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2022-23 Accomplishments

Middle school students stand in front of school bus

The Olympia School District is proud of our students and staff who achieve amazing successes every day. In an effort to recognize and celebrate those achievements both inside and outside the classroom, we have compiled a list of academic and extracurricular accomplishments that involve members of the Olympia School District community.

This list is by no means comprehensive, so please let us know if there are additional accomplishments we have missed so we can add them! With your help, we will capture all of the amazing accomplishments in our district and celebrate student achievement, continuous improvement and 100 percent commitment to quality and excellence in all things!



December 2022


Capital Lakefair Royalty Court: A tradition spanning five decades Capital Lakefair Royalty Court: A tradition spanning five decades Photo of 5CHS Counselor Jenny Morgan, CHS Career Center Office Professional Kimari Helmer, 1957 Lakefair 'First Princess' Gretchen Christopher, current Lakefair Queen (and CHS student) Grace Salapka and the 2023 CHS Royalty Court candidates Malia Kolle and Daynniella Hansen.

Capital Lakefair (widely known as Olympia’s annual summer festival) became a part of our community in 1957. Since that date it has become the centerpiece of summer activities in Thurston County. The Capital Lakefair Royalty Scholarship Program was introduced in 1975 and has since become one of the most recognized scholarship programs in the Pacific Northwest.

Each participating school conducts its own selection process to identify a representative who will then become a Capital Lakefair Royalty Court candidate. Each of those candidates receives a $500 scholarship. The chosen Royalty Court members receives an additional $2,500 scholarship, and the 2023 Lakefair Queen receives an additional $4,500 scholarship.

The Royalty Court candidates will be announced on January 3, 2023, on the Capital Lakefair Facebook page. Christopher has been extended an invitation to join the judging panel which will select the 2023 Lakefair Queen. We wish the best of luck to all participating candidates, you are a truly inspiring group of young students.

Brenda Beck: OSD Classified School Employee of the Year Brenda Beck holding flowers between Superintendent Murphy, and Principal Velasquez

Brenda Beck was recently selected as the 2022-23 OSD Classified School Employee of the Year. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Beck is not surprised in the least by this news. And for good reason. Beck is described as “the heart and soul of Avanti, a superhero.” She is the first person students and families meet when applying for enrollment and the last person they see when they pick up their diplomas.

Beck’s official title is Avanti High School Office and Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) Manager. In his nomination, Principal Mike Velasquez included quotes from students and staff who care for Beck as she does for them. “What makes her stand out above all others is her humanity; she spreads her warmth, kindness, compassion, generosity of spirit and friendly disposition with all she meets,” Velasquez wrote.

Avanti staff shared their endless appreciation for Beck in their nomination. AHS science teacher Quasar Surprise says, “Brenda is like a heartbeat for the school."

Beck has been a part of the Avanti team for 10 years. She describes the staff as “phenomenal,” and “one of the reasons why I love where I work.” When asked what gives her joy, without hesitation she responded, “The students. Education is the most rewarding job someone can have. We have the privilege of building relationships with students and sharing more than just their education. We celebrate and support them throughout their day.”

Beck was recognized for her accomplishment and presented with an etched plaque at the December 8, 2022 school board meeting, joined by family and friends.

Hansen and Madison bring the Salish Sea to downtown Oly Hansen and Madison bring the Salish Sea to downtown Oly. Storefront display of underwater creatures made by students

Students at Hansen and Madison elementary schools are bringing joy and cheer to the downtown Olympia storefronts this winter with beautifully crafted window displays. These exhibitions were made possible through the Olympia Artspace Alliance, a non-profit organization founded in 2011. The Alliance supports artists in Olympia with exhibition and affordable studio space.

One of its ongoing projects is "Art in Olympia Storefronts," which invites (and encourages) local artists to use vacant storefronts for temporary art installations. The student art displayed from December 2022 through March 2023 combines the creatures and geography of the Salish Sea with the whimsical magic of winter.

"Winter Under the Salish Sea” and “Jelly Town" are two current storefront projects. Art teachers Lindsey Johnstone (Hansen Elementary School) and Graeme Smith (Madison Elementary School) teamed up to provide their students an opportunity to take their creations outside the halls of their schools so the greater Olympia community could bask in their creativity!

Hansen Elementary students have been working on “Winter Under the Salish Sea” as a whole school art project. Students in kindergarten through third grade made clay sea creatures that were hung from the ceiling to add the illusion of swimming through the sea. Fourth and fifth grade students made coral pieces from transparency sheets, cut into circular shapes, and decorated with permanent markers.Then they used a heat gun to shrink and form shapes that resembled stained glass. These were stacked and strung together to create the hanging colorful light-catching coral.

