Superintendent Messages

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Olympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy routinely sends messages to Olympia School District families and the community. His messages are sent monthly as part of the school district's Spotlight on Success e-newsletter, as well as via occasional direct emails.


 

March 15, 2019 (Email to all OSD families)

 

Hello Olympia School District Families,

As we enter the second half of the state legislative session, I am deeply disappointed to report that we have not seen lawmakers propose and support the kind of clear-cut financial resolutions to adequately address our projected $8.5 million budget deficit for the 2019-20 school year.

We are at a point where we would be remiss in our duties if we did not begin more formal planning for spending reductions in the event there is no legislative fix, or an inadequate one, by the end of the session. Schools need to prepare their staffing and programs now for the coming year.

We will look across our entire system to identify potential spending reductions while trying to minimize impacts to the classroom. We will again be asking for your help via an online budget survey to help us set budget reduction priorities. We will also use our recently adopted Student Outcomes, developed as part of ongoing Strategic Planning work, to help in this process.

For those of you unfamiliar with the history leading up to our projected deficit, we have been clear since the adoption of House Bill 2242 in 2017 that the so-called “McCleary fix” legislation did not help the Olympia School District. Instead, it resulted in a disproportionate allocation of revenue to districts across the state, thus creating winners and losers. Unfortunately, our district is in the latter category.

We have shared in previous messages to our community how the Olympia School District failed to receive state regionalization dollars. This is particularly perplexing as every other district on the I-5 corridor that touches Puget Sound received this money. Lawmakers have been unable to explain why we were left out of receiving regionalization given that Olympia housing prices exceed housing prices in several districts that received regionalization funds.

Equally concerning, the state eliminated a long-time funding mechanism that apportioned more funds to districts with more experienced and thus higher-paid staff (staff mix funding). The elimination penalizes districts like Olympia with more highly educated and/or highly experienced teachers. In 2018, the Legislature agreed to allocate $2.3 million to Olympia beginning in the 2019-20 school year to address this problem, which we were grateful to receive. However, even with this new funding, we still would have received millions of dollars more and been better off under the state’s old funding model. This was confirmed by a recent study of the Washington Association of School Administrators. The association calculated that the Olympia School District should receive $5.9 million in hold harmless funding because our district, like 83 other districts in the state, would have been better funded under the old funding rules.

Additionally, state funding for our students with special needs continues to be inadequate. We subsidize our special education programming between $4 and $5 million annually out of our local levy funds. There is proposed legislation to increase state funding; however, the legislation we have seen is sorely lacking in its ability to make up for this subsidy.

Without any regionalization and staff mix funding, we were especially hard struck by the new state-imposed restrictions on our local, voter-approved levy collection. The McCleary legislation imposed an arbitrary limit of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value for school levies. As a result, our local levy collection has been cut in half. We previously used that levy to pay for teachers, nurses, librarians, principals and other critical support staff. Other districts in north Puget Sound with higher property values are collecting all or nearly all of their previous levy amounts. And in many cases, those same districts are collecting significant regionalization dollars on top of that. The result is that some districts saw hefty increases in revenue while others saw minimal or fractional gains. Once again, Olympia is in the latter category.

We have heard some legislators — not from our legislative district — declare that budget deficits are a result of school districts irresponsibly bargaining pay increases. To be clear, our district’s significant deficit was projected long before any salary bargaining had occurred. We value our staff greatly, as they are the key to the quality of our educational programming. We are committed to attracting, recruiting, retaining, and supporting the finest educators in the state, and we have. It is frustrating that we are planning for reductions to support this commitment while other districts are implementing enhancements. Again, this is due to the disparate revenue disbursement to districts as a result of the McCleary fix.

While we have been sharing the message about our projected shortfall with you for nearly a year now, as stated, we had hoped that there would be a clear legislative fix by now. The governor’s proposed budget and at least one proposed Senate bill (SB 5313) were encouraging, but the Senate bill never made it out of committee. A new House bill (HB 2140) is now under consideration, and while we remain hopeful there will be relief before the end of this legislative session, time is getting short in our budget planning process for the 2019-20 school year.

We also want to make it clear that increasing the levy is not our preferred way to address the revenue inequities facing Olympia. We would rather legislators give us state regionalization or special education dollars; but, if those solutions do not become reality or do not close the gap, we believe our voter-approved levy should be an option for our community.

We will continue to advocate, educate and implore our local legislators to help push through sensible, sustainable funding for the students and families of the Olympia School District. Many of you have asked how you can contact your local legislators. A list of our local legislative contacts, and more information about the budget, are posted on the school district website.

Thank you for your ongoing support of our schools,

Sincerely,
Patrick Murphy, Superintendent



February 1, 2019 (Email to all OSD families and staff) 

 

Good afternoon OSD families,

We want to take a moment to update you on some exciting events and activities from around the district. Also, be sure to stay up-to-date on district news by visiting our district website, reading our monthly Spotlight on Success newsletter and following us on our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).

Below is a summary of some news/event information and links to our website to learn more about these topics:

Measles outbreak in Washington

Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency in all Washington counties in response to confirmed cases of measles in the state. While there are no confirmed cases of measles to date in the Olympia School District, we encourage families to learn about this highly contagious infectious disease. The Washington State Department of Health urges everyone to check their immunization records to verify they are fully immunized.

Read more about the measles outbreak and related resources for families

Snow in the forecast

The latest weather forecasts for next week indicate a chance of snow and colder temperatures. The school district will make every effort to operate normally, despite the weather. On rare occasions, however, weather conditions may make it necessary to delay the start of school, modify bus routes with emergency snow routes, and potentially close school. The Olympia School District will inform you as soon as possible when school schedules change through our phone/email/text messaging system, our district website and district social media (Facebook and Twitter). We also encourage you to monitor local radio and/or television stations for up-to-date information about weather-related closures or delays. Please familiarize yourself with a list of our emergency snow bus routes on our Snow Bulletin webpage.

Kindergarten registration, and Countdown to Kindergarten event February 9

Kindergarten registration for the 2019-20 school year begins on March 4, 2019. Parents and guardians who will have children in kindergarten in the 2019-20 school year are invited to learn about transitioning to kindergarten by attending this year's "Countdown to Kindergarten" event. The event is from 10-11:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 9 at Capital High School, 2707 Conger Ave. N.W., Olympia. The event begins at 10 a.m. with a welcome and presentation by Olympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy.

Are you interested in serving on a new School Year Calendar/School Start Times Citizens Advisory Committee?

 

The Olympia School Board agreed in January to form a new School Year Calendar/School Start Times Citizens Advisory Committee.

The committee is charged with developing recommendations to the school board regarding potential changes to the academic calendar and school start times. Anyone interested in serving on the committee is encouraged to attend the first committee meeting on February 12, 2019 or contact Olympia School Board Vice President and committee facilitator Scott Clifthorne. Please email Clifthorne at an OSD email set-up for this committee work at CAC-SchoolYear@osd.wednet.edu. The meeting is scheduled from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Knox Administrative Center Board Room, 1113 Legion Way S.E., Olympia. Learn more about the committee and see the board-approved committee charter on the SY Calendar/Start Times Advisory Committee webpage.

Budget outlook and funding priorities for 2019-20 school year

The school board approved a resolution in January declaring the school district's legislative and funding priorities for the 2019 Legislative Session. View the resolution and see related budget links, including questions and answers related to the 2019-20 budget and projected deficit, on the Budget webpage.

