May 2022



Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District families,


Patrick Murphy headshot

We are in the home stretch, and it is the time of the school year to give a special thank you and fond farewell to the graduating seniors of the Class of 2022. Maybe like my family, you have a graduate of your own in this year’s class. Because of COVID-19, each class over the last couple of years has faced monumental challenges and heartbreak. And while the pandemic is not over just yet, in many ways, this graduating class leaves our schools with more hope, resilience and abilities that strengthen my belief that we will emerge from this crisis stronger and better. They say necessity is the mother of invention and that adversity breeds character. Goodness knows that this group of graduates had to adapt to new ways of doing things and navigate troubles and trauma like few before them.


Each year at this time, I have the great joy to sit down for exit interviews with some of our graduating seniors. If you have not done this, I encourage you to reach out to one of our local high schools to participate sometime in the future. It is a life-affirming and hope building exercise.


Whether it is Avanti, Capital, Olympia, ORLA, or our Transition Academy and Project Search; you will find graduates with goals and dreams and plans as unique and impressive as the students themselves. This year was no exception, but I sensed an air of wisdom and discernment with the grads I spoke with this year that seemed more elevated. It was as if they were fully aware that they are leaving school and going out into a rapidly changing world that they will likely shape and define more quickly than any generation before them. They know that change is inevitable, and can and should be good. And they also understand, thanks to technology, that the pace of change has never been faster.


For those, like me, who grew up at a time when things seemed slower, more predictable, perhaps even more innocent; this future of sudden change can be nerve-racking, worrisome and cause us to feel unstable. And yet, what I heard from my interviewees was not a desire to slow down, or get off the freeway at the next exit. On the contrary, I heard them talk about the great benefit of living today, of the endless possibilities, and how we now have the means to make a meaningful difference, more quickly, to better the lives of all people, who need it now.


A Capital High graduate shared with me that space exploration opens up so many opportunities for his generation. When I asked if that meant that he might want to be an astronaut or explorer, he smiled and said, “No, I intend to practice Space Law.”  He’d already researched the best universities and gained admission to be at the forefront of this new field. I spoke to a graduate from the Freedom Farm program at Olympia High who shared with me how his love for music and keen interest in botany and organic medicine was driving him to pursue a science career to wipe out the scorn of opiate addiction that has particularly plagued the entertainment industry. Another shared that they will run their own construction business but will earn a degree in accounting so they are not reliant on others to keep the books and better ensure their financial success. Some shared their intention to live and study overseas, to serve their country in the military, enter the field of health and medicine as doctors, nurses and therapists, or work to save the environment.


In each instance, there was an optimism in their stories, and a desire to serve others; a beautiful contrast to the stories that too often fill the news and social media. They were not pollyanna, nor were they deceiving themselves into thinking that great challenges do not lie ahead. What they all seemed to have, in different ways, was a belief that they have agency; that they, more than anyone else, determine their own destiny.


This mindset going into the future will serve them well. It is a reflection not just on them, but their families, their teachers and friends. Congratulations Class of 2022 and thank you for inspiring and shining light on the path to a better future.



Patrick Murphy Signature
Patrick Murphy



Roosevelt’s Spencer Olmsted named a finalist in national award


Roosevelt’s Spencer Olmsted named a finalist in national award

Spencer Olmsted, a 16-year veteran teacher who has taught 4th and 5th grade at Roosevelt Elementary School for six years, is one of four Washington State teachers in the running for one of the nation’s most prestigious teaching awards – the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST). He was nominated for the honor by a former Roosevelt student. Following his nomination, Olmsted undertook a rigorous process to complete a portfolio of his work.


Anyone who observes Olmsted’s classroom can quickly see why his teaching will catch the attention of our nation’s education leaders. It’s not easy to keep the rapt attention of a roomful of 10- and 11-year-olds during a regular mathematics lesson on story problems. Olmsted’s students aren’t listening and taking notes. They are pondering, strategizing, digging deep into their memory banks, looking for loopholes, and sometimes even arguing. It’s all encouraged.


