s the spirit of competition or the draw of a good story, it doesn’t matter so much as it does that the kids are reading. 



OSD Community Webinar: Equity Policy Development


OSD Community Webinar: Equity Policy Development

The community is invited to a one-hour Zoom webinar on Wednesday, April 13, 2022 to learn about work underway to develop and implement an OSD Equity Policy.


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


The Olympia School District is committed to creating an equitable school district that serves ALL students well. As part of that commitment, the district is developing and implementing an Equity Policy that will include procedures and accountability measures.


The policy will be developed collaboratively in partnership with the community to ensure a more inclusive school and work culture that promotes equity and addresses systemic and institutional barriers that have historically marginalized students, staff and families.


Superintendent Patrick Murphy will be joined in the webinar by some members of an Equity Policy Steering Committee made up of students, staff, families and community partners.


After a brief introduction, Superintendent Murphy and panelists 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]. Learn more about our Equity Policy Development on the school district website.


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


April 13, 2022 Zoom details:


Please follow this link to join the webinar:


Or One tap mobile:

US: +12532158782,,88643425194# or +13462487799,,88643425194#


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 +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 558 8656


Webinar ID: 886 4342 5194


International numbers available: 



OSD CTE and Robotics teams make national and international news


OSD CTE and Robotics teams make national and international news

It’s a busy and exciting spring season for robotics and Career and Technical Education (CTE) students at both Olympia and Capital high schools.


Olympia HS students to visit NASA

At Olympia, students in Andrew Woodridge’s design and fabrication class earned a trip to Houston, Texas to present a project design to NASA as part of the NASA HUNCH program. Using a 3D printer and magnets, the students designed a replica of the International Space Station that can be used as a museum display.


NASA’s Design and Prototyping HUNCH Program is a way for students of all skill levels to develop innovative solutions to problems posed by life on the International Space Station. Many of the projects are items personally requested by the International Space Station crew to help ease living conditions aboard the station, giving students the opportunity to really make an impact on the lives of astronauts.


Students partner with mentors at NASA Research Centers across the country to develop their designs. The best are chosen to present at a design review. The final winners may get an opportunity to see their designs created and used by NASA.


“During this trip the goal, of course, is to be chosen as the winner but more importantly, the goal is for students in Olympia to have the opportunity to see firsthand the kinds of jobs that could be available to them beyond high school,” said Paula Perryman, district CTE instructional coach. “Exposing students to these types of events opens the world of their peers in a way that they can only imagine when sitting in a classroom. Career and Technical Education's whole purpose is to prepare students for their post secondary lives.”


Perryman will serve as a chaperone for the students traveling to Houston. “The students attending will certainly come home with a new appreciation of the world beyond the classroom and the kinds of things people do for a living,” she said. “I think that all the students who participated will have a new understanding of the careers that might be available to them via a STEM pathway. Computer Science is not just coding, there is so much more and beyond that can interest all types of people."


Capital and OHS students invited to Egypt

The Olympia Robotics Federation (ORF), a combination of students from throughout the district, competed this month in Auburn, WA and won the prestigious "Technology Innovation Award" for its hard work in starting and supporting a First Lego League robotics team in Cairo, Egypt. The students have been working together to mentor their counterparts in Egypt for much of the school year.


Future plans for the partnership involve possibly traveling to Egypt to train Egyptian staff and students in the next level of robotics (metal based bots).


Four representatives from team ORF will compete for the next level of the Technology Innovation Award at the Pacific Northwest Regional Championship. If they win the award there, the team will head to the World Championship to compete for the "Technology Innovation Award" with their robot.


“Our goal in this partnership is to give the opportunity to students who live in underprivileged communities across the world to learn STEM skills while having fun,” said teacher Brenda Dietrich. “So far we have learned how important communication is in our lives. With any language barriers, despite how minute or significant they are, understanding how to work around them has been a challenge. We are learning more about the Arabic language and culture throughout our discussions, as well as sharing American culture with them. As a team, we have taught programming, what Robotics is, and the concept of using gracious professionalism and teamwork to create a solution to modern problems.”



Olympia School District winter season state champions


Olympia School District winter season state champions

OSD schools have captured at least five high school state championships in Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) and other statewide competitions so far this season. Choir events will take place in April.


Olympia High School

  • In boys basketball, the varsity team was named academic state champions with a combined 3.786 GPA while also taking 3rd place in the WIAA state.
  • In boys swimming, senior Tony Ponomarev won a state championship in the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 50.27 seconds.
  • In the Knowledge Bowl, the OHS team won the state championship.
  • Olympia senior Asher Coppin was named the WSWCA Wrestling Academic State Champion in the 132 lb weight class.


Capital High School

  • In debate, junior Rahma Gaye won the state championship with her speech, “What’s in a Name?” The speech talks about her experience of being a young Black Muslim woman in America and the need for more positive representation. To learn more about Gaye, see the story above in this newsletter.
  • In pom, the Capital Cougarettes took the state championship.


Read more about the state events on the WIAA website.



Meet our school board student representatives


Meet our school board student representatives

Each year, two high school juniors or seniors are selected to serve as student representatives on the Olympia School Board. The students serve in an advisory capacity at board meetings and do not vote. They contribute to discussion by providing student insight and are encouraged to comment about policies, procedures and decisions that affect students. They also serve as a liaison for student leadership at their schools and report to fellow students about the work of the board and district activities.


