2020-21 Accomplishments

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2020-21 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!




Please submit accomplishments to Margo Hoffman, Communications Assistant, at [email protected]. Photos are welcomed and encouraged!


September 2020


CHS teacher Carol McKay wins national awardTeacher of the year shown in her classroom at a desk with students

Capital High School math teacher Carol McKay has been recognized nationally with the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

McKay is the only math teacher to receive the honor in Washington state, and one of only two PAEMST winners statewide. Nationwide, there are 107 winners honored this year.

This marks the second time an OSD teacher won this national award within the past five years. In 2016-17, Reeves Middle School teacher Jana Dean received the award.

"It has always been my goal to help all students have opportunities to be successful mathematicians and to learn to love mathematics as I do,” McKay said. “The Presidential Award is an incredible honor. It recognizes the challenging yet rewarding work I do alongside my talented colleagues, with the support of district leadership. This award reinvigorates my desire for ongoing professional growth and teacher leader opportunities. I am thankful for the support and encouragement of my family in this profession.”

The PAEMST organization describes the annual honor as the “highest recognition that a kindergarten through 12th-grade science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States.”

OSDEF surpasses Principal’s Emergency Fund fundraising goalA speaker standing at the podium at the OSD Education Foundation event.

The Olympia School District Education Foundation (OSDEF) has exceeded its $110,000 fundraising goal for the annual Principal’s Emergency Fund breakfast.

As of September 28, just four days after the virtual breakfast fundraiser, OSDEF Executive Director Katy Johansson reported the Foundation had raised more than $119,000. The Principal’s Emergency Fund provides every OSD principal the resources to help meet basic needs of students and their families.

“The OSDEF Board of Trustees and I are grateful to see that the community support for the Principal’s Emergency Fund matches the need for this resource, which has never been more critical to our students and families,” said Katy Johannson, executive director of the Foundation. “Whether you sponsored the event, donated, encouraged someone to watch the livestream or just told someone how the PEF helps those with urgent basic needs, you were a part of this year’s success. Thank you.”

Thank you OSDEF and the community for supporting the success of OSD students!



October 2020


OSD Visual Arts Program thriving during distance learning

This adorable collection of "Color Wheel' Giraffes" comes to us courtesy of Centennial Elementary School second-grade teacher Bryann O'Neil (and her students) in tandem with the Olympia School District Visual Arts Program.

Colorful artwork of giraffes completed by OSD studentsThis program provides ready-made art project kits (all materials included) for elementary teachers to distribute to their students for completion at home. These projects can be differentiated to fit the needs of every student. Some students require more time to complete an art piece, so they can pause or rewatch the accompanying instructional video as often as necessary.

Bryann had this to say about the art project kits; "This has been a much-needed outlet for students. It is helping students emotionally because they are getting to do something they love and are so incredibly proud of their work. It has allowed me to showcase their work in Schoology as a slideshow so they can feel even more proud of their work, while also appreciating the work their friends created. I have had tons of positive feedback from families."

Many thanks to OSD Visual Arts Creative Director Kirstin Holstrom for making this a possibility. Kirstin is doing her absolute best to make these kits available to as many teachers and students as possible. Like most teachers in this era of distance learning, she is absolutely swamped. We appreciate you Kirstin!

Olympia School District Saves Taxpayers Nearly $30 Million

Thanks to strategic fiscal management and favorable market conditions, the Olympia School District was able to act to save taxpayers $29.8 million over the next 19 years.

Garfield elementary was one of the schools to be improved by the 2016 bond.The savings are the result of selling bonds approved by voters in 2016 now, instead of later in the construction cycle, and a result of refinancing bonds from 2012 now, instead of waiting until March 2022. The first step to selling/refinancing bonds is to obtain a rating from Moody’s Investors Service. In a press release, Moody’s noted OSD’s proven ability to outperform budgeted expectations and capably manage revenue and expenses to ensure stable operations.

The district timed the sale and refinance of bonds for Sept. 29, 2020 to take advantage of historically low interest rates, said Jennifer Priddy, assistant superintendent of finance and capital planning.

“These are taxes we now do not need to collect,” Priddy said. “Our taxpayers will now be able to keep this money rather than make interest payments. We are always working to be good stewards of public funds, and we are pleased to be able to provide this tax savings to our community.”