Nominate someone for OSD Teacher of the Year

The Olympia School District is accepting nominations through Friday, February 15, for one or more staff members to be honored as OSD Teacher of the Year. The program recognizes the work of teachers who have made a positive difference in their profession. Any Washington public school teacher who has a current certificate and works directly with students for at least 50 percent of his/her time is eligible to be nominated.

What are the OSD Student Outcomes?

The Olympia School Board unanimously agreed in December to approve a set of Student Outcomes as part of its Strategic Planning process. The Student Outcomes were reached after a six-month process that included extensive community input.

The school board unanimously approved a new student dress policy during its regular meeting on January 22, 2019. View a copy of Policy 3224 and accompany Procedure 3224P.

In-person new voter registration ends February 4

There is still time to register to vote for the February 12, 2019 Special Election. Thurston County residents have until Monday, February 4, 2019 to register to vote if not currently registered in Washington state. This registration must be done in person, as the deadlines have passed to register online or by mail. There are no Olympia School District candidates or measures on this Special Election ballot; however, we notify our families annually about election dates and encourage people to vote.

Stay connected

Be sure to read our latest Spotlight on Success newsletter. Remember, too, to follow us on social media where we feature numerous photos and videos of student learning and school activities. We are proud of our students, staff and community!



February 25, 2019 (Spotlight on Success)

 

Hello Olympia School District Families,

There is a saying that the month of March “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” meaning the weather is cold and harsh to start, but by the end of the month the milder climate and conditions of spring start to arrive. Given the record amount of snow we had in February, I think we would all be happy with months full of lambs.

Given that we had to miss four days of school due to the snowstorm, our calendar has been adjusted. By contract, any missed school days are made up at the end of the school year. Currently our last day of school has been changed from Tuesday, June 18, to Monday, June 24. However, because the storm was declared a “state of emergency” by the governor, we are eligible to apply for a waiver for one or more of those days. We know that having the school year end the following week is problematic for some families who have other commitments. We also need to be mindful of our graduation dates for seniors and any ramifications a later end to the school year could have on those ceremonies. We intend to keep those graduation dates as they are currently scheduled. We also know that every day of instruction is important, and that many of our students and families rely on the school for a variety of services that, if possible, we don’t want to limit.

As many of you have seen in weather forecasts for this week, we are not out of the woods yet with potential inclement weather, so we are holding off on any decision regarding a waiver submission until we get closer to spring. That being said, we know that families and staff need time to prepare, so look for a final word on that mid-way through the month of March. Lastly related to weather, I want to remind families to keep your information up-to-date in Skyward Family Access so you receive all emergency communications in a timely manner.

Having our school district located in the state’s capital, we more than most are very aware that we are in the middle of a legislative session. We continue to closely follow proposed legislation and how the proposed bills could help with our projected budget deficit. We’ve stayed in close contact with our local legislators to make sure they are fully aware of our financial outlook. There have been some encouraging bills that could substantially help with our projected shortfall. We will keep the community informed of related developments as the session continues.

Lastly, with winter coming to an end, lots of other events and happenings are right around the corner. We will be welcoming incoming kindergartners at a Countdown to Kindergarten event on Saturday, March 2. That cohort will be the high school graduating Class of 2032….that’s incredible. Our student performers and athletes throughout the district are working hard to prepare for spring concerts, theater productions, athletic events and regional/state/national competitions. If you haven't visited our schools in a while, consider attending a concert, watching a stage production or cheering on students at an athletic event. You won't be disappointed.

Thanks as always for your amazing support for our Olympia Schools.

 
Sincerely,

Patrick Murphy
Superintendent



January 24, 2019 (Spotlight on Success)

 

Hello Olympia School District Families,

I hope the new year is off to a good start for all of you. You may already know, but the end of January marks the midpoint of the school year calendar. I can’t believe that the school year is already half completed. Our students in the Olympia School District continue to do remarkable things in the classroom, on performance stages and athletic fields, and in gyms. At a recent school board meeting we reported that our on-time graduation rate for the Class of 2018 was approximately 90% and the extended graduation rate (5 years) was just under 95%. While we will always strive for 100%, these results continue to be among the highest in the state for a district our size. You may remember in past articles, I‘ve mentioned how we are excited about our strategic planning work and the school board’s commitment to support our staff and families to better meet the needs of the “whole student.”  Because of the feedback from students, families and staff, social-emotional learning and physical and mental wellness are key aspects of our new strategic goals that we believe will further strengthen our academic performance and help us reach our goal of 100%.

It is in the midst of this success and excitement about the future that we sadly once again face a significant budgetary predicament that can’t help but dampen enthusiasm. I mentioned in the November newsletter that like a “broken record” we once again face a substantial deficit going into the 2019-20 school year. The reasons for that deficit are multilayered, but the fact is that the legislative “fix’ to the McCleary Decision resulted in a disproportionate allocation of revenue to districts in the state creating winners and losers.

This is confusing for people because there was indeed a significant infusion of new dollars by the Legislature to public education since the 2017 session, but the methodology was flawed and as a result some got significantly more than others. Things like receiving zero “regionalization” dollars and the elimination of the “mix factor” particularly injured the Olympia School District. (Read more about regionalization and mix factor in the November Spotlight on Success newsletterOpening in a new window). But Olympia was further damaged, and the inequity further exacerbated across districts, when the Legislature reduced the Olympia community’s ability to make up for state deficits through local levy funding. Instead of being able to collect up to 28% of a voter-approved levy to enhance and fill in gaps in state funding, the new state law imposes an arbitrary tax limit of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value on local levies. Subsequently, Olympia’s ability to backfill our state funding shortfall has been cut in half. This was not, however, the effect on all districts. More property-rich districts were already generating a 28% enhancement to their district budgets through a local levy of $1.50 or even less, so the net impact on their revenue was zero or negligible.

Because of this, our school board has adopted a resolution of legislative funding priorities that we are sharing with legislators. A list of these funding priorities is posted on our district websiteOpening in a new window. The first request supports the Governor’s recent budget proposal to restore the ability of school districts statewide to raise levy lids to 28%. That change alone could reduce our projected deficit of at least $8.5 million by almost 80%.

But our board also calls out the need to fully pay for staff and teachers so as not to incentivize principals and school districts to hire the “cheapest” teacher as opposed to the “best.” We asked the Legislature to fully fund special education and pay the full cost for proposed increased health care benefits that would be a great thing for our employees. Lastly, in the board’s resolution directors ask the Legislature to support not just the academic but the mental and emotional health of our students by funding more counselors, social workers and nurses, just as our community and our school board call for in our newly adopted student outcomes.

While the Governor’s proposal is hopeful, we will not stop in our ceaseless advocacy for our students and staff until a viable, sustainable solution for the Olympia School District comes to fruition. We also know that the solution needs to be fair for the taxpayers and supporters of education in our community.

I believe we do the world’s most important work: educating the leaders of tomorrow. It is also, I believe, the most rewarding work one can do. But that said, we also know that teaching and mentoring and guiding our children can be challenging and requires great love, strength and stamina. Doing that work in an unstable and unpredictable financial environment makes it harder for all of us. We will keep close tabs on the legislative process and keep people up-to-date (see budget page on our district websiteOpening in a new window) while we simultaneously prepare for potential cuts that we hope we will not have to make. Thank you, as always, for your steadfast support as we navigate an uncertain budget process yet again, with hopefully a predictable, maintainable outcome for Olympia at the conclusion.

 
Sincerely,

Patrick


 

December 20, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)

 

Hello Olympia School District Families,

The end of the calendar year and holiday season is, for many, a time to celebrate with family and set resolutions for the new year. With the adoption of our new Student Outcomes by our school board earlier this month, I think in a way that we, too, have made a resolution. We have resolved, as a district, to renew our commitment to our students and families.