“Mr. Olmsted encourages us to take things to the next level and so that’s what we do,” fourth grader Lara Choi said.


Today’s lesson, like most of those in Olmsted’s classroom, is about developing higher-level thinking skills. These students are problem-solving, and they are approaching the task with the vigilance of courtroom lawyers. A few students, brimming with confidence, challenged the facts of the story problem itself. Some came up with solutions so far out of left field, the textbook author themself wouldn’t have predicted or prepared for them.


This is a really difficult problem, Olmsted empathized with his students. But the most difficult problems bring forth the greatest rewards. What would be more rewarding, he asked, walking up a hill in the neighborhood, or summiting the peak of Mount Rainier?


“I have found the analogy of exploring a mountainous terrain useful as I explain to students the mindset I’m looking to cultivate,” Olmsted said. “Math exposes truth and beauty about our world and there is great satisfaction in doing hard work. There are also wild places that we know we may not be ready for just yet.


“When we’re doing rich problem-solving, sometimes we end up in unfamiliar places,” Olmsted continued. “We’re going to need to be brave and take some chances. We need to look around and see what’s useful. Then we can talk about what we’ve discovered and see if the pieces start to come together. Venturing into the unknown can be scary, but with practice, students develop confidence in taking this on. And if we get to the top of the mountain, the feeling just can’t be beat.”


After about 20 minutes, the students were yet to find the solution to the story problem. What the students had gained were lessons on approaches to problem-solving that they will likely carry with them into all areas of their lives for years to come.


Ultimately, Olmsted decided to set the problem aside for a while. One can’t train to climb Mount Rainier all in one day. Sleep on it, Olmsted suggested. Sometimes, when we allow our minds to rest momentarily from the most perplexing problems, the solution arises during a moment of quiet and calm. Practical advice for problem-solvers of any age.


Although the solution to the problem wasn’t discovered that day, students did learn something far more valuable. Their minds are the most powerful tools they have. Learning how to engage with others, how to think and persist, and how to connect the pieces, are some of the most valuable skills a young mind can develop.


The students came back to the problem a couple of days later and still needed help. “That’s ok though; there’s a lesson here,” Olmsted said. “Sometimes we get stuck thinking the answers are beyond us when really they’re just within our reach. This is another one of the really important takeaways from problem-solving.”


“My absolute favorite part about teaching is the moment when new understanding is formed in the minds of students - they just light up,” Olmsted said. “Learning really is a profound process. It changes how people see themselves and how they see the world. It’s not just about math, but math does happen to be a wonderful playground for learning.”


Roosevelt is truly lucky to have Olmsted teaching here, said Principal Sean Shaughnessy. "Mr. Olmsted has worked hard through his career to meet the individual learning needs of the students he serves every day. He has a deep knowledge of his students and uses observational assessment in a way that allows him to flexibly respond to the needs of each student and provide immediate feedback that regularly drives learning forward,” Shaughnessy said. “Thank you, Spencer, for always keeping the needs of students at the forefront of your work. Roosevelt Elementary School and the Olympia School District are great places to work and learn because of dedicated teachers like you."


Can you solve the riddle that perplexed Olmsted’s students? Check it out hereOpening in a new window. Stumped? Here’s the solutionOpening in a new window.



Join us for May 31 District Celebration webinar


Join us for May 31 District Celebration webinar

The community is invited to a one-hour “District Celebration” webinar on Tuesday, May 31, 2022. The webinar will be held from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom (see Zoom details below).


OSD students, staff, family members and community partners will be recognized for their contributions to schools and the community.


This District Celebration, which is planned to become an annual event, will be the last in a series of monthly webinars that are recorded and posted on the district website this year. Listen to past webinar recordings.


