November 2022

Spotlight on Success header


Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District families,


Patrick Murphy headshot

As Thanksgiving approaches, it is always a good time to take stock of those things for which we are grateful. The 19th century English author Charles Dickens encouraged us to, “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”


We have much to be grateful for today in the Olympia School District. Our recent graduating Class of 2022 had a four-year on-time graduation rate of 91.3%, which is among the highest in the state. At the same time, it is important to note that finishing in four years might not be reasonable or even advisable for some. For a multilingual learner who arrives in our country during their high school years, graduating in five years may be much more appropriate. Health or family circumstances may be good reasons to extend time in high school for some students. Students receiving special services sometimes have plans of service through the age of 21. That is why we often look at our extended or 5-year graduation rate as another important measure. This year Avanti High School’s 5-year grad rate was 100%, a remarkable achievement that cannot be claimed by many.


We have enjoyed incredible music and drama performances and wonderful athletic achievements in our gyms, on our fields and in our swimming pools where Olympia HS sophomore Aoi Kondo won the 4A Girls State Diving Championship. As we continue our recovery from the last few years, slowly but surely our volunteers are coming back to our schools in larger numbers which has always been a critical piece of our school district’s success.


Yes, there continue to be challenges, like there always were and always will be. While our COVID numbers are at the lowest levels we’ve seen in a long, long time, other respiratory illnesses like flu and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) are causing their own challenges. As a reminder, many of the same measures that we implemented for mitigating COVID-19 spread (e.g., hand washing, not sharing utensils and cups, cleaning frequently used surfaces, and covering coughs/sneezes) have similar effectiveness for RSV and cold/flu according to the CDC. And flu shots are always a step we can take to better ensure we stay healthy. Our Thurston County partners offer many places to get that done.


It has been said many times in different ways, it’s not as important what happens to us, but rather how we respond to what happens. I know for me, it is too easy to get bogged down in worry and regrets. Focusing on the good and being thankful will pay dividends. Country singer Willie Nelson said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”


My life and my family’s took a wonderful turn when we arrived in Olympia nearly 6 years ago. I am grateful to serve all of you and wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving and joyous Holiday Season. 



Patrick Murphy Signature
Patrick Murphy



Salmon studies for Lincoln ES students at Kennedy Creek


Salmon studies for Lincoln ES students at Kennedy Creek

Last week Angela Hannah’s second/third grade classroom at Lincoln Elementary School took a field trip to Kennedy Creek in Olympia to study the spawning habits of chum salmon. This was the culmination of the classroom’s ongoing work with the Since Time Immemorial Curriculum honoring salmon.


In preparation for the field trip the class studied the life cycle of salmon in our region, the importance of healthy ecosystems, our impact on the environment and the vital impact of community members who work to protect the land and honor the ecosystems. Over the course of a few weeks students were treated to several guest speakers; Morgan Bond, Ph.D., a NOAA Fisheries Biologist, a researcher and an underwater photographer.


After spending time with all of these amazing classroom visitors, students were ready to get out and experience the excitement firsthand. "Any opportunity to expand our ways of knowing and connections to the world beyond our classroom walls is an opportunity worth taking!" said Hannah.


There were 17 parent/guardian volunteers who participated in the field trip, coordinating transportation to and from Kennedy Creek, while also serving as chaperones for students. Once everyone arrived on location the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail (KCST) docents took it from there. Over the course of the next two hours students experienced the beauty of the land and learned about the first inhabitants, whose relatives are still working today, to care for and preserve the ancestral land of the tribes in collaboration with the state and other community partners.


It was a breathtaking fall Washington day for an outdoor adventure. The sun was shining and even though the weather was chilly, it warmed up once the sun broke through the fog. The highlight of the field trip for many students was getting down to the creek itself, standing quietly (so they didn’t disturb the salmon) and watching the frenzy of activity taking place in the water just a few feet away. Hundreds of fish were present in the various bends of the creek, some fighting for territory, some clearing a “bed” for their eggs and others simply coming to the end of their life cycle once their journey and task was complete. One of the docents noted while viewing the activity in the creek that in all his time leading tours this was the best viewing opportunity he could remember. The water was clear, the sun was out and the fish were active. The timing was perfect.


According to the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group website, in any given year, the spawning salmon population can reach as high as 80,000 fish. Normally, the range is between 20,000 and 40,000. These spawning adults can produce approximately 30-60 million eggs annually; not all eggs will survive to become fry or even adults. Only two-to-three individual salmon will complete their natural life cycle and return to the natal stream where they were hatched. These dying fish and carcasses are a critical part of a salmon’s overall survival strategy.


This field trip connected the in-classroom work with the ‘Movers and Shakers’ schoolwide theme. Movers and Shakers relates the ongoing study and connection to social justice work. Throughout the year students have opportunities to learn from (and about) people and organizations working for the greater good. Later in the school year students will have the opportunity to engage in work that they themselves find meaningful.



Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail: Land Acknowledgement

Kennedy Creek is one of many ancestral areas of the Squaxin Island people. This area is also known as T-Peeksin after the band who lived along what is now called Totten Inlet since time immemorial. During the massive migrations of settlers to the area, the indigenous people here were removed from their longhouse villages and placed on Squaxin Island with the six other related bands who now make up the Squaxin Island Tribe. Much like the land itself, the Squaxins never forgot their identity or connection to this place, and through unimaginable hardship endured and continued to practice their culture and traditions as their ancestors had for millennia.


Today, the thriving Squaxin community partners with the state of Washington, working to ensure the beauty and resources of all of the ancestral areas of the tribe, are preserved for the coming generations. We thank the Squaxin people, past and present, for preserving this land so well and allowing our students to experience this unique learning opportunity. 



Thanksgiving and Winter Break schedule


Thanksgiving and Winter Break schedule

All Olympia School District schools and the Knox 111 Administrative Center will be closed to the public during Thanksgiving and Winter breaks.


  • Thanksgiving Break is from Wednesday, November 23 through Friday, November 25. School resumes on Monday, November 28. School and administrative offices also reopen November 28.
  • Winter Break is from Monday, December 19 through Monday, January 2. School resumes on Tuesday, January 3. School and administrative offices also reopen on January 3.


The Knox Administrative Office will be closed to the public throughout Thanksgiving and Winter breaks. Any deliveries should be made at the lower level of the Knox building, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia on business days (November 23, December 19-21 and December 27-29). Please plan ahead and contact staff before the closures if you need assistance.



Capital HS welcomes visiting Japanese students


Capital HS welcomes visiting Japanese students

Capital High School is finding unique opportunities to strengthen friendships and create engaging opportunities for cultural exchange and experience. CHS recently welcomed 29 ninth graders (and four chaperones) from Shukutoku Sugamo private school in Japan. After a lengthy 12-hour flight, the group arrived at SeaTac and spent the first few days sightseeing in Seattle and adjusting to the 17-hour time difference. The visiting students were thrilled to experience a day in the life of a typical American high school student.


This connection was made possible by Mika Katzer, Capital High School’s Japanese Language teacher. Katzer herself was an exchange student during her senior year of high school. That experience led her and her husband to coordinate a youth exchange program between her hometown in Japan and her husband's hometown of Elma, WA. The two have been running that program for the past 21 years. “It requires a lot of work, but the positive impact the exchange programs bring to all involved is tremendous and well worth it,” said Katzer. She began planning for the Shukutoku students a year ago. Each of the 15 families from the community hosted two Japanese students. Any host family without a CHS student was partnered with an at-school host student from Katzer’s Japanese classes.


The visiting students arrived at CHS shortly after 9 a.m. on a Friday (2:15 a.m. Saturday, in Tokyo) and were greeted by Katzer’s first period Japanese 2 class. Students made welcome posters to show hospitality to their guests and bowed to show respect upon meeting.


In Japan the exchange of gifts is not simply an act of or giving something to someone, it is an expression of gratitude — wishing for the happiness of the individual who receives that gift. CHS students offered their guests individually handcrafted tiles, painted to resemble the Washington State Capitol. In turn their guests offered a collection of small items from their country.


The Capital High cheer and football teams then performed choreographed dances to current American music. They shared the fight song representing Coug school unity and invited the visitors to attend the Spaghetti Bowl football game that night between Capital and Olympia high schools. This was followed by demonstrations of talents and hobbies from a few of the visiting students. One student demonstrated the artform of calligraphy, which reflects Japanese culture and aesthetics, while another showed his strength and skills in the most iconic of all the Japanese striking arts with a demonstration of Karate and Tameshiwari (board-breaking).


For the remainder of the school day the visiting students spent time with their CHS hosts; attending classes, eating lunch and navigating passing periods. Of course there were also opportunities to play games, take selfies and learn more about one another. Near the end of day Katzer shared a few comments that the visiting students had mentioned to her; “They really enjoyed visiting Capital High School,” Katzer said. “They said all the students and staff were very friendly and made them feel welcome. While they couldn’t understand all the classes they attended, they were very interested in the content. They loved the school pizza and even tried chocolate milk for the first time! One thing that they were surprised by was how much freedom students seem to have. Their school has a very strict dress code – they wear uniforms, and jewelry, makeup, manicures and hair dye are not allowed. Girls have to wear their hair up if their hair is longer than shoulder length.”