The Student Outcomes were reached after a six-month process that included extensive community input. Our board considered this input, including a two-day Educational Summit, two online surveys that elicited thousands of responses, and approximately 50 meetings with staff, students, families and community members, to create, revise and eventually adopt six “will statements” as expectations for our students. These statements look a little different than traditional school district strategic goals. They reflect ideals and traits that, I believe, we all want for our children, but perhaps have not seen stated so explicitly in the schoolhouse.

In addition to the customary and appropriate academic skills that Olympia has always placed a high priority upon and done so with great success for many in our system, these outcomes also speak to characteristics that are perhaps more difficult to measure but are yet equally important in life. We want our children to grow up to be healthy, inquisitive, ethical, caring and strong individuals who can work together with others for good. We’ve always wanted this, and our school staffs have historically worked tirelessly to create classroom environments that promote these ideals. With these outcomes, I am hopeful that, as a district, we can set goals and allocate resources to better support our teachers and support staff even more intentionally in their efforts. We believe this more deliberate focus on the whole student will lead to greater academic gains for all.

There is more work to be done. The board is committed to a process in which district leadership, with input from staff, students, families and community members, will further define and interpret these broad outcomes. That deeper explanation will be accompanied by metrics so that staff and families will know what we mean by each outcome and how we will measure if we are successful in reaching that result for all students. Our goal is to have that work completed by the end of the school year, so look for information on opportunities to participate after the new year.

In the meantime, if you have not seen the Student Outcomes for the Olympia School District, they are:

 

  • Our students will be compassionate and kind.

  • Our students will have the academic and life skills to pursue their individual career, civic and educational goals.

  • Our students will advocate for the social, physical and mental wellness of themselves and others and be hopeful about the future.

  • Our students will have the skills, knowledge and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic and societal bias.
    Our students will discover their passions, be curious and love learning.

  • Our students will be critical thinkers who contribute to and collaborate with our local, global and natural world.

 

I wish all of our Olympia School District families a happy and restful holiday season with loved ones and friends, and a wonderful New Year.

 
Sincerely,
Patrick


 

November 27, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)

 

Hello Olympia School District Families,

Hopefully all of you enjoyed a restful and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. As we approach the winter holidays, it is a good time to reflect on all of the things that we are thankful for in the Olympia School District. The greater Olympia community continues a long history of supporting our schools in so many ways. Thousands of volunteers continue to dedicate tens of thousands of hours of help in our classrooms every year. We have talented, dedicated teachers and support staff serving our students skillfully and compassionately. As evidenced by strong achievement results, our hard-working students continue to excel academically, artistically and athletically. All of this makes Olympia a destination for families and staff in search of an extraordinary community in which to live and work that is committed to public education.

As the calendar year comes to an end, this is also the time that we refine our budget projections for the upcoming school year. You may recall from an earlier newsletter message that we are once again looking at a significant shortfall in the 2019-20 school year. I suspect for some that this is probably beginning to sound a little like a broken record, but the fact remains that the McCleary “fix” — legislation passed in 2017 — was not a fair solution for all school districts in the state. There were winners and losers because the revenue was not distributed equitably, which has actually caused more inequality between school districts. Several factors have contributed to this disparity in funding and our bleak financial outlook:

  • The state issued “regionalization” funding bonuses ranging anywhere between 6% and 24% to about one-third of the state’s nearly 300 school districts. This “no-strings attached” addition to these chosen districts’ state apportionment was reportedly distributed in part because of a higher cost of living in certain areas of the state. But when looking at a map of the districts that did or did not receive “regionalization,” it does not make sense. Olympia School District received zero regionalization dollars.
  • The McCleary fix created a new state education tax, which was funded in part by markedly reducing school districts’ abilities to raise funds through local levies. The new local levy formula, like “regionalization,” has had a massive unequal impact across school districts. The new formula states that local communities can only run local levies at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. In Olympia, we ran our previous, voter-approved Educational Maintenance and Operations levy at a rate of just over $3 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. As a result of the new law, we will only be able to collect about half of our previously approved amount. Instead of a $27 million collection in 2019, we will only collect about $14 million. The infusion of new state dollars does not cover that dramatic reduction. The inequity is glaring in that some districts, particularly to the North with higher property values, will still collect 100%, or close to it, of their previous levy amounts under the new funding formula. Compounding the inequity, some of those districts that will collect their full levy amount will also collect 18% in regionalization.
  • The Legislature eliminated a long-time funding mechanism that apportioned more funds to districts with more experienced staff who earn more. As a result, the change penalizes districts with more senior and experienced teachers and staff. As stated previously, in Olympia we have a significant number of experienced and dedicated teachers, high above that state average, who are committed to our community and stay in our district. This was one area in which our advocacy efforts last year paid off and resulted in an increase in dollars for Olympia beginning in 2019-20; however, that increase does not fully make up for the funding we would have received under the old formula. In fact, it falls about $2 million short.
  • Increased health benefits for part-time staff, special education requirements and mandatory class-size reductions in the lower primary grades will cost millions of dollars to implement because they are underfunded state mandates.

 

All of these factors together have us currently projecting a budget deficit of between $8.5 and $9 million in 2019-20 if we continue to operate all schools and programs as they are currently staffed and funded. To reduce our budget by that amount would result in about a 6% reduction in our approximately $137 million operating budget.

As mentioned previously, we are not alone in facing a significant budget shortfall next year. You will hear similar messages from many districts in Thurston County, as well as other counties statewide, because the factors that are impacting us are also impacting many of them.

We will be providing our community with more information and feedback opportunities for how best to approach the projected budget deficit. As stated previously, we had some success last year but will need to be even more successful this longer legislative session, which begins in January, in urging lawmakers to find long-term solutions for Olympia School District students, staff and families. And given prior history when the Legislature faced major policy and budget decisions during a longer session, any possible financial solutions will not likely be finalized until June. Unfortunately, that would be too late for some of the budgetary decisions we will have to make due to legal and contractual timelines.

This budgetary challenge will undoubtedly be stressful. While we are committed to a transparent process with ample opportunities for all stakeholders to provide feedback, we know there will not be any easy or pain-free solutions. And while we relentlessly educate and advocate for our district with state officials, we will do all we can to protect those things that make Olympia such a wonderful learning community.
 
Sincerely,
Patrick


 

October 17, 2018 (Email message to all OSD families)

 

Dear OSD parent or guardian,

The safety and security of our students and staff are always of the utmost importance. Subsequently, we continuously review our policies and procedures to ensure that recent research and best practices support our safety protocols. As we see a need to modify our practices, we do so after careful research, consultation with our law enforcement partners and consideration of what is best for students.

To that end, we want to make you aware of some new additions to our safety training, used in school districts nationwide, that will be presented to our students beginning this fall. We invite you to learn more about the training at one of two parent meetings:

Tuesday, October 23 at Capital High School, 2707 Conger Ave. N.W. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the theatre.

Tuesday, October 30 at the Knox Administrative Center, 1113 Legion Way S.E. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. on the first floor in the board room.

The Olympia School District has partnered with the Olympia Police Department to present the A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) training to our staff and students. Your school principal will be emailing you a follow-up letter soon outlining when your child’s school is scheduled to deliver the training to students.

Preparing our students for emergency situations at school is not new. As you are probably already aware, we host a variety of drills at our school throughout the year to help students understand how to respond in the event of emergencies such as an earthquake or a fire. Sadly, in more recent years, we are also preparing our students and staff in the case of an armed intruder.