May 31, 2022 Zoom details:

Please follow this link to join the webinar: in a new window


Or One tap mobile:

+12532158782,,86109688541#  or +16699006833,,86109688541#


Or Telephone:

US: +1 253 215 8782  or +1 669 900 6833  or +1 346 248 7799  or +1 312 626 6799  or +1 646 558 8656  or +1 301 715 8592


Webinar ID: 861 0968 8541


International numbers available: in a new window



Record number of twins graduating from Olympia schools this year


Record number of twins graduating from Olympia schools this year

It’s double the fun for many OSD families this June at graduation time. This year, a record number of twins will be graduating -- a total of 40 students. That’s more than double the number of twins that traditionally graduate in a given year, said Carrie Blackwell, director of student information and assessment.


Twenty of this year’s graduating twins have attended Olympia Schools all the way from kindergarten through their senior year.


At McKenny Elementary School, Principal Michael Havens said it’s been a special place for twins. Eight of this year’s graduating twins got to share the experience of being a twin with several classmates from McKenny, through Washington Middle School, and then to Olympia High School. They also got to share the experience with at least one of their teachers. Third grade teacher Monica Lloyd is also a twin.


“Being an identical twin myself, I always love having twins in my class,” Lloyd said. “I get to connect with them about the joys and challenges of being a twin, from people confusing ‘which one you are’ to always having a best friend who looks and sounds like you do."


Carley Johnson, a senior at Olympia High School, has noticed over the years that she and her twin are two of a large number of twins in her classes at school. “In the Olympia School District, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a very unique and extraordinary community of twins,” Carley said. “My sister and I have been together and shared so many unforgettable moments through this community. Some may think that being twins makes us very similar, but we have many different interests and dreams.”


After graduation, Carley will attend cosmetology school at Gene Juarez Academy. Her twin sister, Brooke, will study business and accounting at Washington State University.


“Having a twin is like having a forever best friend – someone you can always count on and someone who will be with you forever,” Brooke said. “Being a twin in school was always a blast, as I never had to worry about going to school alone, not knowing who to sit with at lunch, or who to sit next to on the bus ride home. Being a twin is a unique experience within a school, especially within the same classroom. Being a twin wasn’t anything unusual in our graduating class, as we have many twins. However, that doesn’t dwindle its specialty.”


Having a twin at school is like having a built-in best friend to share memories, motivate each other and share struggles, said Capital High School senior Hannah Halvorson.


“Having a twin to go through school with has helped me grow both academically and overall! I have enjoyed spending time with her and the friends we have made throughout my schooling,” said Capital HS senior Lily Halvorson, Hannah’s twin.


There are pros and cons to attending school as a twin, said Halvorson, Lily and Hannah’s father. “It can be both wonderful and challenging. Having someone to share experiences with, who is also having them at the same time is unique and provides helpful insight into what you are going through. It can also be challenging because people love to compare and it can be hard to develop an identity separate from your twin. Overall, I think both the challenging and amazing experiences make them stronger as individuals. I am so thankful OSD did not make decisions about whether twins should be together or separate in classes. Allowing them to figure out what worked best for their needs was a gift.”


Olympia High School seniors and twins Andrew and Dylan McDougall attended the same schools growing up, but were usually placed in separate classrooms at their mom’s request.


“Growing up as twins you really have to learn how to share everything, mainly the spotlight,” Julie McDougall said. “One thing I purposefully tried to do is put the boys in different teachers' classrooms. I wanted them to be looked at and thought of as individuals, not a set. The OSD was always accommodating with this and I really appreciate it. Even though Andrew and Dylan share many interests, they really do feel they were treated as individuals."


Jacob and Joshua Wodka, twins who are seniors at Olympia High School, both reported that having a twin meant always having a best friend.


“Growing up with my twin has always been a blessing even if we don’t see it every day,” Joshua said. “Having him by my side provides me with a permanent friend at all times. It’s great to have that support system accessible throughout the day, as well as knowing there’s always someone around who had my back and kept me accountable. I’m forever grateful to have grown up with my twin, and Olympia will always be home for us.”