Their weekend was spent with host families exploring Olympia with many attending their first Friday night football game. Host families provided the visiting students with a glimpse into the Pacific Northwest visiting the Capitol building, checking out local parks, eating at a pizzeria, bowling and taking in some shopping at the mall. CHS junior Genoa Loertsher had this to say about his family's experience hosting; “Hosting was an amazing eye opening experience. For me and my family it was really interesting to learn about the different cultural customs that students practiced before eating, sleeping or greeting others. On top of the interesting bits of culture that we learned from him, it was also really exciting to show him what kinds of things we do in America and to see him get excited about things that have become so normal for us was a really cool experience. Overall hosting a student from Japan has made me more interested in cultures outside of my own. It makes me curious what it would be like to be in his shoes, to be introduced to another way of life and live like people on the other side of the world.”


Katzer openly shared her gratitude to those who helped make this trip possible; “I am very grateful for all of the host families opening up their homes for the weekend. All our visiting students mentioned that they really enjoyed the short stay with them. Being able to see my students interacting with the Japanese students was incredibly rewarding. It was a lot of work to organize this visit, but well worth it. I look forward to hosting another group in May.”


The trip was short, but the friendships and memories of the experiences will last a lifetime for everyone involved!



Guaranteed Admissions Program available for qualifying students

Guaranteed Admissions Program available for qualifying students

Olympia School District has partnered with the Guaranteed Admissions Program (GAP) and two private universities which provide increased opportunities to attend college. For the GAP program, juniors will receive information, and seniors who qualify will receive guaranteed admission letters for up to seven Washington state colleges and universities.


In order for colleges to send acceptance letters, students must give permission to release student information for the purpose of higher education through Skyward Family Access.


Participating colleges and universities include:


Guaranteed Admissions Program (Qualifying Juniors and Seniors)

  • Central Washington University (CWU)
  • Eastern Washington University (EWU)
  • The Evergreen State College (Evergreen)
  • Washington State University (WSU)
  • Western Washington University (WWU)


Private Institutions (Qualifying Seniors)

  • Pacific Lutheran University (PLU)
  • Saint Martin’s University (SMU)


For more information about each guaranteed admission opportunity, please visit the Guaranteed Admissions Program webpage on the district website.



Transitional Kindergarten Pilot launches in January


Transitional Kindergarten Pilot launches in January

We are excited to announce that Olympia School District (“OSD”) will offer a Transitional Kindergarten (“TK”) pilot this coming January 2023! TK provides free full-day schooling for students who have not participated in a regular early childhood program. This program is designed to support students who face barriers to future school success. Students can be eligible to participate in this program the spring semester prior to their kindergarten year.


The TK pilot will be located at Madison Elementary School and staffed by a teacher and paraprofessional using developmentally-appropriate curricula. There will be up to 18 students in the classroom. Applications are now being accepted from across the Olympia School District. Priority access will be given to eligible students from the Madison Elementary School attendance area.


The current anticipated start date for the TK pilot is January 9, 2023. If you are a parent who is interested in learning more or submitting an application for your child, please see the Parent Information section of this page and/or join us for one of our informational sessions (Nov. 29 & 30, and Dec. 1 & 6).


OSD's Transitional Kindergarten program is designed to meet the needs of students who have not had access to a regular early childhood program. Olympia School District is committed to non-competition with community-based regular early childhood programs. We invite Olympia-area providers to visit our website for more information about our program and to learn how to participate in coordinated enrollment.


OSD needs your help to shape TK in our district! If you are an Olympia parent, regular early childhood provider or community member, please consider participating in our TK Leadership Team. If you are interested, please complete the application form linked here. Feel free to contact Thomas Parnell (Assistant Director for Early Learning) or Domenico Spatola-Knoll (Principal at Madison) with questions about this team.


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OSD Transportation earns another perfect score!


OSD Transportation earns another perfect score!

Washington State Patrol inspects school buses in every school district in Washington state twice a year — a surprise inspection of part of the fleet in winter and a scheduled inspection of all buses during the summer. These bus inspections are like a school exam that is strictly pass or fail. A failure would result in a bus being removed from service. Olympia School District Transportation Department aced the test.


“It's important we provide the safest transportation out there for staff and students,” said Damon Camus, OSD vehicle maintenance manager. “We do not know when the winter inspection will take place, but we know that our team is always ready.”


On the recent surprise visit by the state patrol, inspectors pulled a random sample of 25 percent of the fleet — a total of 21 buses. There are 120 different issues that can remove a bus from service, ranging from major mechanical issues to more minor things like a missing first aid kit. OSD can proudly say that was not a concern during their inspection, as 100 percent of the buses passed inspection.


The transportation team's continued success is a combined effort where safety is always the top priority. Mechanics perform thorough full vehicle inspections every 1,500 miles. This occurs when the drivers perform their daily before and after trip checks. The daily checks include both inspecting the inside and outside of the bus. Latches, mirrors, steps, lighting, secured cushions, gauges, emergency exits, brakes and supplies are a few of the items on those checklists. Any concerns brought up by the drivers are quickly passed on to the mechanics for follow-up. They are the definition of a well-oiled machine.