The number one goal of A.L.I.C.E. and our school is to keep students and staff safe and away from harm. The training is basically an enhanced lockdown drill. During an enhanced lockdown, students lock themselves inside a classroom or other school space when directed to do so by school staff. Blinds are closed, lights are turned off and teachers and students may barricade the room if possible. Additionally, A.L.I.C.E. gives staff or students the option to evacuate or flee an area if that is the best course of action.

This training also teaches staff and students, particularly in middle and high school, to be prepared as a last resort to “counter” – apply skills to distract, confuse and gain control.

We have given careful consideration to presenting the A.L.I.C.E. training in an age-appropriate way. Students in grades 6-12 will be trained by staff and/or Olympia Police officers on the full A.L.I.C.E. protocols.

Students in elementary school will be trained in their classrooms in the context of a lockdown drill. The protocols that we teach elementary students will be personalized to their environment and grade level. We will emphasize that students listen and follow directions from their teacher.

We certainly understand that it is difficult to think about potential emergencies, especially the thought of a violent intruder in our schools. We recognize, also, that this particular training may be a difficult topic for some students and families. While we hope that we never have to apply this training in our schools, we would be remiss in our duties if we did not prepare our students and staff how to be as safe as possible. If you have concerns about your student participating in this activity, I encourage you to contact your school principal.

For more information, we hope you are able to attend the October 23 or the October 30 parent meeting. More information about the A.L.I.C.E. training and tips for parents in talking with your child are also posted on our district website.

Sincerely,

Patrick Murphy
Superintendent



October 24, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)

 

Hello Olympia School District Families,

That extra chill in the wind and the colorful leaves littering the streets of Olympia are letting us know that the sunny warm weather we’ve so enjoyed is fading fast and winter is not too far away. As we break out the winter clothes and gear up for the cooler temps, I want to take one more opportunity to encourage you to give us your feedback and ideas around the draft student outcomes created by our school board.

You might recall in last month’s Spotlight on Success message that I mentioned the board’s community outreach efforts to gather feedback on the draft student outcomes that will be the driver of our new Strategic Plan. The school board, like a strong classroom teacher, knows the importance of establishing learning targets before making lesson plans. Learning targets guide teachers on what materials they will need and which instructional strategies to use. Likewise, the school board wants to firmly establish the outcomes we want for all of our students to help inform decisions on budgets, staffing and programs.

To date, we have met with more than 40 focus groups, including school employees, students, parent organizations, community groups and service clubs. We’ve had more than 300 responses to our online survey. The board is hoping to solidify the outcomes at a November board meeting, so if you have not had a chance, please take a moment to answer the brief questions on the feedback formOpening in a new window before November 1. Thank you for your help with this important work.


Sincerely,

Patrick C. Murphy, Ed. D.
Superintendent


 

September 28, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)

 

Hello Olympia School District Families,

As we complete the first month of the 2018-19 school year, hopefully we are all getting back into the routine of school. From your morning rituals, to preparing lunches, daily schedules, bus rides, car pools, sports practices and homework; there really is a rhythm to school that takes a while to establish, but once you find it, there is a comforting quality to it that is quite reassuring. As we settle in, I wanted to take a moment in this column to update you on a couple of important items.

First, our school board is diligently moving ahead with its community outreach efforts to gather feedback and input on the Draft Student Outcomes that will be the driver to our new Strategic Plan. From staff meetings, to PTA’s, to community organizations, directors are determined to hear from as many of you as possible to get your thoughts on the goals for our students that will drive our decision making for years to come. If you can’t make it to the input gathering session at your child’s school, you can always share your thoughts on our online feedback formOpening in a new window.

Secondly, we will be coming out later this fall and winter to provide information on our budget projections for the 2019-20 school year. Some of you may recall that last year we had projected a significant deficit for this current school year that would have required significant cuts. Those cuts were averted due to a last minute infusion of funding at the end of the last legislative session. However, that was one-time funding and did not represent a long-term fix for the Olympia School District. Unfortunately, we are once again looking at a significant shortfall in 2019-20 and have no reason to suspect that a fix — short or long-term — will be forthcoming.

You may recall from last year’s communication that Olympia was not helped by the funding formulas that came out of the Legislature’s response to the “McCleary Decision.” While the Supreme Court has ruled the state is in compliance now due to a significant infusion of new dollars into the state education coffers and a restructuring of how taxes are collected and allocated, the fact is that that revenue has not been distributed equitably and has caused more inequality between school districts. We are not alone in facing significant shortfalls next year.

We will be providing our community with more information on this troubling fiscal situation in the months to come and provide feedback opportunities for how best to approach the projected budget deficit. We had some success last year in our advocacy efforts and hope we can be even more successful this session in urging the Legislature to find long-term solutions for Olympia School District students, staff and families. Stay tuned for more information.

In the meantime, enjoy the last burst of summer weather mixed with the beautiful autumn colors and falling leaves that surround our school campuses. As I visit school open houses, drop by classrooms, and attend campus activities and events, I am so proud of the hard work and learning taking place around the district.

Sincerely,

Patrick C. Murphy, Ed. D.
Superintendent

 

2017-18 School Year

August 30, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)

 

Hello Olympia School District families,

There is an old classic Peanuts comic strip where Charlie Brown is complaining to Linus about how summer is almost over and he wonders, “Where did it go?” Linus ponders for a moment and replies, “Summers always fly, Winters walk.” That adage can feel particularly true when we see “back to school” ads on TV in the midst of hot summer weather. And yet, at the same time, few things can get children (and parents) as excited as the anticipation of the upcoming start of a new school year.  I can tell you we in the Olympia School District are incredibly enthusiastic to welcome all of our students back to school, including our brand new preschoolers and kindergartners. If any of you, like me, had the opportunity to attend our graduation ceremonies this past June, you might better understand why we are so eager to welcome our students back to school. Our recent graduates are a talented, caring, thoughtful, hard-working group of individuals who I have no doubt will change the world. They didn’t get that way through happenstance. I have learned that there is an incredible partnership in Olympia between our nurturing and devoted families and our compassionate and highly skilled school staff. This special connection between home and school begins in pre-K and continues all the way through elementary, middle and high school, producing amazing young adults well-prepared to pursue their dreams.

At the end of the day, that is what we all want — to teach and develop our children so they can go on to live healthy, productive and satisfying lives. Our school board spent time this summer thinking about that ultimate goal. During their summer retreat, the directors created draft student outcomes to drive the goals of the district's new Strategic Plan. We will be embarking on an intensive community outreach campaign to solicit input on the draft outcomes that will include meetings and focus groups with staff, students, families and community.  Families’ voices and thinking is critical to this process to not only solidify the outcomes, but also to create the metrics and action plans to ensure that all families in the Olympia School District are well served and our students meet their full potential. Stay tuned for opportunities to participate in feedback sessions at your school or in the community. We also invite you to share your feedback on the draft student outcomes by filling out and submitting a brief online feedback formOpening in a new window. Lastly, we hope you stay informed about our Strategic Plan work this year by visiting a Strategic Planning webpageOpening in a new window on our school district website.

As we launch a new school year, I want to close this message by affirming how fortunate we are in the Olympia School District to have such a supportive community. From bond measures, to volunteerism, to advocacy; I’ve never seen a school system so wholly strengthened by the region it serves. So thank you, again, for your continued dedication and service to the children of Olympia.

