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June 14, 2017

Superintendent's Message

Happy June!

It is hard to believe that our school year is already coming to an end. Nine months of learning will culminate with end-of-the-year activities including concerts, celebrations and graduations. It is certainly a great time of year to celebrate our students, staff and community members.

For me, it is also a time to express my gratitude for your support these past five years. As I transition into retirement after 42 years as an educator, I can honestly share with you that the last five years have been the most gratifying of my career. I am extremely proud of our students and their performance in the classroom, on the stage and on our athletic fields. They are bright, talented and hardworking, and because of their performance, our schools are recognized statewide for their excellence.

Of course, our students are supported by a terrific staff and generous community. Your support of our schools and students is unmatched. Your generosity has supported our Technology Levy, Capital Facilities Bond, and Replacement Levy; all terribly important given the state challenges around school funding. Our community never missed a chance to say "Public Education Matters" at the polls despite the reluctance of the Legislature. For that support, I thank you.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the hardworking Board of Directors with whom I have been blessed to work alongside. They care deeply about the children we serve, ask great questions and have held me accountable for making our school district the best it can be.

Thank you for the privilege of serving the children of our community. It has been a joy in all ways.




Dick Cvitanich


Olympia High AVID students connect virtually with Kenyan tribe

What do Olympia High Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) students have in common with a nomadic tribe in Kenya, Africa? Cell phones and social media, of course.

Molly Knox, a community volunteer, has been working with AVID students in Eric Jacob’s English class for the last four years. She works with juniors and seniors two days a week, helping them with writing assignments and college essays. Her work with the students doesn’t stop there.

After traveling to Kenya earlier this year, she thought about how she could connect her work with the Samburu tribe to her “tribe” of Olympia High AVID students. In Kenya, Knox is assisting the Samburu with lion research and conservation efforts.

Knox found the Samburu people to be “remarkably friendly and open” and wanted to share a little bit about their culture with the AVID class. She took them on a “virtual” trip to Kenya through slideshows and storytelling.

After learning about the Samburu culture, students were asked to compare and contrast the tribe’s culture with their own. They discussed what they love about the American culture and what they might like to see changed. Students reflected through informal writing, discussion and brainstorming.

After considering their own culture in contrast to the Samburu, students had additional questions for the tribe. They decided to create a video to share with the Samburu. The video, directed and produced by class member Gabe Scott, features striking images of Olympia and the surrounding mountains. Next, students describe American culture and ask questions about Samburu culture.

The Samburu people made a video in response, and the “AVID kids loved it,” said Knox. Student Sage White found it interesting to learn that "the tribe's diet consists mostly of animal meat, milk and blood.” Michaela Wright found the tribe to be a “very celebratory culture” and was surprised to learn that weddings last several days.

When the class discovered that several tribe members were learning the English language, they decided to extend the cultural lesson into a service project. Students obtained donations from local businesses and individuals and donated their own money to buy needed supplies for the tribe. Students sent school supplies including picture books, early reading books, writing utensils, glue sticks, white board supplies and scissors. They also sent much-needed batteries and rehydration packets.

“This project was about helping our fellow humans as an exercise in compassion and sharing our privilege,” said student Haley Genster. Maxx Rigg added, “it was a rewarding experience, putting someone else’s needs above our own. It really put everything into perspective.”

To the surprise of the students, many of the tribe members use cell phones and are connected to social media. Several of the students have gained new friends there and will maintain contact through Facebook in the future.

AVID is a college preparatory elective that supports students in achieving their college dreams. It is designed to be a four-year program that helps students develop the skills they need to succeed in college, and supports students in taking challenging high school courses.



Register for summer school

Summer School registration is now available! Classes begin on Monday, July 3 and run through August 3. School will be in session Monday through Thursday mornings and is for middle and high School students only. For more information and registration forms visit the Olympia School District Summer School Web page.



Washington MS teacher Melissa Charette named regional Teacher of the Year

Washington Middle School teacher Melissa Charette, who works with students in the school’s Developmental Learning Center, has been named the 2017-18 Regional Teacher of the Year by the Capital Region Educational Service District (ESD) 113.