Student representatives are selected by their high schools on a rotating basis each spring to serve on the board for the following school year. In even-numbered years, selecting high schools are Capital High School and the Olympia Regional Learning Academy. In odd-numbered years, selecting schools are Avanti High School and Olympia High School.


This year’s student representatives are Olympia High School senior Matthew Scott and Avanti High School senior Michelle Pineda.


In addition to serving as a board student representative, Scott also is the student body president at Olympia High School. He plays soccer and participates in the Honor Society.


“I thought one of the best ways to get involved with the school would be to become a student board rep and try to hopefully shape policies that can benefit my classmates,” Scott said.


“It’s made me a lot more aware of what’s happening at school,” Scott said. “When I hear students talk about things, I can give a different perspective to bridge the gap between the administration and what we do here on the ground. A lot of times there will be a reason for something the district does that’s really not clear to the students at school, and hopefully I can help clarify some of those. I think it gave me a new perspective that I didn’t have before.”


One thing that surprised Scott was how quiet board meetings often are. “I guess the only time you really hear about school board meetings is when something goes wrong."


Michelle Pineda, a senior at Avanti High School, was appointed to her position as board representative in March. Prior to that, Avanti junior Taz McBeth served in the role for about six months.


“I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to practice life skills and learn more about the community,” Pineda said.


During her time as a student board representative, Pineda hopes to have a voice in the district’s equity work. “My goal is to contribute to trying to create and pass forward the equity policy that everyone is talking about,” she said. Pineda also serves on the Equity Policy Steering Committee.


The board will begin accepting applications for student representatives for the 2022-23 school year in May. Details will be posted on the district website.



Carolyn Gilman named OSD Teacher of the Year


Carolyn Gilman named OSD Teacher of the Year

Olympia High School English teacher Carolyn Gilman glows with such vibrant enthusiasm that the people around her are easily swept into her force field.


That enthusiasm, channeled into her teaching, is part of what led to Gilman being named as Olympia School District Teacher of the Year for 2022.


“Ms. Gilman provides so much more than the typical English teacher with her deep understanding of the literature we read to the thought-provoking and nuanced conversations she starts in class,” said freshman Jules Blakely. “She has created a magical, safe space for eager learners. Her room is a great place to be, and her class is my favorite part of the day.”


Students tend to open up and share their personal thoughts with their peers during class discussions about literature and writing, Gilman said. “I want them to feel connected to each other and to feel like this is a safe space for sharing their ideas about literature. In talking about literature, you’re talking about real life things and that can be a little scary so I want them to make friends in the class and make connections with each other.”


Each day in Gilman’s class begins with a discussion question. During a recent unit on Romeo and Juliet, students shared their beliefs about love at first sight. Discussion questions often lead to students sharing about themselves and their families. At times, students have revealed difficult areas in which they need help. Gilman directs those students to the proper resources.


“Mrs. Gilman is a fun, compassionate teacher who has so much love for what she does,” said freshman Annabell Davis-Bloom. “She makes her class a comfortable, engaging learning environment. Her continued compassion and support sets her apart from other teachers. I and many other students find her classroom a safe space where we can not only learn and ask questions but bring up problems in our communities for them to be followed by a conversation full of solutions. From being in Mrs.Gilman's class I haven't just grown my skills in the subject but I've also grown to love it more. Mrs.Gilman brings her classroom together to build a community where growth isn't just possible but is guaranteed.”


In addition to teaching classes, Gilman has facilitated some unique and inspired projects and clubs over her 20 years at OHS. Students have had opportunities to participate in the literary magazine, poetry club, novel-writing club, monthly open mic events and creative coffeehouse events. There was even a time when students participated in a poetry slam club that competed in downtown Olympia. The literary magazine, which Gilman serves as an advisor for, has received national recognition.


“Mrs. Gilman is an inspiring mentor, and she has helped me to find my voice as both a writer and a leader. I am incredibly grateful for that, and for the creative safe space that she has built for her students,” said senior Fiona Whitaker, an editor for the literary magazine.


Gilman gives her students the feeling that she is walking beside them. She devours new literature, reads many of the same books, and writes regularly. Her poem “Driving Home from Spokane” was published in WA129, an anthology of Washington poets that received a Washington state book award in 2018.


“I think you have to be really passionate about what you’re teaching, and you have to care about it and you have to do it too,” Gilman said. “Whenever you ask students to complete a task, you have to model what you want them to do and you have to really care. You can’t get kids excited about something if you’re not excited about it. You’ve got to be enthusiastic and tell them what the value is and then just encourage them and coach them along the way.”


Students who have dreams of becoming a writer someday are in a perfect place in Gilman’s class. But all students, regardless of their future aspirations, benefit from English class, Gilman said. “Being able to talk about your ideas and express yourself in writing translates to all other disciplines. Thinking about your own experience and writing about your experience helps you understand other people as well.”



Upcoming Events


  • April 4-8: Spring Break - No School
  • April 13: 50 Minute Early Release
  • April 13: Community Webinar; Equity Policy Development: 6-7 p.m.
  • April 14: OSD Board Meeting in-person and online via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.
  • April 18-22: Public School Volunteer Week
  • April 20: 50 Minute Early Release
  • April 20: Balanced Calendar CAC Zoom Meeting: 6-7:30 p.m.
  • April 27: 50 Minute Early Release    
  • April 28: 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.