“Being a twin is unique in that I always have someone with me,” Jacob said. “Growing up and having a friend always there for you is the best part of being a twin. Olympia is a deep and rooted community and I’m glad to have grown up here alongside my twin brother.”


Karli and Konnor Kooi, twins who are seniors at Olympia High School, found that having a twin helped motivate them to be high achievers. The twins attended Boston Harbor Elementary, Olympia Regional Learning Academy, Reeves Middle School and Olympia High School. Both are graduating this year with Honors from OHS. Karli is also graduating with a pre-nursing Associate’s Degree with Highest Honors from South Puget Sound Community College through Running Start. Konnor will attend Western Washington University as a Computer Science Distinguished Scholar. Karli will attend Pacific Lutheran University as a Harstad Founder’s Scholar to study nursing.




Class of 2022 Graduation Information


Class of 2022 Graduation Information

It's officially that time of year again and the Olympia School District Class of 2022 is preparing for upcoming graduation festivities! Below you will find details for all five of our graduations for the Class of 2022. Included is the date, time, location and links to the Facebook event posting (which will include a live stream option) for each graduation:


Avanti High School

Date: Saturday, June 4
Time: 1 - 4 p.m.

Location: Avanti High School

Facebook: AHS Graduation Event PostingOpening in a new window


Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA)

Date: Wednesday, June 8

Time: 6 - 8 p.m.

Location: Indian Summer Country Club
Facebook: ORLA Graduation Event PostingOpening in a new window


Transition Academy & Project Search

Date: Friday, June 10

Time: 6 - 7:30 p.m.

Location: Capital High School Performing Arts Center (PAC)

Facebook: Transition Academy/Project Search Graduation Event PostingOpening in a new window


Capital High School

Date: Friday, June 17

Time: 7 - 10 p.m.

Location: St. Martin's University (Marcus Pavilion)
Facebook: CHS Graduation Event PostingOpening in a new window


Olympia High School

Date: Friday, June 21

Time: 7 - 10 p.m.

Location: St. Martin's University (Marcus Pavilion)

Facebook: OHS Graduation Event PostingOpening in a new window


To view the live stream of any graduation (listed above) simply visit the Olympia School District Facebook pageOpening in a new window during the listed date/time. Once the live stream has ended the entirety of the recorded graduation ceremony will be available for any interested in viewing at a later date. We hope you tune in!



Avanti partners with Walk-N-Roll to offer bicycle safety PE class


Avanti partners with Walk-N-Roll to offer bicycle safety PE class

This Spring, Avanti High School students in Physical Education (PE) are participating in a bike and pedestrian safety education program through a partnership with Intercity Transit’s Earn-A-Bike classOpening in a new window. Students are learning safe habits on the road and are provided with bikes, helmets and basic bicycle care tools. After successfully completing the program, students may choose to keep their bikes.


For the first several weeks of class, students studied traffic rules related to pedestrians, bicycles and automobiles. They practiced routine bicycle maintenance tasks and practiced skills to walk safely, gain experience riding a bicycle and learn how to safely cross an intersection on foot.


On a recent sunny day, about 20 Avanti students finally set out onto the streets. Riding in a neat line and dressed in bright layers of neon yellow and orange, the students were confident and capable as they steered onto the streets of downtown Olympia. Avanti teacher Nikki Winkley, along with representatives from Walk-N-RollOpening in a new window, took up the front and the rear of the group.


“Walking and bike riding are types of lifelong physical activity, as well as a great way for students to rely less on others to take them where they want to go,” Winkley said.


The bicycle class idea was initially inspired because Winkley had to get creative about PE offerings while the Avanti High School gymnasium was under construction. As it turned out, students were thrilled with the course offering. Many participants said they would take the class again if it were offered, and that they preferred it to more traditional PE offerings.


“This is a pretty good class, the kids seem to enjoy it. It’s nice getting exercise and not having to sit indoors all day,” said Avanti sophomore Onyx Shiverdecker.