Olympia School District Superintendent Dick Cvitanich, Washington Middle School Principal Paul Anders, incoming district superintendent Patrick Murphy, and several of her colleagues recognized her with a bouquet of flowers and applause during a surprise visit to her classroom on June 13.

In a congratulatory letter to Charette, Capital Region ESD 113 Superintendent Dana Anderson wrote, “Your application demonstrated you have the highest level of commitment to the teaching profession, and we wish to recognize you for the significant contributions you have made to the lives of your students.”

Charette, who has been teaching for 18 years, won the regional honor after being named earlier this spring as this year’s Olympia School District Secondary Teacher of the Year. Principal Anders and Kari Lewinsohn, executive director of student support, nominated her for the district recognition.

“I am nominating one of our star special education teachers,” Lewinsohn wrote in her nomination. “She is professional, organized and has a heart for the students that she serves…I always look forward to an opportunity to spend time in her program as I know that I will see a high level of learning in a wonderfully structured classroom. She is a truly remarkable educator.”

Anders also praised Charette in his nomination letter. “Melissa Charette is and has been that ‘one’ person for so many. Students know that she truly cares for them as a person, as well as a learner. Her genuine connection with students and her belief in their ability to succeed create a self-confidence and motivation in students that is remarkable.”

Charette received a standing ovation and an engraved plaque at an Olympia School Board meeting in March. She went on to submit her application for regional Teacher of the Year, which involved writing several essays and submitting letters of recommendation.

The National Board Certified teacher is one of nine candidates chosen by their respective regional ESDs and tribal schools as the Regional Teacher of the Year. This is the third time in five years that an Olympia School District teacher has been named ESD 113 Regional Teacher of the Year. Capital High School teacher Carol McKay won the honor last year.

A state selection committee will review and select one of the regional finalists as the 2018 Washington State Teacher of the Year. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is expected to make that announcement this fall




Capital High School hosts annual trade show

Capital High School junior Dalia Syrek describes this year’s annual trade show as “fun-filled and jam-packed.”

It sure was! The trade show is a real-world activity in which students develop a relationship with a local business in order to apply what they are learning in class. This partnership ends with a trade show hosted by Capital High students enrolled in business, marketing and DECA.

DECA is an optional club that helps students develop skills and competence for marketing careers, build self-esteem, experience leadership and practice community service.

During the first part of the project, students develop professional communication skills, both written and oral, through the creation of a contact letter, practicing professional phone skills and creating a professional resume.

Several students said they were not prepared for the workload and stress they experienced as they worked on the project, which was several months in the making. Sophomore Madeline Wendel said that although it was stressful, she is “now more knowledgeable about preparation and presentation.”

After students are ready to represent themselves and Capital High professionally, they choose a local business on their own, usually through a family connection or personal interest. The students contact the business and outline the project and the benefits of a partnership.

Next, students research the company history, target market, business environment and branding in order to create marketing products tailored to the business. Items created include print ads, layout design and visual merchandising suggestions. Students also offer marketing suggestions to the company based on research and trends.

Sophomore Jackie Pust said the trade show was an “incredible experience” and that she “now understands the real building blocks of an entrepreneurship.”

Finally, students put this all together and create an interactive booth with multiple visual merchandising elements and a presentation script for a real trade show. The entire trade show is managed, run and organized by second- and third-year marketing students.

Marketing teacher Brenda Grabski said she loves this project because “it connects so many elements into one tangible real world experience.” She added that her students gain confidence and learn what it means to professional. Students also realize that “it doesn't matter how amazing an idea, product or message is if no one knows it exists," said Grabski.




Summer lunches and kids in parks program (SKIPP)

Olympia Parks and Recreation will facilitate the USDA FREE lunch program this summer at both Garfield and Madison elementary schools. Lunches are free for children 18 and under. Lunches will be served from noon to 12:30 p.m., weekdays from June 26 – August 18.

Garfield will be a hot lunch site, while Madison will be a cold sack lunch site. No registration is necessary.

Kids 6-12 years old can also participate in the free Summer Kids in Parks Program (SKIPP) after lunch. For additional details view the Olympia Parks and Recreation SKIPP and Summer Lunch Program Webpage.