Patrick C. Murphy, Ed. D.
Superintendent

 


 

June 19, 2018 (Spotlight on Success) 

 

Hello Olympia School District families,

It is hard to believe that we are reaching the end of the 2017-18 school year. As I complete my first year in the district, I want to again express my appreciation to all of the families, staff and community members for your warm welcome this year, but more importantly, for your unwavering support to our students in the Olympia School District. As expectations have increased and technology continues to “flatten the earth,” the impressive Class of 2018 leaves us equipped with perhaps a stronger academic foundation and deeper understanding of the world than any group that has proceeded them. A tradition I’ve discovered this year in Olympia is that our seniors make a point of visiting their former elementary schools in their caps and gowns to thank their former teachers and staff. What a wonderful ritual to recognize the collective effort of our community to launch our graduates to their next stage of life. And speaking of elementary schools, this year’s kindergartners will be the Class of 2030. I can’t help but wonder what they will be achieving and creating when they walk across the stage 12 years from now.

Related to that future wondering, you may recall from previous messages that we have a five-year Strategic Plan that expires this school year. As such, we have been engaging our community in a vigorous and healthy process and conversation through surveys and a recently completed Educational Summit to help flesh out the long-term strategic direction for our district based on shared values and agreed upon student outcomes.

We had thousands of responses to our budget and pre-Summit surveys that helped inform the two-day Educational Summit. More than 130 people filled the banquet room at the Hotel RL in Olympia at the end of May. In addition to 40 students, who were the largest represented group in the room, there were family members, teachers, principals, custodians, bus drivers, other support staff, and community members from many backgrounds. Our school board set goals last summer to focus this year on four major themes: equity, early learning, mental health, and closing opportunity and achievement gaps. While Olympia is a very high performing school district by most traditional metrics, we know that there are troublesome gaps that consistently impact certain demographic groups of students in our system — students of color, students receiving special services and students impacted by poverty. We also know that stress and anxiety is overwhelming many of our students and families and impacting the ability to learn. We know the incredible importance of preschool and of a solid foundation in the early years of learning, and yet too many of our students, especially those in poverty, are underserved in this area.

Because of this, the Summit invite list was intentionally weighted to bring people together that had experience, expertise and ideas related to these key focus areas. There were two days of fruitful and powerful conversations which produced much information for the board to consider. This summer the board will use this data and other information in the drafting of student outcomes to drive the measures for determining school district performance and the creation of the new Strategic Plan. While there were dozens of ideas and areas of focus that came out of the summit, participants narrowed key focus areas to the following:

  • Assuring Foundational Skills/Lifelong Learning
  • Addressing Bias and Inclusion
  • Focusing on Safety
  • Producing Global Navigators
  • Maximizing Choices/Pathways
  • Ensuring a Strong Sense of Self-Worth


To learn more about the Educational Summit, including details related to these big ideas, results of a pre-Summit survey, photos from the event and other relevant data, visit a new Strategic Planning webpage on the school district website. The school board will have an opportunity to expand upon its own takeaways from the Summit at an upcoming study session on July 2 and at its summer board retreat in mid-July. It is during the retreat that the board is expected to create a draft of student outcomes to drive the goals of our new Strategic Plan. The community will have a chance to review these student outcomes and submit additional input this fall, but the board appreciates input at any time. Stay tuned for more information. 

Thank you all, once again, for a great 2017-18 school year. I wish you and your family a restful, joyful and relaxing summer break.

Patrick


April 24, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)

  

Hello Olympia School District Families and Community,

It is hard to believe Spring has arrived and we are on the verge of the last couple months of the school year.  Where did the time go? Someone told me once that the years are no shorter now than when we were children; it’s just that a year makes up a smaller percentage of one’s lifetime with each year that we get older, and so in a way it feels shorter.

Whatever the reason, this year has been a bit of a whirlwind, and at the same time incredibly gratifying.  You might recall, as I started the school year as your new superintendent, I created an entry plan to better know and understand the district. I compiled a reportOpening in a new window at the end of that entry plan in which I mentioned the goals set by the Board of Directors this past summer. I put particular emphasis on the board’s goal #3 which states:

By June 2018, with the engagement of the local community, create a new Strategic Plan for the purpose of managing the future work of the district: That work will include establishing agreement among Olympia School District stakeholders around shared core beliefs and student outcomes, setting priorities, focusing resources, strengthening operations, and ensuring that all staff are working toward common goals.

The 2018-2023 Strategic Plan must include and embed:

  • The continued development of a district vision for equity and the organizational development required to enact the vision;
  • Attention to the social/emotional aspect of student mental health;
  • Initial steps based on recommendations from the 2017 Early Learning Report;
  • Actionable goals/objectives to close the achievement/opportunity gaps.

 

The work of bringing together stakeholders to establish core beliefs will begin in earnest on May 29 and 30 during an Olympia School District Educational Summit. More than 100 individuals consisting of students, staff, families and community members will meet for two days to build a foundation for our strategic planning. By establishing agreed-upon student outcomes, we will not only have a Strategic Direction in which to tether our plan, but we will then be able to identify and develop the appropriate metrics and benchmarks with which to measure the progress and eventual success of our plan. It’s an ambitious idea, and one I am excited to embark upon.

 
As we developed our list of invitees to the Summit, we placed an emphasis on ensuring strong representation from historically underrepresented groups like students and families of color, those impacted by poverty, English Learners, and our students with special needs and their supporters. A stronger presence in our planning process by these students, families and supporters is critical if we are to effectively address and eliminate the achievement and opportunity gaps that these students, in general, persistently experience year after year. We created a Summit Planning Committee with this in mind to ensure diverse representation on May 29 and 30. Ultimately, as stated previously, our goal is to reach consensus on student outcomes for our graduates. We want to get clear about those characteristics, skills and attributes that we want all of our graduates to possess upon leaving our system so they are adequately prepared for the challenges and opportunities they will face when leaving our system. That clarity will help us set clear strategic planning goals, action plans and metrics moving forward.

While there will be more than 100 people in the room at the two-day Summit, we would like input and ideas from our entire community to help inform the conversation those two days. Next week, we will email all OSD families and staff a link to a brief survey requesting input on the four board goals referenced above — equity, mental health, early learning and closing achievement and opportunity gaps. Our district Communications department will follow up the email with a call to all OSD families informing them that the survey has been sent. You will also be able to find the online survey posted on the district and all school webpages, as well as on district social media platforms. We hope you take time to fill out the brief survey and lend your voice to the important strategic planning process by the May 18 survey deadline. Please encourage your friends, neighbors, business colleagues, family members, and other members of the Olympia community to take the survey as well.

Thank you for your ongoing support of our schools. The Olympia School District is an incredible learning community. This Summit is part of our continuing efforts to look for the most effective ways to engage our community in order to ensure more diverse voices are heard.  Our goal is to continue the strong achievement in all areas that has been a hallmark of the OSD, while at the same time ensuring success is experienced by all students.

Thank you again.

Patrick Murphy
Superintendent

 


 

March 5, 2018 (Email message to all OSD families and Friends of OSD)

Dear Olympia School District families and community members,

Following the tragic shooting at a Florida high school on February 14, there has been a collective momentum by students around the country to organize school walkouts and marches to honor the victims in that shooting and protest school violence.

Some of our Olympia students have already participated in student-led walkouts following the Florida shooting, and we are aware of several more school walkouts planned nationally and regionally. 

At a minimum, we are aware of a student-led national 17-minute school walkout planned at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14. National organizers are calling for 17 minutes of action/activity on that day to commemorate the 17 lives lost at the high school in Parkland, Florida.