Madison students attached small dyed strips of muslin fabric, made of loose weave cotton, to create tentacles. Next, they attached large dyed strips of the fabric to create an elaborate background tapestry. Not only did students learn how to dye fabric, they learned about the three most common varieties of jellyfish in the Salish Sea and how to represent them using tie-dye techniques.

Avanti art apprenticeship takes flight in January 2023 White framed prints aligned on a table

At the heart of the Avanti High School art program are current teacher Cecily Schmidt and former AHS staff member Evan Horback. Together, they are working on an Arts for All COVID Relief (A4A) grant to pilot an apprenticeship program for students. This program will connect Avanti's incredibly talented senior art students with local artists in the Olympia community.

The objective of Avanti's apprenticeship pilot is to provide mentorship, and increase opportunity, for students to learn professional skills in the arts and design industry. Rather than simply bringing artists into the classroom, Horback, who has been contracted to work as Avanti’s design and arts strategist on this grant project, and Schmidt are aiming to have students learn directly from artists in their studios.

The six Avanti seniors that have been accepted into the program completed an application, submitted a sample of work and met all the necessary requirements. Horback shared a metaphor of the program and the process; “Imagine the apprentices as the pilot of an aircraft, and they are being paired with a copilot. That copilot is a local artist who shares similar art interest and style. For 10 weeks the pilot will learn about method, organization, planning and marketing from their co-pilot.” While they prepare for flight the pilots are working closely with Schmidt and Horback as a support team for the apprentices. This sets the lens of expectations and how each student can grow as a pre-professional artist. Once the pilots have completed the pre-flight checks they will lift off in January 2023, to begin this 10 week program which will equate to roughly 25 hours of work.


Oceans, orcas and integrated learning at ORLA Painted salmon on construction paper hung on hallway in Olympia Regional Learning Academy

Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA) takes every opportunity to make learning engaging and relevant to its students. In Anne Hankins’ seventh grade “Integrated Projects” class, the excitement of innovative learning is front and center.

This year, the schoolwide theme of study is ‘Oceans,’ and Hankins’ Integrated Projects students are passionate for ocean life and conservation. One of their current projects involves applying ratio lessons they learn in math class to scale a photograph using the grid method. They did this by creating a life-size hallway portrait of a 25-foot orca named Tahlequah (J35 in the Orca J pod).


After comparing the sizes we determined that a full grown orca was 36 times bigger than our photograph, so we separated the original image into a grid of half-inch by half-inch squares. We used 55 different 18"x18" squares on the wall to make our giant orca. Then we teamed up to draw each square and assembled them like a puzzle.” Sixth graders also contributed by making 27 brightly colored salmon to represent the number of fish it took to feed Tahlequah and her calf every day.

Seventh grader Wade Jansen spoke passionately about how this project has encouraged him to do more advocacy for orcas. “Orcas are majestic creatures. Honoring them and their habitat is very important. But before we can go out in the world and directly cause change, we have to bring attention to the cause. The orca mural is a great start and it should help bring realization to what we're doing. The mural is a life-size representation that helps people visualize the amount of food intake that these whales require. Hopefully this will convince people to get in on the action and assist the whales, whether it's by donating money, or going out in the real world and making a difference.”

Hankins' class will continue adding to their project with the help of various community resources and connections. In spring 2023 the class will rearticulate a pectoral fin in partnership with the Westport Aquarium, and Shoalwater Tribe.



School board elects new officers in annual reorganizationBoard member Darcy Huffman photo outside

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


At its December 8 meeting, the board elected Darcy Huffman as this year’s board president and Hilary Seidel as vice president.


Superintendent Patrick Murphy shared a special thank you to Maria Flores for her “steadfast leadership” as board president this past year.


Board members are also appointed annually to serve as liaisons with various community groups and state agencies. This year’s appointments include:



As a reminder, January is School Board Recognition Month. The Olympia School Board will be recognized at the January 12, 2023 board meeting.


November 2022


Salmon studies for Lincoln ES students at Kennedy Creek Lincoln Elementary 2nd-3rd grade students wearing coats and hats outside in group photo 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.


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.


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.  View photos and videos of the Kennedy Creek field trip


Capital HS welcomes visiting Japanese students four female high school students sitting at desks in a classroom.

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.


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. For the remainder of the school day the visiting students spent time with their CHS hosts; attending classes, eating lunch and navigating passing periods.


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. 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.”


Transitional Kindergarten Pilot launches in January Three preschool age students playing with toys on colorful carpet

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.


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 Transportation earns another perfect score! Side of OHS bus with transportation department, Frank Wilson, Superintendent Murphy

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.


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.


Project Homecoming at Capital High School brings community together Two Students and Counselor each holding a formal gown in front of a table with additional formal pieces at Capital High School

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.


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!’


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.”