Thank you OSD Transportation team for your dedication to the safety of our district's staff and students.



Project Homecoming at Capital High School brings community together


Project Homecoming at Capital High School brings community together 

Three questions come to mind when a school dance is around the corner:


Who will you ask? Will they say yes? What will you wear?


For many students Homecoming and Prom are opportunities to make lasting memories, including dressing up with friends to dance the night away. The cost of that fairy-tale night can often be expensive, preventing students from attending. Capital High School recognized that challenge and found a way to help the students who wanted to attend without the worry of the price tag.


The CHS Pop-Up Formal Boutique was randomly created one night during a CHS scholarship foundation meeting. Hansen Elementary School second grade teacher and current CHS parent Sabrina White was brainstorming ideas of new avenues to bring more to the students. “With dance season approaching, a formal wear shop seemed like a must!” White’s random creation of the Pop-Up Formal Boutique continues to make an impact. The first year volunteers weren’t sure the project would get off the ground. With the help of students, staff and the generous support from the community, those concerns were quickly dispelled as formal wear was donated in droves. The CHS Theatre team joined the efforts by supplying racks and mirrors to display the items, adding a boutique shopping atmosphere.


Capital High School Counselor Nicole Sande has since taken over the Pop-Up project and is passionate about providing opportunities for students to participate and look their best. White had this to say about how she has seen the Pop-Up grow over the years; “The CHS staff is wonderful, they are always going above and beyond for the kids. Because of Nicole, and this wonderful community, the Pop-Up Shop continues to be possible. Everyone always comes together and donates to make these events possible. It’s truly incredible to see it all come together!’


This year, Sande rallied supporters and provided more than 100 pieces of formal wear to students. Students left with smiles excited and looking forward to a night of dancing. Some students expressed their gratitude and noted without the project they would not have attended the dance. Nicole is already thinking and planning ahead for spring Promposals. The hope is to be able to give any student wanting to shop an opportunity to leave with something.


CHS Interim Principal Lillian Hunter shared how important this project has become to the student body; ”More than 900 students attended this year's Homecoming Dance. Students were transformed by their beautiful attire. We know that many of those students would not have attended if they had not acquired a garment from the Homecoming selection. For many students, this was their first experience in dressing formally. Our focus on equity and inclusion goes beyond the classroom. All of our students should have access to these types of activities and not be hampered by the ability to find the right garments.”


As you clean closets this winter, looking for space to store dresses, suits and formal shoes, consider donating these items to Capital High School where they make fairy tales reality and all students have the opportunity to create new memories. If you would like to donate to Capital High School’s formal wear pop-up project, the school is accepting donations of new or gently used formal wear throughout this school year. Reach out to Nicole Sande at [email protected] with any questions or to arrange a donation.


More Donation Opportunities:

Olympia High School is also accepting donations of clean, gently used or new formal wear (e.g., dresses, suit pieces and shoes). Contact: Kristin Costello, ASB Advisor/Activities Director [email protected].



2022-23 Snow Bulletin


2022-23 Snow Bulletin

Every year, inevitably, snow or severe weather conditions lead to a delay in start times or the closure of our school buildings. We want to keep you updated about those decisions.


The Olympia School District will inform families and the community as soon as possible when school schedules change through our district messaging system, our district website and social media platforms.


We also encourage you to monitor local radio and/or television stations for up-to-date information about weather-related building closures or delays.


On rare occasions, weather conditions may make it necessary to modify school bus routes. When that occurs, district and media outlets will announce the use of “snow routes” or “emergency routes.”


View the 2022-23 Snow Letter and emergency snow routes posted on the district website (English, Spanish and Vietnamese). Download and print a copy of the snow letter and emergency snow routes (English, Spanish and Vietnamese).



Upcoming Events

  • November 23 - 25: Thanksgiving Break - No School (Knox Administrative Center Closed to the Public)
  • November 30: 50-Minute Early Release
  • December 1: School Board Work Session in-person and on Zoom at 6 p.m.
  • December 7: 50-Minute Early Release
  • December 8: OSD Board Meeting in-person and online via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.
  • December 14: 50-Minute Early Release
  • December 19 - January 2: Winter Break - No School (Knox Administrative Center Closed to the Public)
  • January 3: School Resumes
  • January 4: 50-Minute Early Release 



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:


Elia Alailima, Title IX Officer

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-8545

[email protected]


Autumn Lara, Executive Director of Elementary Education

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-8534

[email protected]


Ken Turcotte, Section 504 and ADA Coordinator (Students)

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-7530

[email protected]


Starla Hoff, ADA Coordinator (Staff)

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-6185

[email protected]


Scott Niemann, Affirmative Action Officer and Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-6185

[email protected]


Paula Perryman, Director of College and Career Readiness

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506


[email protected]


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