Avanti senior Jullian Rudy added, “It’s a really good skill to know how to ride on the road. I wasn’t really sure about the rules and how to bike on the road, how fast to go or what to do. It’s a lot of the same rules as when you’re driving, but I just wouldn’t have thought about that before.”


While participating in the program, students can leave their bikes at the school or take them home. “I’ve been taking my bike home and I’ve been riding it a lot more often than I thought I would,” Jullian said. “A lot of the time when I’m just looking for something to decompress, it’s nice to just get outside and ride the bike.”


Learning to ride on the road is also giving students skills they can use to lessen their impact on the environment, Onyx said. Besides learning how to operate a bicycle on public roadways, Onyx is impressed to see how seamlessly the crowd of students on bikes work together.


“It’s great how well we can work in a group without actually having any experience just staying in the group and following the leaders,” they said, chuckling. “We’ve only had one accident and it was very small and in a controlled environment. No one’s gotten hurt.”


“This has been an amazing experience,” Winkley said. “Students are learning a lot about themselves, their surrounding community, and building confidence. This has the potential for a lot of amazing opportunities for our students moving forward. We are excited and could not have done this without A Puri, Sam Gacad-Cowan and Kerri Wilson from Walk-N-Roll.



OSD Ice Cream Social honors retirees and advocates


OSD Ice Cream Social honors retirees and advocates

The Annual Olympia School District Ice Cream Social took place on Monday, May 23 in the Olympia High School commons. This was the first time the social has taken place in person in three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was an absolute delight to see all the smiling faces in person and recognize and celebrate employees and guests!


Once the ice cream was distributed and folks took their seats, the Olympia School Board honored dedicated staff members who are retiring this year. An advocate of the year from each of our schools was also recognized, and the Olympia Education Association (OEA) announced and recognized a Teacher of the Year and two Gary Brown Award winners.


Ken Joling, Capital High School IB coordinator and teacher, received the OEA Teacher of the Year Award. Tim Brewer, Washington Middle School social studies teacher, and Mel Smith, president of the OEA-AAA, received the Gary Brown Award.


OSD retirees stood to be recognized with individual speeches read by the board. Certificates and hand-crafted pens made by Washington Middle School students in Brian Morris’s Marketing and Manufacturing class were also handed out to each retiree. Although we will miss all of those retiring, we wish them the best in their new adventures and are glad for the opportunity to honor them in person.


A surprise presentation was made by Superintendent Patrick Murphy, who announced that beginning this year, the annual advocate award (presented to a volunteer from each OSD school) will be named the “Laurie Dolan School Advocate of the Year Award.” The award is in honor of educator and Washington State Representative Laurie Dolan of the 22nd Legislative District, who was in attendance and shared some remarks.


The Ice Cream Social was live-streamed on the OSD Facebook page and numerous photos were also taken during the event. You can view the photos and video linked below:




Register for Summer School


Register for Summer School

Summer school registration is now available for Olympia School District Elementary, Middle and High School students.


For additional information visit the OSD Summer School webpage.



Elementary and Middle School students study theater and see a live show


Elementary and Middle School students study theater and see a live show

Thanks in part to a grant from the Olympia School District Education FoundationOpening in a new window (OSDEF), many students from Garfield Elementary, Centennial Elementary, Hansen Elementary and Jefferson Middle School participated in a focused study of theater this spring, culminating in a field trip to Capital High School to view the student performance of “Matilda.”


Through the years, OSDEF has supported various efforts to make the performing arts more accessible to students throughout the school district. Past efforts included bringing performers into schools for assemblies and bringing students into the community to see live performances at HarlequinOpening in a new window, the Washington Center for the Performing ArtsOpening in a new window and local high schools.


A couple of months ago, Capital High School theatre teacher Kristina Cummins submitted a Creativity and the Arts Grant Request to OSDEF seeking support for a special school day matinee performance of "Matilda" for elementary students on May 13. The event was a hit, as the theme of “Matilda” was perfectly age-appropriate for an elementary audience, Cummins said. Prior to the performance, students worked with a study guide that was created specially for the event.