OSD collaborates with Puget Sound Energy for solar power project

An array of solar panels will soon be installed at Olympia High School thanks to a partnership between the Olympia School District and Puget Sound Energy (PSE). This project is part of PSE’s Community Solar Program, which adds solar energy to the local power grid from one large location.

solar panels at Roosevelt elementarySubscribers can support this solar energy project without placing solar panels on their own homes. These solar panels are scheduled to be placed at OHS at no cost to the district. This site was chosen because of the extensive roof space available, said OSD Executive Director of Operations Frank Wilson.

There are also plans to provide an informational kiosk at the high school displaying real-time data from the solar panels. The data may be used by students, teachers and visitors from throughout the district in their classroom studies.

“We are proud to partner with PSE to bring solar energy to our community and provide learning opportunities for our students,” Wilson said. “We are always looking for ways to be more earth-friendly as a district and contribute positively to our local, global and natural world.”

OHS will become the fourth Olympia School District facility to have solar panels. There are currently solar panels at Roosevelt Elementary School, Washington Middle School and Olympia Regional Learning Academy.



November 2020


OHS graduate establishes Thurston County nonprofit

Natalie Stagnone, a 2018 OHS graduate, is one of two executive directors and co-founders of Thurston County Inclusion, an organization that aims to bring free summer camps to children with disabilities throughout Thurston County. The project began when Stagnone was a senior at OHS and thrived under the mentorship of OHS paraeducator Antonio McClinon, who serves as co-executive director.

The idea for the nonprofit was born in the summer of 2018, when Stagnone and her team secured a grant from Special Olympics to support inclusion in their community. They decided to use the grant to create a summer camp promoting inclusion for people with disabilities. The camp ran for seven weeks, included themed activities each week and was a huge success, Stagnone said.

“It was a really valuable opportunity for students with and without disabilities to interact during the summer months,” Stagnone said, adding that many participants formed and strengthened bonds that will last well into the future.

Immediately following the camp, organizers knew they had to find a way to keep the camp going in the years to come. That’s how Thurston County Inclusion was born. There were plans for fundraisers and a summer camp in 2020, but restrictions on gatherings due to COVID-19 stymied their plans. Stagnone is optimistic that in 2021 the organizers will be able to host their camp and raise the funds to do so.


District celebrates historically high on-time graduation rate

The Olympia School District’s on-time graduation rate for the Class of 2020 reached 92.8%, marking the highest on-time graduation rate in district history. The percentage of students who graduated in five years also rose in several high schools and contributed to an overall district extended graduation rate of 94.5%.
A graduate shown in cap and gown
“First and foremost, this achievement is a direct result of the hard work and dedication of our graduates and the support of their families,” said Superintendent Patrick Murphy. “The class of 2020 faced adversity in their senior year like none had experienced before, and their persistence is reflected in this all-time graduation rate. Likewise, our teachers and educational staff, from preschool through high school, worked tirelessly to serve and support this class and prepared them to not only graduate from high school, but to go on and confidently pursue their post-secondary goals, whatever they may be.”

In addition, district leaders attribute the increased graduation rate, in part, to important staff and innovative programs including:


  • Graduation specialists in each high school provide extra support for students who are struggling to fulfill requirements.
  • Online education classes offer students a robust menu of online courses which can help students attain the credits they need to graduate.
  • High School and Beyond Plans, facilitated by career center counselors, engage students pursuing a variety of future paths, whether that be college, career or military.
  • “Opportunity Time” each week in schools provides high school students additional time with teachers, allowing the students to revisit instruction, ask additional questions and take exams.
  • Restorative Practices have reduced student suspensions and have not only kept students in school but engaged in their instruction.


District recognizes National Merit Scholar Semifinalists

Congratulations to our Olympia School District National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists and commended scholars. This program recognizes the most talented students throughout the country for demonstrating a proven commitment to academic achievement.
National Merit scholars shown in a Zoom meeting
At Olympia High School this year, semifinalists include (pictured above): Bethel Asomaning, Hollen Foster Grahler, Kayla Jones, Andrew Pan, Michael Tsien, Blake Willett, and Aren Wright.