We also recently became aware of a regional student-led effort to have students in Western Washington gather at the Washington State Capitol Building starting at 10:15 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, March 6, to make their voices heard about gun safety legislation before the legislative session ends on Thursday.

Planned events such as these are student-led events and not school-sponsored activities.

We are proud that our students want to exercise their First Amendment rights to express their views on this important topic. When students advocate for an issue they feel passionate about, it can be a powerful learning experience. We also recognize that some students may not want to participate in a walkout and would prefer to stay in class. We want to ensure that all students feel safe and respected, no matter what they choose to do.

We want you to know, as parents and community members, how the district will respond if students participate in a student-led walkout on a school day:

If a walkout occurs on any of our campuses, schools and classes will continue on their normal schedule.

Student safety is essential. Wherever possible, and especially in our middle and high schools, school administrators are working with student leaders to ensure a safe place and supervision for those who choose to participate in student-led walkouts.

We encourage students who choose to participate in walkouts to remain on campus. When students leave campus, it is more challenging to look out for their well-being.

The planned nationwide and local walkouts are student-led events and not school-sponsored activities. Therefore, we will continue to follow our district policy regarding excused and unexcused absences.

Actions Families Can Take

We encourage you to talk with your child, as is age-appropriate and/or appropriate for your family, about the collective national conversation about school safety and your child’s possible participation in any planned student-led walkouts.
As with any school-related issues you or your child may feel passionate about, you are always welcome to contact your state or federal legislators. You can identify your state and federal representatives by visiting www.leg.wa.gov and selecting the “Find Your District” (legislative or congressional) link on the left side of the page.

School Board Considers Resolution on School Violence

While public school district employees must remain neutral (non-political) during school hours, including during events such as student-led walkouts or protests, your elected representatives on the Olympia School Board plan to discuss and possibly act on a proposed resolution tonight that supports “sensible gun safety legislation to protect students and staff.”

The proposed resolution also supports legislation currently under consideration by the state Legislature that would enact gun safety measures named in the resolution — specifically, Senate Bill 6620, House Bill 3004, and Engrossed Senate Bill 5992.

Additionally, the proposed resolution states that the “Board of Directors of the Olympia School District wholly rejects arming school staff for any purpose, and will maintain existing regulation of firearms at school and will NOT support any effort to arm educators and staff.”

Finally, the proposed resolution suggests the Board of Directors endorse and participate in a student-led March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Washington State Capitol. Similar marches are taking place throughout the nation on this day.

Tonight’s Olympia School Board meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Knox Administrative Center Board Room, 1113 Legion Way S.E. in Olympia.

Read the full version of the proposed Olympia School Board Gun Safety Resolution 572

Thank you.


March 14, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)

 

Hello Olympia School District families and community members,

I am writing to share some good news. After months of uncertainty and a bleak district budget outlook for the 2018-19 school year, we learned last week that the Legislature adopted a state budget that virtually eliminates our projected deficit for the coming school year.

While the adopted state budget and legislation has complex impacts that we are still evaluating, most importantly, we know we will not proceed with any layoffs of our employees.

I want to extend a huge thank you to all of the people who helped advocate for our students and staff over the past six months. Our school board, Education Foundation, students, parents and staff have been active in telling our story, and we are grateful for the outpouring of support. Many of you contacted your local legislators; you made a difference.

We are meeting with staff at schools around the district and will continue to do so to both explain our budget process and apprise staff of the long-term fiscal outlook for the district.

While we are pleased with the new funding for this next school year, the financial outlook is not as promising for the 2019-20 school year and beyond. We will continue to work with lawmakers to advocate for adequate long-term funding for our school district and look forward to your partnership in this ongoing process.

Sincerely,

Patrick Murphy
Superintendent


 

February 25, 2018 (Email message to all OSD families and Friends of OSD)

 

Dear OSD families and community members,

 

Like all of you, we as a school district were deeply saddened by and continue to grapple with the school shooting earlier this month in Parkland, Florida. Safety is and always has been our first and foremost responsibility, and yet we recognize that since the Florida shooting, some of our students, staff and parents are feeling more anxious about their safety at school. Some have contacted me and other school leaders personally to ask about safety measures in place now and those planned in the future.

 

Knowing this, I want to take a few moments to explain some of the work our district has done in the area of safety, as well as share about discussions and partnerships taking place locally

and regionally as we take more steps moving forward.


Some of our school safety work to date:

 

  • We conduct safety drills, including active shooter and other internal threat drills, to ensure that if we were faced with such a situation, we could act swiftly in response to such an act. Our local law enforcement and first responders are strong partners and have completed extensive training as well, including using schools for training drills.

  • We partner with the Olympia Police Department and value our partnership with the School Resource Officers who work out of our two comprehensive high schools but serve the entire district.

  • The Olympia School District starts with a foundation of best-practice Emergency Operations Plans for numerous crisis situations, including armed intruders. Each plan identifies that school’s response in an emergency, makes assignments for leadership and teams in the response, and has a site-specific reunification plan. These Emergency Operations Plans are posted on the school district website for each of our 19 schools. Staff and students actively practice these responses in regular school drills.

  • All building renovations incorporate features protective in an active shooter event.  Public announcement/bell/paging systems are being upgraded to ensure that all end points and classrooms can receive consistent and fast communication.  The current bond and recently approved technology and safety levy includes resources to upgrade access control systems (electric door locks and badges).

  • Only the main entrance to a school is open during the school day; all other exits are locked and/or monitored.  (Comprehensive high schools have two entrances.) We are piloting a locked front entrance at Roosevelt Elementary School during regular school hours monitored by video, with potential for expansion.

  • All schools have an advertised tip line students and/or parents can use to anonymously report information of potential violence, bullying and harassment. 

  • All schools have an emergency protocol for assessment of students displaying threatening behavior, and teams are trained in how to address bullying, social stresses, suicide risk factors and/or mental health concerns.


At the same time, like some school districts around us, we want to remind parents and community members that there are other steps we all can take to ensure safety in our schools:

 

  • Talk to your children: Provide a safe environment for children to ask questions and openly express their worries and concerns.

  • Recognize the warning signs: Even small changes in behavior (moodiness, changes in sleep, antisocial behavior, changes in school performance) can give you an early warning that something is troubling your child.

  • Know when to intervene: If you see children exhibiting behavior or attitudes that could potentially harm themselves or others, talk to their parents or, if it is your child, do something to stop it. If you are unable to have those conversations, report these behaviors to a school staff member or law enforcement.

  • Monitor social media accounts: These should be monitored by parents and friends, and any warning signs should be reported.

  • Stay involved: Be aware of your child’s school workloads and grades, be informed about existing emergency plans and procedures, and get to know their friends.


Also, please remember that school staff members are available at all of our buildings if your child is feeling anxious, sad or worried about being safe at school. Please contact your school office if you feel your child needs some additional support.

I want to close, however, by commending our students. They, as well as youth across the country, are sharing their voices on the issue of school safety. Student advocacy is powerful, and we want to support them in their student-led efforts as part of this national conversation. Principals are already in conversations with their student leaders, for example, about some activities including potential school walkouts planned in this state and across the nation this spring in response to the Florida shooting. As we learn more about these events, we will be communicating with families and will make sure we continue to serve all students, whether or not they choose to participate.

We are committed to identifying additional steps we need to take for the safety of our schools and will continue to work diligently on the items within our control in this area. We are in discussions with other agencies and area leaders regarding a regional meeting about school safety for all Thurston County families. As we have more details, we will communicate that to you.