October 2022


OSD board welcomes two new student representativesHeadshots of two new student representatives Ali Owen and Ru'ya Russell

The Olympia School District Board of Directors recently welcomed two additional student representatives for the 2022-23 school year.


Completing the board are Ali Owen, a junior from Avanti High School, and Ru'ya Russell, a senior at Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA). They join the two existing student representatives who took their oath of office in June of 2022 – senior Rahma Gaye from Capital High School, and junior Christine Zhang from Olympia High School.

“Ru’ya and Ali bring unique experiences as students from our alternative high schools ORLA and Avanti that will help inform our supports and strategies for secondary education,” said Olympia School Board President Maria Flores. “The Board is excited to learn from our students and honor student voice in our work.”


Students walk and roll during Walk to School MonthStudents walk and roll during Walk to School Month photo of crossing guard wearing bright vest while student and principal walk through cross-walk

Each year the Olympia School District officially proclaims the month of October as Walk to School Month. Students look forward to walking and biking to school, and this year was no exception!


Several elementary schools scheduled a day this month when groups of students, joined by family members, staff and community partners, met at designated neighborhood locations to walk and roll to school. Even a few family pets joined in on the fun at this year’s Walk N Roll events, coordinated by Intercity Transit and supported by local police and fire departments.


Garfield Elementary Principal Brendon Chertok joined nearly 60 students, family members and community partners on October 19 during the school’s Walk N Roll kickoff for the year. Garfield is one of several schools that continue to partner with Intercity Transit to schedule monthly Walk N Roll events throughout the school year.


The city of Olympia also proclaimed October as Walk to School Month this year. OSD Superintendent Patrick Murphy shared about the school district’s proclamation during a City Council meeting in September and thanked the city and the Intercity Transit Walk N Roll programOpening in a new window for partnering on walk to school efforts. Walk N Roll events will continue at several OSD elementary schools this year.


Christine Zhang of Olympia HS recognized as STEM Rising StarChristine Zhang of Olympia HS recognized as STEM Rising Star headshot of student with leaves in background

Christine Zhang, a junior at Olympia High School, was recently recognized as a Washington STEM Rising Star awardee for the Capital Region. Zhang was nominated by OHS teacher-librarian Stacy Udo. She was selected for her leadership within the student organization ‘BYHER4HER’ and her commitment to making computer science education accessible in her community. You can find a brief video of Zhang talking about her passion for STEM on the Washington STEM YouTube ChannelOpening in a new window.

“The purpose of BYHER4HER is to bring computer science classes to every student in the district regardless of race, gender and socioeconomic status”, she said. “It is absolutely crucial that we start exposing younger audiences to computer science to give them the skills they need to succeed in the competitive job industry in the future.


OHS Principal Matt Grant had this to say about Zhang; “She’s a mover and a shaker. Christine shows a passion for computer science unlike anyone I have ever seen. Her drive to make sure all students receive education in basic computer science began with the realization that all future jobs will contain various aspects of these skills. I am impressed with her steadfast commitment to provide STEM to all students in our district. She is destined to leave a legacy for future generations of girls in STEM.”


School board appoints Talauna Reed to District 2 positionBoard members with new appointed member Talauna Reed

The Olympia School Board unanimously agreed to appoint Talauna Reed to fill the District 2 board director position vacated by Justin McKaughan, who resigned effective August 31, 2022.


Reed participated in her first board meeting after being sworn into office at the October 27, 2022 Olympia School Board meeting. She will serve a one-year term through December 2023.


Reed is the Lead Outreach and Advocacy Navigator at Interfaith Works where she works with unhoused community members. In that capacity, Reed facilitates training in Cultural Diversity, de-escalation, restorative justice models, anti-racism and trauma-informed care across multiple organizations and in collaboration with other Thurston County providers. She facilitates meetings in the community where she educates audiences with tools for dismantling white supremacy in order to create a more equitable society.


Olympia School Board President Maria Flores, on behalf of the school board, stated the following: “The content of Talauna Reed’s answers throughout the process, as well as her advocacy and experience working with underserved members of our community, raised her to the top of the applicant pool and was the basis for our decision. During the interview process she showed herself to be a committed and thoughtful advocate for the students of our school district. We look forward to working with her to address pressing equity and inclusion issues in our school district. We believe she’ll be an important voice and partner moving forward.”


Reed has two children who attended Olympia schools. She has a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and was named a YWCA “Womxn of Achievement” in 2020 as part of the organization’s annual Olympia event. The YWCA describes the award as a way to amplify and celebrate inspiring South Sound community members as part of its collective work to bring about racial and gender justice.


Featured Photo (above): Talauna Reed is the fourth person from the left. Photo taken during the October 29, 2022, OSD school board meeting where Reed was sworn into office.