OHS commended scholars include: Evan Butler, Pranav Gundrala, Zachary Hayes, Jenny Jang, Veronika Kettel, Kaylee Lam, Joy Matsuoka, Kalani Pavel, Kimberly Savel, Samantha Savel, Isabella Widrow and Elena Zimmerman.

At Capital High School, Rebecca McMillin-Hastings and Caleb Anderson were recognized as commended scholars.



December 2020


Classified School Employees of the Year Named

Congratulations to Thurgood Marshall Middle School Paraeducator Nadine Owen and Olympia School District Child Nutrition Services Supervisor Paul Flock for being named this year’s Classified School Employees of the Year. The annual award recognizes employees who consistently demonstrate outstanding work performance, professional leadership and collaboration.

A group of district staff pose together after surprising Paul Flock with his CSEY award.

Both Owen and Flock learned of their recognitions during surprise announcements accompanied by applause from their colleagues. They were also recognized at the Dec. 10 Board of Directors meeting. Owen has been a paraeducator for 22 years, five of them at Thurgood Marshall Middle School. Flock has been the supervisor in Child Nutrition Services for 31 years. Both were selected for this honor following a nomination process that included many outstanding submissions from throughout the district.


New Avanti High class focuses on racial and social justice movements

A group of teachers display the book they are using as part of a study group on racial and social justice. Students and staff at Avanti High School are focusing on racial and social justice movements in a new Civil Rights class which began this month.

Students participating in the class said they were motivated to learn more about current issues involving race and social justice. “As someone who is a part of multiple minorities, I think it's important to speak up about injustices and shed light on the situation and give those people a platform to amplify their voices,” said Avanti eleventh grader Adaya Coleman.

“I want to educate myself to be a more genuine and thoughtful person to all, not just those that I'm used to being around,” said Avanti tenth grader Taz Macbeth. “We all have internal biases, and if we're really honest with ourselves and can make the effort to educate ourselves, then I feel like we can become one step closer to equality.”

The class is taught by a team of three AHS teachers who initially began coordinating the new offering during a summer professional development course on confronting racism in the community through classroom education. The teachers were so moved by the course, they applied for a grant to continue their study and bring their knowledge into the classroom.


Capital High School debaters find success in online tournaments

While many sports and competitions have been postponed this year, Capital High School Speech and Capital high school debate students and their trophyDebate students are not only persisting, but excelling, in the current environment by competing in events using video conferencing.

The team took top prize in the speaking event category at the recent Tahoma Golden Bear Classic Speech and Debate Tournament. Tenth grader Charles Norris earned a first-place prize in the event and ninth grader Kaloyan Menser earned second place.

Public speaking in an online platform such as Zoom provides unique challenges, the students said. Over time, they have learned some effective techniques for speaking via video conference.


Middle school students meet author Alexandra Diaz

middle school students meet with author Alexandra Diaz in a zoom meetingNotable children’s author Alexandra Diaz shared insight into the writing process with middle school students from throughout the school district during a special Zoom online class session. Nearly 100 students participated in the event.
 Diaz is an award-winning Latina children’s author who publishes in both English and Spanish. Her book The Only Road was featured in the OSD Battle of the Books competition last year. She also authored the books Good Girls Don’t Lie, The Crossroads, Of all the Stupid Things and Santiago’s Road Home.



January 2021


Olympia High School wins AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award

There are more students who identify as female taking computer science classes at Olympia High School than ever before. OHS was recently recognized with the College Board’s 2020 AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for increasing gender diversity in computer science. The award is given annually to schools across the country for their work toward equal gender representation, as demonstrated by the reported gender of students taking AP Computer Science exams and their scores.


Teacher Hallie Hughes along with a student and two district leaders At OHS, teacher Hallie Houge is working to narrow the gender gap in math and science fields. Since she began teaching computer science at OHS in 2014, the gender inequity gap has narrowed considerably. In 2014, there were about 10% female students and 90% male students enrolled in AP Computer Science. For the past two years, the classes have been evenly split with students who identify as female or male. The course offerings in computer science and programming are also expanding at OHS.

“Historically, our AP Computer Science classes have been male-dominated,” said OHS Principal Matt Grant. “Over the past several years, there have been intentional efforts to encourage a wider variety of students to participate. One of the main factors was Hallie Houge who carries a can-do attitude to her students. Her inclusive and encouraging approach really provides the support and climate needed to make the changes that have occurred. She is a fantastic role model in the classroom who inspires others to pursue computer science. I am not surprised to see the increased diversity in her classroom as a result.”