 

Thank you for collaborating with us to make Olympia schools a safe place for students to come and learn every day. Please reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,
 

Patrick Murphy
Superintendent



February 15, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


As we head into the second half of the 2017-18 school year, we want to give a huge thank you to Olympia School District voters. Based on early, unofficial election returns this week, voters have approved a four-year technology and safety replacement levy. With an approval rate of just under 70 percent, our levy is among the most heavily supported school ballot measures in the state. We are grateful for our community's support, and we are excited to move forward with initiatives that will increase student access to technology, continue our focus on safety, and prepare students for success now and into the future as they move on to college and/or careers. Thanks to this levy passage, our students will benefit from up-to-date technology in their classrooms, enhanced instruction, and a more equitable learning environment for all. Importantly, the levy will provide training for teachers and other staff and parents as we continue to thoughtfully integrate this new technology and teach our students how to use it in a safe, responsible and healthy way.
 
While we are so fortunate to have the strong financial support of our community for our future technology and safety efforts, we are in more precarious shape when it comes to our general operating budget which pays for things like second-grade teachers, nurses, algebra teachers, librarians, custodians, etc.  As you may recall from my previous superintendent messages, House Bill 2242, which passed last summer, dramatically changed how school districts are funded. Unfortunately, it has had an adverse impact on the Olympia School District.  Our governor and the superintendent of public instruction, while acknowledging the good parts of HB 2242, both called for technical fixes during this short legislative session to mitigate unintended negative impacts to districts like Olympia that are facing significant deficits in their operating budgets. We have worked hard to educate and raise awareness with our legislators, but we won't know the outcome until the end of the short session, which is scheduled for March 8. We have scheduled OSD budget community forums on February 28 and March 7. Details on the meeting times and locations are listed in the calendar at the end of this newsletter. Stay tuned for more information about these meetings and on ways you can give input on our budget process.
 
Finally, while we don't know what fixes, if any, will come out of this legislative session, engaging our community in a conversation about values and priorities to inform our budget decisions can pay dividends for us as we launch into a strategic direction and planning process. As our existing five-year Strategic Plan expires this school year, we will be engaging our community in a vigorous and healthy process later this spring to establish a new long-term strategic direction for our district based on shared values and agreed-upon student outcomes. So likewise, stay tuned for information about ways to be involved in that important process.
 
Thank you all, again, for your generous support of our school district. We look forward to a wonderful and fruitful second half of the school year.
 
Sincerely,
Patrick


January 11, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)

Hello Olympia School District Families,

 

Happy New Year to all!  2018 brings challenges and opportunities to the Olympia School District. 

 

As I mentioned in a previous newsletter message to our community, we have completed our analysis of the most recently passed state budget. House Bill 2242 does provide a much-needed and long overdue infusion of additional funds into education. Unfortunately, the formula for allocating those funds benefits some districts and harms others. Olympia School District, unfortunately, falls in the latter category. While there are lots of components to the budget, it has become clear that there are two primary reasons for this adverse impact. First, the state funding formula no longer accounts for apportioning more funds to districts with more experienced staff who earn more. As a result, it penalizes districts with more senior and experienced teachers and staff. In Olympia, we have a significant number of experienced and dedicated teachers who are committed to our community and stay in our district. That hurts us in this budget. Secondly, the state budget accounts for increased costs in some districts by allocating a Regional Cost of Living factor. This regionalization factor can increase district apportionments by anywhere from 6% to 24%. That amount of increased revenue could not only help to resolve the loss of funding needed for more experienced staff; it allows some districts to implement programs, interventions and strategies to increase student achievement for all students. Ninety-three (93) districts across the state received some form of regionalization money, including practically every district in Snohomish, King, Kitsap and Pierce counties. Our neighboring district to the north here in Thurston County received 6% regionalization revenue. Olympia received none.

 

The combination of the elimination of increased funding for more experienced staff and the absence of any regionalization revenue to offset the blow has left Olympia facing a significant deficit that we forecast to be $6.6 million dollars, or 5% of our operating budget. That is a tough pill to swallow when some districts for the first time in a long time have the resources to expand opportunities for students to better prepare them for the future. We are cautiously hopeful that a technical fix will occur during this short session to address our needs in Olympia. We will continue to work with our legislative partners to that end. 

 

Simultaneously we will be embarking on a budget input process across the district that will engage parents, students, staff and community around priorities to help us craft our budget whatever the outcome of this session. There will be more information coming out soon regarding opportunities to provide input in schools and around the community, so stay tuned for that.

 

We are excited about our proposed technology and safety replacement levy that will be on the February 13, 2018 Special Election ballot. A representative group of staff, students and parents formulated the levy proposal that was approved by the school board this past fall. This levy proposes technology and safety initiatives that would individualize instruction, provide equitable access to devices, teach safe and healthy use of technology, and better prepare our students for college and the careers of tomorrow. For more information, please visit our district website technology and safety replacement levy election Web page.

 

Lastly, once the dust clears from this legislative session, in the spring we will begin the process of working with our community to craft a new Strategic Plan for the district. At our December school board meeting, I shared my findings from my six-month entry plan. With that information to help guide the process, we will again be coming out into the community to gather input and solicit feedback to build the new Strategic Plan. Stay tuned for more information and opportunities on that front as well.

 

Challenges and opportunities, while sometimes stressful, can help us narrow our priorities and discover where our true values lie. We are committed to advocating for the students of our community and partnering with all of you to meet our challenges and take advantage of our opportunities to propel our students to their full potential.

 

Sincerely,

Patrick


December 14, 2017 (Spotlight on Success)

Hello Olympia School District Families,

It is hard to believe that 2017 is almost over. As we head into the holiday season and look to welcome  in a new year, I wanted to express my gratitude and thankfulness to all of our students, staff, families, 
for all of their dedication and hard work since school started back in early September.

As I have transitioned into the role as your new superintendent, I feel fortunate to have had support and feedback from so many of you to help me better understand the district and the community. Some of you may recall, I crafted an entry plan upon being hired last spring. I recently reported out to the board on the culmination of the entry plan and that report can be found here.

While I believe that I’ve learned much in a short period of time, I know that I have much more to absorb to better understand the needs of our schools. At the same time, I did hear some recurring themes in my conversations with students, parents, and community that I think will be helpful as we begin the work in the second half of the school year of crafting a new Strategic Direction and Plan for the district. I heard loudly and clearly that strong student achievement is an expectation and that it is the paramount obligation of our schools to do all we can to prepare our students for college and careers so they can lead healthy, satisfying and productive lives. I also heard that this work must be done while simultaneously meeting the social and emotional needs of our children. Producing compassionate children who are physically and mentally healthy is of paramount importance.

Parent/Family/Community partnership is built into the fabric of the Olympia School District. Partnering with parents, who are our student’s first and most important teacher was another core belief that came through in my conversations with folks. I heard that there is a strong desire to work together across the district to meet common goals while honoring the individuality of each school community.

Finally – in many visits, I heard people express their desire to more effectively address the consistent and nagging disproportionate student outcomes that are present throughout our nation, our state, and in our school district. Students of color, students impacted by poverty, or those enrolled in special programs, too often lag behind their peers in both achievement and opportunity. How we can collectively plan and address those gaps was a consistent theme. These themes align closely with the goal set by the board of directors this past summer to create a new Strategic Plan focused on equity, student achievement, mental health support and early learning.

I will be working with the school board to take what I have learned and commence on Strategic Planning beginning in January of 2018. More information will be coming out to the community about opportunities to participate so please stay tuned.
 