“When I was in 2nd grade, my entire class was bused to the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium in California to see Temple City High School's production of Carousel,” Cummins said. “I attribute this single moment as the beginning of my passion and love of theatre. It has been really important for me to make this opportunity available to younger students. In years past we've had students come to Capital to see Seussical, The Addam's Family, and Grease.”



District Band Festival coming up on June 15


District Band Festival coming up on June 15

Bands from throughout the Olympia School District will work together to perform a districtwide band festival at 7 p.m. on June 15 at the Olympia High School Ingersoll Stadium. The public is invited to attend the event, which is free of charge and will take place outdoors.


Approximately 600 band students in grades 5 through 12 are expected to perform. Band teachers who will help conduct the event include Erik Curley, Maggie Curley, Jessica Ewing, Randy Grostick, Keith Holder and Tony Nguyen.


The band festival - the first of what organizers hope becomes a yearly tradition - has been nearly a year in the making. Students will play a combination of instruments to include flutes, oboes, bassoon, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, French horns, euphoniums, tubas, trombones and a variety of percussion instruments.



Garfield installs a sensory path with help from Olympia HS class


Garfield installs a sensory path with help from Olympia HS class

Students at Garfield Elementary School have a fun and unique way to get some sensory stimulation between classwork now, thanks to the efforts of Olympia High School fabrication and design students.


A sensory path in the main hallway includes printouts on the floor guiding students to stretch, leap, twirl and hop. Students can use the path with teacher permission any time they need a sensory break. Teachers may also take their classrooms on field trips to the path to provide a change of scenery and some exercise. The sensory path can also be connected to classroom lessons.


“We’ve known for years that kids benefit when they are connecting the gross motor with prompts and directions. Having some kind of physical activity connecting their brains and their bodies has this really huge advantage for kids,” said Garfield Principal Brendon Chertok.


“For all of the students it has almost this meditative function to it, where you really focus on a task when it requires mind and body working together and it brings a calm and a competence to the students,” Chertok said. “It’s a fun activity, and it’s also something that helps them increase their agility and their control over their bodies which is really great.”


Olympia High School students created the path after putting together several proposals and then presenting them to a team from the district Student Support team.


“We were very impressed and had a hard time choosing,” said Suzanne Anthony, low vision specialist and assistive technology program specialist. Although the path was initially designed considering students with varying sensory needs, the path will be useful to the entire student population, Anthony said.


A variety of additional sensory friendly projects are in the planning stages at other schools throughout the district.



Complete the 2022-23 budget survey by June 3


Complete the 2022-23 budget survey by June 3

Each spring as the district plans the next school year’s budget, students, staff, parents/guardians and community members are asked to share their priorities for how the district should spend its local and state resources.


This year, we ask that participants complete several short sections of an online budget survey to help us plan for the 2022-23 school year. The deadline to complete the survey is 11:59 p.m. on Friday, June 3, 2022.


Please submit one survey per person.




Upcoming Events

  • June 1: 50 Minute Early Release
  • June 2: OSD Board work session with City of Olympia in-person and Zoom at 6 p.m.
  • June 4: Avanti High School Graduation from 1-4 p.m.
  • June 8: 50 Minute Early Release
  • June 8: ORLA Graduation from 6-8 p.m.
  • June 9: OSD Board Meeting in-person and online via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.
  • June 10: Elementary Conferences - Half Day (ES)
  • June 10: Transition Academy / Project Search Graduation from 6-7 p.m.
  • June 15: 50 Minute Early Release
  • June 15: OSD Band Festival from 6-7 p.m.    
  • June 17: Capital High School graduation from 7-10 p.m.
  • June 20: Juneteenth observed - No School
  • June 21: Olympia High School graduation from 7-10 p.m.
  • June 22: Last Day of School - Half Day
  • June 23: 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


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.