The photo illustration with this story shows Hallie Houge with OHS Principal Matt Grant, OSD CTE Director Pat Cusack and Ace Choi, a student of Houge’s who won the Amazon Future Engineer scholarship in the 2018-19 school year.


School Board proclaims Feb. 1-5 Black Lives Matter at School Week

The Olympia School Board has proclaimed that the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action will be recognized in OSD schools February 1-5, 2021.
Black Lives Matter at School logo Board members, during a meeting on January 14, unanimously supported the proclamation. The Black Lives Matter at School campaign first began in Seattle in 2016 and has since spread across the nation.

The school board proclamation states in part that “school systems have a responsibility to their students and the communities they serve to nurture young people who have the courage and skills to confront personal, systemic and societal bias and recognize the many types of privilege that exist in our society.”


Read the full proclamation. 



February 2021


Students throughout OSD celebrate Black History Month

Elementary, middle and high school students throughout the district celebrated Black History Month this year with special projects, videos, research, presentations and assemblies.Student projects displayed on a wall

Olympia High School students were treated to a special visit from local philanthropist and author Merritt Long. Long and his wife started the Learning Seed Foundation, which provides college scholarships mostly to students of color in Thurston and Pierce County. He also authored the book “My View from the Back of the Bus.” Long grew up in the South and later moved to the Pacific Northwest, where he worked for the State of Washington and eventually served on former Gov. Gary Locke’s Cabinet. His daughter is a graduate of Capital High School.


At Centennial Elementary School, fifth graders completed a project on “Hidden Heroes.” They researched people that weren't as well known as Martin Luther King, Jr. They also talked about Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin. After students researched figures that were better known, they moved on to figures that were lesser known, but shared a common theme or achievement. Biographies of the “Hidden Heroes” are on display in the hallways of the school for everyone to learn from.


At Lincoln Elementary School, one student completed self-inquiry research and advocacy around Black Lives Matter. She researched the history of BLM and what it means for her and others. She advocated for all people to understand what Black Lives Matter means and to stand against injustices of race. She presented her findings at a school assembly, along with a call to action.


At Thurgood Marshall Middle School, all students discussed Black Lives Matter at School Week February 1-5 and Black History Month during advisory periods. Eighth graders at TMMS also began a study of the book “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You.”


This year was the second year at TMMS where a group of students created and produced a video series called the Cornwall Connection. The project began last year with the idea of an eighth grade student who felt that the school should do more to celebrate Black History Month. School leaders listened, and the Cornwall Connection was born. The first year, a small group of students talked about a different prominent figure from black history every day of February.


This year, the group of students who help produce the Cornwall Connection has grown. The students write scripts and tell their personal stories on video for the whole school to see. Four episodes in February focused on different Black History Month themes: Black Lives Matter at School Week, Black Hair Love, the Read Woke Movement, and a feature on Thurgood Marshall along with student reflections on Black History Month. 


Pioneer students celebrate Month of Compassion with valentines project

A hospital representative receives valentinesPatients and staff at Providence St. Peters Hospital received a pleasant surprise this month when representatives from Pioneer Elementary School delivered nearly 500 handcrafted valentines to the hospital. Pioneer Principal Joel Lang, along with AmeriCorps member Jane Wingfield, delivered the valentines on February 10, ahead of Valentine’s Day.


Students in kindergarten through 5th grade crafted the valentines with colorful paper, markers and kind messages. The valentines were delivered all around the hospital to nursing stations and various departments. They were also displayed in hallways, on office doors, in break rooms and in patient rooms. The project was part of the school's annual Month of Compassion.


First day of hybrid in-person learning photos from across the district

Students in a classroom on their first day backAs you may imagine the excitement was palpable at elementary schools across our district as the first day of hybrid in-person learning kicked off for the 2020-21 school year.


Smiles radiated through the masks of both students and teachers alike. The behavior and attention to direct instruction was remarkable. It was hard to believe the majority of these kiddos were experiencing in-person learning for the first time.