ORLA students explore vital role of the honey bee

Did you know the honey bee’s favorite color is blue? If you were a student enrolled in the World of Bees class at Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA) you would know this and much more!

The World of Bees class is just one of the many hConnect home school partnership classes offered at ORLA. hConnect classes are available in a variety of subjects including art, math, science, and gardening and are designed to supplement curriculum that parents work on with their kids at home.

World of Bees class instructor Heather Wood said she “has a passion for bees” and that she has “spent the last three years building hives for the community in order to promote honey bee genetic diversity, benefit local and organic farming, and to familiarize the community with natural beekeeping practices.”

Wood developed the curriculum that includes lessons on honey bee history, the biological function of honey bees, and the role of honey bees in our ecological system. Wood is a talented musician and has written and taught several original honey bee songs to help her students learn various biological honey bee facts.

In addition to in-class lessons, students gained hands-on experience building beehives. They built a straw hive, for example, covered in ash and cow dung. That hive was donated to West Central Park on the corner of Harrison Avenue and Division Street in Olympia.

They also worked with Mark Davis’ Building for the Community class at ORLA to build several traditional wooden hives that were donated to and installed on the Thurston County Food Bank roof.

This year, the honey bee theme crossed over to several other classes at ORLA. In art class, students used beeswax to create batik paintings. In gardening classes, they learned about the important role that honey bees play in the pollination of edible crops and flowers.

Recently, a beekeeper from Olympia Beekeeper’s Association visited the class and demonstrated a honey extractor – a mechanical device used to extract honey from honeycombs. Students took turns spinning a drum to extract honey using centrifugal force.

A highlight to this year’s World of Bees class featured a visit from Simone Nadungwenkop, of the Ogiek Tribe in Nairobi, Kenya. He came to ORLA to talk with students about his tribe and its dependency on honey (and the honey bee) for medicine, food and trading.

Nadungwenkop was in the United States for a gathering at the United Nations in New York, where he served as a representative for forest-dwelling tribes in Africa who are fighting for the preservation of their habitat.

He told students he has especially enjoyed his time in Olympia because of the plentiful rain here. He explained that drought is a constant threat to the honey bees in Kenya.

The World of Bees class at ORLA is geared toward students in kindergarten, first and second grade. It is a semester-long class that provides supplemental science lessons that might be difficult to duplicate at home.




Reeves Middle School band performs for college band directors

The Reeves Middle School Band was recently invited to perform for and learn from two distinguished college band directors.

On June 7, the band, made up of seventh and eighth graders, traveled to Tacoma and began the day performing in the exquisite Lagerquist Concert Hall at Pacific Lutheran University. The performance was followed by valuable assessment and conducting by Dr. Ron Gerhardstein, the college’s professor of music education and band director.

After an outdoor lunch at Gas Works Park on Seattle’s Lake Union, students performed at Seattle Pacific University. There, they received further assessment and conducting by Dr. Daniel Helseth, the university’s director of bands. Students ended the day learning many modern music learning standards at the Museum of Popular Culture at Seattle Center.

“The invitation by these college directors was something new for the band this year and was quite exciting,” said Reeves Band Director Randy Grostick. He added, “In addition to helping improve the ensemble, the wealth of information passed on to them was invaluable to students’ individual musical development this year and will serve them well in their future.”

It was a full day of music, learning and fun. Grostick expressed gratitude to the Olympia School District bus drivers, parent chaperones, and Dr. Gerhardstein and Dr. Helseth for spending time working with this talented group of middle school students from Olympia.




2017-18 school year calendar and bell schedules

The 2017-18 school year calendar is now available. This calendar includes only districtwide holidays and events. School-specific events are not included, so be sure to check school websites/calendars for specific school-related events and activities.

The 2017-18 bell schedules include start and end times for each school on regular school days, as well as the dismissal times for early release Wednesdays and half days.

These bell schedules represent an effort to standardize the start/end times of our elementary schools and provide consistent weekly staff collaboration and professional development.

Schools highlighted green indicate a change in school bell times.