September 2022


McKenny Elementary unveils new Traffic Garden McKenny Elementary unveils new Traffic Garden at ribbon cutting ceremony with students on bikes wearing helmets

Last month McKenny Elementary School had a formal ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of its new 'Traffic Garden'. McKenny was the recipient of a $10,000 grant from State Farm Insurance which helped make this project possible.


A traffic garden is a small-scale network of connected streets with scaled-down traffic features and other roadway elements for educational programs, skills building and active engagement. They help create a small world to ride bicycles, steer scooters and act out pedestrian roles. Children navigate and practice using roadways, intersections and crossings in a safe environment free of motor vehicles. They learn while having active fun and interacting with features and other users.


It took an outpouring of support from the greater Olympia community to bring this project to completion; Safe Kids Thurston CountyOpening in a new window donated 40 helmets, Child Care Action CouncilOpening in a new window and Intercity TransitOpening in a new window supported the project from start-to-finish, the Olympia community generously donated bikes and two wheeled scooters so that cycling safety could include all grade levels, members of the McKenny cycling community (and Walk N Roll representatives) donated their time to maintenance all the bikes before the PE unit was taught. There was even a miniature maintenance garage set up in the play shed!


National Merit Scholarship Program SemifinalistsOHS National Merit Semifinalist in the front of OHS with counselors

Olympia High School recently recognized three seniors who were selected as National Merit semifinalists. National Merit Scholarship Program

Opening in a new window is a national academic competition for high school students to provide scholarship financial aid to attend college.


Students qualify for the program

Opening in a new windowby achieving a high score on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQTOpening in a new window). In early September high scorers, or approximately one-third of the overall testers, are notified by the NMSC that they qualify as semifinalists.


OHS Career Counselor Jennifer Boelts had this to say about these young bears: “Those few who rank among the 1.5 million students who entered the National Merit Scholar Competition have achieved a prestigious level of academic recognition that can provide numerous opportunities. We are so proud of our scholars for achieving this tangible, quantifiable and satisfying achievement. Jonathan is an amazing scholar who is a lightening fast learner, always willing to learn new things in both STEM and beyond. Audrey models excellence both inside and outside the classroom. Owen is a self-motivated natural leader that showcases incredible integrity."


If chosen as finalists, the three OHS students will be considered for one of the three types of National Merit Scholarships; College SponsoredOpening in a new windowCorporate SponsoredOpening in a new window or National Merit $2,500Opening in a new window. The 7,250 awards available have a combined value of more than $28 million. Winners are chosen on the basis of their abilities, skills and accomplishments. Notification of scholarships for finalists begins in late March 2023.



August 2022


OSD Elementary Summer School 2022

OSD Elementary Summer School 2022Over the course of the summer more than 120 kindergarten through fifth grade students participated in the Olympia School District elementary summer school program which took place at both Garfield and Roosevelt elementary schools.


In addition to sharpening their math and reading skills, students participated in ‘Camp InventionOpening in a new window’ lessons from the National Inventors Hall of FameOpening in a new window. Through the activities in “Rescue Squad,” students designed and built zip lines, created glowing flowers using simple circuitry, raced their garbage collecting machines, and developed advertising campaigns to promote conservation and reduce pollution.


After speaking to students throughout the summer, there was a wide range of “favorites” from school. We did our best to catch them all. Here is a sampling of what we heard from students, in their own words; viewing the final project they designed, making the rescue pod, designing their squad pod, sending the squad pods down the zip lines (and counting how long it took), working with brand new art supplies, banging the drums and making music, read alouds, working with a team, games, recess on the new playground, new toys, making new friends, seeing friends from school, the Rooster Dance (Garfield K-1) and of course snack!


Thurgood Marshall MS to get solar panels in new partnership

Thurgood Marshall MS to get solar panels in new partnershipThe Olympia School District is partnering with Olympia Community SolarOpening in a new window to build a new Community Solar installation on the Thurgood Marshall Middle School roof.


The Thurgood Marshall Community Solar Project is planned to begin construction in summer 2023 and will offset the power usage of the school with renewable energy.


The project will include 306 solar panels across the school roof. Puget Sound SolarOpening in a new window will design and install the 150 kw system that will be capable of producing 149 thousand kilowatt-hours a year. This will reduce the school’s energy bill, contribute to sustainable infrastructure in Olympia, and create student learning opportunities about renewable energy.


"We are proud to partner with Olympia Community Solar on the Thurgood Marshall Middle School solar project,” said Olympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy. "This project will create learning opportunities about renewable energy for students and aligns with OSD Student Outcome #6. One of the indicators in Outcome 6 states that our students will ‘Advocate for and contribute to local, regional or global improvement by utilizing natural resources in an efficient, sustainable way.’"




Please submit accomplishments to Maria Betts. Photos are welcomed and encouraged!