Below are photos we took at our elementary schools on the first few days of in-person learning for kindergarten, first and second grade:



Be sure to check out the OSD Facebook PageOpening in a new window for more 'First Day' posts with photos and videos from throughout the month of February. Stay tuned as we will continue to regularly push out new content as in-person learning continues to be safely rolled-out by grade!



March 2021


Community Connections program at McLane strengthens engagement

While teachers and administrators across the country have struggled with locating students who stopped showing up for class during remote learning, staff at McLane Elementary has quietly been building its network of students, families and community members stronger than ever before.

A student rides a bike on the nature trail adjacent to McLane ElementaryIn fact, each and every student at McLane Elementary has remained engaged with the school since COVID-19 forced schools to begin remote learning in March 2020, said Principal Anthony Brock.

“I’ve talked to other leaders at schools where kids have like, gone missing,” Brock said. “That number for McLane is nonexistent. We’ve had three or four kids that we’ve worried about -- that we lose touch with from time to time, but we always get back in touch with them. Our kids are still coming. They’re still staying enrolled and connected to their school.”

A national study by the nonprofit Bellwether Education Partners, published in October 2020, estimated that a staggering 3 million students were missing from schools nationwide, having had no formal education or contact with their teachers or school staff for seven months at that time. Many of those students are from among the most educationally marginalized populations in the country -- often struggling with disabilities, homelessness, low-incomes, language barriers or other challenges.

At McLane, school leaders recognize the importance of engaging all families, including those who come from historically marginalized families. The school’s Community Connections program, led by third grade teacher Emily Hamilton, intentionally finds ways to bring all types of families into the school for a variety of after school clubs and service projects. Parents are invited to participate in ways that express their unique strengths and interests.

Community Connections began as a series of unique after-school clubs and service projects meant to engage students socially. With the help of teachers, parents and community volunteers, McLane offers art and Lego clubs, ukulele club, book clubs, Minecraft club, coding club, outdoor PE opportunities, McLane trail activities, gardening and work parties. Most of these clubs have been virtual during remote learning. Plans to expand offerings to include more in-person events are in the works.


Emily Hamilton selected as OSD Teacher of the Year

Teacher of the year Emily HamiltonCongratulations to McLane Elementary third grade teacher Emily Hamilton, who learned this week during an impromptu online staff meeting that she has been selected as this year's Olympia School District Teacher of the Year.

Hamilton will be honored at the May 13, 2021 Olympia School Board meeting. The meeting will be held in person and on Zoom starting at 6:30 p.m. The in-person meeting is held at the Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. in Olympia.

In a letter nominating Hamilton as Teacher of the Year, McLane Elementary Principal Anthony Brock praised her for her work leading staff professional development on racial equity. “Every single day, she is leading by example displaying the skills, knowledge, and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic, and societal bias,” he wrote.

Brock also commended Hamilton for her “leadership and innovation” with a Community Connections -- a new initiative this year at McLane. “In our School Improvement Plan, we spoke specifically about creating Community Connections and engaging students in their curiosity, their passions, and their love of learning,” he wrote. “This was led once again by Emily Hamilton.” Learn more about Community Connections in a separate article featured in this issue of Spotlight on Success.

He continued, “Mrs. Hamilton’s drive is uncommon; it is the drive of an individual who doesn’t take anything for granted, a drive of an individual who is an instructional gamechanger who maximizes the learning of every student, every moment of every day.”

Hamilton, who is a National Board Certified Teacher, has participated in district and statewide efforts in distance learning and helps educators across Washington as a teacher technician for the Washington State Schoology Help Desk. She has been teaching the past five years at McLane Elementary.


Student filmmakers at Jefferson and Capital create “The Studio”

It all began as an inkling of an idea in student Charles Norris’s mind. Norris, then a seventh grader at Jefferson Middle School, dreamt of creating a skit based on the popular television series “The Office,” but in the setting of a middle school.

Students from the production team of the StudioNorris brought his idea to Jefferson Visual Communications Teacher Jonathan Moore, who encouraged him to develop a plan for a full series, and “The Studio” was born. After three years worth of work, help from two dozen student volunteers, and an exercise in improvisation and flexibility when COVID-19 closed schools, “The Studio” finally hit the air. It is the first student-created sitcom to air on Jefferson’s KJAG TV station, produced by students in the school’s visual communications program.

The sitcom, now on its 7th episode, tells the amusing and sometimes mysterious story of the Jefferson Morning News crew. Written and produced before the events of 2020, the plot, somehow, strangely parallels and parodies many of the events of that year, creators say.

The students who produce “The Studio” include a team of leaders who are now students at Capital High School, working with about two dozen students from Jefferson in Zoom meetings after school. Some of them put in more than 12 hours of work per week on the project. The closure of schools in 2020 forced students to get creative, but they managed to complete their work remotely. Students work as directors, producers, story writers, editors, actors, and camera operators.

“The Studio” airs at Jefferson once a week, with episodes lasting about 10 minutes. The public can also view the program on the Jefferson KJAG TV YouTube channel

KJAG TV students shoot and edit videos including comedy sketches, live broadcasts and game shows. Students learn in a real studio environment and take on jobs as writers, producers, directors, videographers and editors. In addition to all the fun projects, the KJAG-TV team is responsible for getting the most important information of the day to the students via the KJAG TV daily announcements.



April 2021


Olympia High School student artists win state and local awardsArtwork completed by OHS students, a mixed materials whale, a painting of feet in flipflops and a painting of a coffee cup

There has been a lot to celebrate in the art world at Olympia High School this spring as eight OHS students earned awards at two contests -- the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Art Show and the Capital Region Educational Service District (ESD) 113 High School Art Contest. In total eight students were recognized at the district contest and moved up to state, where three won awards when judged against submissions from across Washington state. This is the third consecutive year that OHS has had at least one winner at the OSPI Art Show.

At the state level, students Cecelia Baldwin, Ryan Cunningham and Yuki Kondo each earned $200 prizes for their artwork. Those students were also recognized at the district level, along with classmates Sarah Swanstrom, Ella Hubbard, Sofia Benford, Ethan Castro and Whitney Sederberg. Two of the students earned scholarships to Central Washington University: Whitney Sederberg for $2,000 and Ella Hubbard for $3,000.


Students winning artwork featured on traffic safety yard signsAn image showing three of the road safety signs lined up and placed in the grass.

Congratulations to students Josie Bremner and Joslyn Kruse, whose winning artwork has been printed on traffic safety yard signs that were distributed to interested community members to make Olympia a safer place to walk and roll.

Bremner, a student at Olympia Regional Learning Academy, and Kruse, of Olympia High School, are two of three Thurston County student winners in an InterCity Transit Yard Sign Art Challenge held last fall.

The goal of the project is to encourage drivers to slow down to improve safety, especially in neighborhoods where students walk or ride bikes to school. The sign project is a partnership between Intercity Transit’s Walk N Roll program, Target Zero Thurston Task Force, Safe Kids Thurston County, and the Olympia Police Department, and funded by a State Farm grant.



May 2021


Finding fame, friendship, and fun producing WMS weather seriesHayden smiling and pointing at the camera

There’s something delightfully quirky about Hayden Palmer, a seventh grader at Washington Middle School. His friendly nature, charm, and dry sense of humor make him a popular kid with both his peers and teachers.

This school year, Hayden began appearing in a weekly weather series on the “Bulldog News” school video production. His feature, called “Where in the World is Hayden P?” or “Witwhip” for short, is both witty and educational.

Hayden, who is currently completing school remotely, films the show by himself at home with a phone set up on a tripod in front of a green screen. Media Arts Teacher Marc Coyner helps him find a background image and writes a basic script for him. Hayden gives an overview of the weather for the week, and also challenges students to guess where the image behind him was taken. Inspiration comes from the old television series “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego.”

“You’ll see that Hayden throws in his own whimsy with graphics and videos,” Coyner said. “They are silly, but fun.”

Hayden, who is autistic, is the first student in the Developmental Learning Classroom (DLC) at Washington to have their own recurring feature in the “Bulldog News.”


Olympia students help build micro homes for local homelessNew Market students pose in front of a micro home

Five Olympia School District students are helping keep our city’s residents warmer and safer at night thanks to a micro home project in partnership with the City of Olympia and numerous other local organizations.

OSD students Jorden Bevens, Bryan Loarca, David Hill, and Daylan Stevenson of Capital High School, and Dairic Hunt of Olympia High School, helped build many of these micro homes. They worked in tandem with students from various other schools in the YouthBuild program at the New Market Skills Center. New Market is a consortium of local school districts that provide essential technical educational training.

Micro homes are being placed in Olympia at the sanctioned camping area known as the Downtown Mitigation Site. Installation began this spring, and there will eventually be 60 micro homes in total.



June 2021


Lincoln students show compassion with Helping Hands ProjectA student collects a donation from a car

It all began when fourth and fifth graders at Lincoln Elementary School read the book “Free Lunch,” by Rex Ogle. The story, a memoir that won a national award last year, tells Rex’s tale of growing up in a wealthy neighborhood as a child of poverty, who ate free school lunches.


“We all became inspired to research some of the issues present in the book,” said teacher Andrea Barranger. “Some of the issues included a child who suffered from food insecurity and embarrassment around this issue, a family who really needed mental health support, and a time where they no longer had a place to live.”


The Lincoln students began to consider whether there were people in their own community enduring similar struggles. There are. They brainstormed what they could do -- and the Helping Hands Project was born. The project is really a series of much smaller projects, all focused on the goals of making life just a little bit easier for those in our community suffering from food insecurity, mental illness or homelessness. Each student was allowed autonomy to decide how they wanted to contribute.


Support the Lincoln Helping Hands Drive by donating to one of these organizations:



Graduate Profile: Refugees find success at Capital High School

Faith Imani at her graduationZawadi Kezia and Sinafasi “Faith” Imani say it’s difficult to put into words how they felt as they stood in front of the mirror in their caps and gowns on graduation day.


Excited? Yes. Proud of their accomplishments? Absolutely.


But it was more than that, they said.


“It was the day I was waiting for all of my life,” Faith said. With an affirming smile, Zawadi added, “I thought, finally life is giving me a second chance to achieve my dreams.”


Zawadi and Faith, refugees from Uganda and Congo, are the first in their family to graduate from high school. They are cousins, but think of themselves more as sisters.


Only four years earlier, the two girls were seated with their mothers and four younger siblings on an airplane taxiing to the runway at Entebbe International Airport in Uganda. They were among the lucky ones from the tens of thousands of families living in the Kyaka II refugee camp to be chosen to come to America as part of the U.S. refugee admissions program.


As the plane lifted high into the air, the girls looked out the window and watched as the countryside grew smaller and smaller until it gradually disappeared from sight.


Read more about Zawadi and Faith, including a description of their life in Uganda, their arrival in America and their time at Capital High School, by following this link!


Capital High School teacher/soccer coach, joins semi-pro team

Capital soccer coach and Spanish teacher Adriana Montes CervantesAdriana Montes Cervantes hopes that she is more than a teacher and a coach to her students at Capital High School. She also wants to be a role model.


Montes Cervantes is certainly an example of ambition, hard work, skill and solid time management. She recently accepted a position playing for a new, local, semi-pro soccer team - Nido Aguila. The team is connected to Club América, a popular professional club in the Mexican League.


Jefferson MS highlighted in statewide school improvement study

Students in class at Jefferson Middle SchoolJefferson Middle School is one of 38 Washington schools recognized in a study released this month for removing barriers and creating conditions that amplified strengths of Black, Latino/a, American Indian/Alaska Native, and/or Students Experiencing Poverty.


Notably, Jefferson was the only school in the state recognized for gains in three of the demographic groups studied.


Jefferson was first identified as a “Positive Outlier School” in spring 2020, based on student-level academic and engagement data from 2014-19. The data measured “systemic performance and improvement” in areas such as attendance, progress for English learners, math, English language arts, and readiness for high school.


The school was then invited to participate in a study this past year, conducted by the Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE) with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The study included interviews and/or focus groups with representatives from the 38 recognized elementary, middle and high schools.


Capital Cougarettes take state and national championships this year

Cougarettes dance teamNot everyone will look back fondly on the 2020-21 school year — but the Capital High School Cougarettes dance team members certainly will. With both a national and a state championship under their belts, the 2020-21 season was one of the best in team history.


Training to become state and national champions during a worldwide pandemic brought a host of unique challenges. The dancers trained for 12 months leading up to this year’s competitions. Many practices took place via Zoom. Dancers also trained individually using prescribed workouts and videos. Occasionally, team members met in small groups. They rarely got the opportunity to practice together as a team.