Until then, I wish you all a wonderful winter break and holiday season. We will see you all next year, on January 2!

Sincerely,
 

Patrick Murphy


 

November 21, 2017 (Spotlight on Success)

 

Hello Olympia School District Families,

As we head into the holiday season, I want to again express my deep appreciation and thankfulness to the students, parents and staff of the Olympia School District. Our public schools are crucial to the future of our community, our state and our country. I feel so fortunate to have landed in a place with wonderful students, supportive families and dedicated staff. 

For example, we want to applaud the efforts of Marshall Middle School students, staff and families, as that school was recently named a winner of the 2017 School of Distinction Award — an honor only about 20 middle schools statewide can claim. The award recognizes improvement over five years in English language arts (ELA) and math. The neat thing about this award is it recognizes achievement in student growth and is not just a measure of how many students met an arbitrary benchmark. Meeting students where they are and helping them meet their potential is what education is all about. 

Our final graduation counts for the Class of 2017, as well as the Class of 2016, are further testament to the district’s commitment to education. These numbers include the on-time rate (those in the Class of 2017 who graduated in four years) and the extended graduation rate (those in the Class of 2016 who graduated in five years). When looking at measurements, like graduation rates, we disaggregate the data to determine who is being successful, who is not, and what practices might need adjustment to ensure greater success for all. 

There was a fractional decrease (six-tenths of one percent) in our on-time rate compared to the previous year from 90.0% (an all-time high) to 89.4%. In terms of ethnicity, we saw a slight dip in the on-time graduation rate for our Asian, Hispanic, and two or more races populations. At the same time, we saw a slight increase for our African American students from 79% to 80%. Our low-income students moved up 3 percentage points from 77% to 80%, and students in special education in the Class of 2017 saw a 6 percentage point increase. 

Perhaps more telling, and in many ways more promising information, is the data for our extended (5-year) graduation rate. We moved from 91.6% to 94.9% of all students graduating within five years. That is among the highest in the state! When we hit percentages like 95%, that is when goals like 100% are truly reachable. We have learned through the years that one size does not fit all anymore, and it never did. We want all students to finish in four years, if that is achievable. However, finishing in four years might not be reasonable or even advisable for some. For an English language learner who arrives in our country during the high school years, graduating in five years may be completely appropriate. Health or family circumstances may also warrant an extended time in high school for some students. Additionally, students who receive special services sometimes have plans of service through age 21.

Avanti High School’s graduation data is also noteworthy. The school is unique compared to our two large, comprehensive neighborhood high schools. Some students arrive at the school credit deficient due to life circumstances. The school’s on-time graduation rate is 64%. However, the school’s extended graduation rate is 92%. While initially credit deficient, with the support of staff and families, those students become connected. While they take a little longer, they get across the stage at a similar rate as our traditional comprehensive high schools. 

Without knowing each student’s individual circumstances, there are many other positive data points in our districtwide extended graduation rate data. The on-time rate for African American students, as mentioned earlier in this message, is 80%, but the extended graduation rate is 100%. Similarly, our students who identify as Hispanic had an extended rate of 93%, special education 76%, and low income 86%. These all represent significant increases when compared to their on-time graduation rates.

During some recent district staff trainings, we presented the idea that equity in schools is about eliminating the predictability of educational outcomes based on demographic factors while raising achievement levels for all students. As we continue to re-think the best ways to meet students’ needs in our schools, we will continue to be data-driven in our work.

I hope all of our families have a restful and joyous Thanksgiving break and holiday season. 

Sincerely,

 

Patrick Murphy


October 18, 2017 (Spotlight on Success)

 

Hello Olympia Families and Community,

 

While it has only been a few months since my arrival, each and every day I become more and more impressed by the Olympia School District and am grateful to serve the students, families and staff of this community. I have visited each of our district’s schools this first month and have seen caring teachers engaging students in meaningful and relevant lessons to prepare them for the next stage of their learning and for life. Each school has its own unique identity; its own flavor if you will. But the common factor is a compassionate community that cares deeply for kids and strives to get better each day.

 

Similarly impressive to me is the amount of community support from parent groups, philanthropic organizations and other educational partners in the area. Whether it’s the local universities and colleges, school districts, Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, Big Brothers and Sisters, Tribes, Chambers of Commerce, Morningside, and countless others; it is truly a team effort in Olympia and in Thurston County for all of our children. I am humbled and grateful to be a new member of the team. 

 

With the beginning of the school year, we have also had an opportunity to better understand the impact of the last state legislative session and its new funding formula for school districts. You may be hearing contradictory reports about whether the outcome is good or bad for school districts. That is not surprising that you would get inconsistent testimonials, because it seems quite apparent that some school districts benefitted, and some did not. Unfortunately, Olympia appears to be in the latter category. At this time, our district is looking at a significant shortfall in revenue heading into the next school year unless there is some fix from the Legislature.  We are not alone in this regard, as you may have heard that districts like Seattle and Tacoma are in the same boat.

 

While the complexities of the new funding formula are difficult to sift through, Olympia seems to be particularly and negatively impacted for a few reasons. First, in the past, our voters generously approved a higher local maintenance and operations (M&O) levy (28%) to augment district services, programs and salaries that were not being funded by the state. The new legislative funding formula assumes voters statewide had approved M&O levies at the 24% level making it appear, erroneously, as if the new finance system drives more money to the Olympia School District. Second, the state inserted something called “regionalization” funds into the new budget to account for a higher cost of living in some school districts that may have necessitated more local dollars to pay for its employees out of the M&O levy. Perplexingly, Olympia did not receive any of this funding, while a neighboring school district and many others statewide did. Third, the state-mandated increased compensation for teachers, which was overdue, simultaneously ended a funding formula practice that provided increased funding for districts with more senior and experienced staff who fall at the higher end of the salary schedule. In Olympia, we hire strong dedicated teachers who have a tendency to stay here. As such, we have one of the most experienced and committed staffs in the region and the state. This new budget penalizes districts like ours. Finally, the state has mandated a reduction in class size at primary grades (K-3) but has not fully funded the cost of hiring teachers at those grades for the reasons described above. The new so-called “ample” funding system is not ample; the Olympia School District would have been better able to meet student needs and hire excellent staff under the old funding system.

 

While this does not paint a pretty budgetary picture, we have been and will continue to do all we can to inform and educate our state leaders on the unexpected impact of their most recent effort to fully fund public education in Washington state. As those discussions continue, our staff are dedicated to making sure every day is successful for our nearly 10,000 students that we feel so fortunate to serve.

Patrick

Patrick C. Murphy, Ed. D.

Superintendent

Olympia School District

 

September 15, 2017 (Email to families)

 

Dear Olympia School District families,

One week ago we opened our doors to nearly 10,000 students. This week, we welcomed kindergartners to their opening day of school. As our newest students stepped off the school bus for the first time, found their class lines in the morning, hugged their parents goodbye, and made friends with classmates, I saw such hope and promise in the Class of 2030! I had this same feeling of optimism last week as I rode one of our buses to school. Students boarded the school bus and arrived at school with smiles on their faces, genuinely excited to be back. Since then, during visits to each of our 19 schools, I have witnessed students eager to learn, parent volunteers quick to jump in and lend a hand, and dedicated and caring teachers and support staff focused on helping our students to succeed.

Olympia is a special place to work, and a wonderful place to live and learn. Students, families and our employees have so much to be proud of. As our district becomes more diverse each year, we continue to perform at levels among the highest rates in the state in so many areas. At the same time, we all are aware that some of our students do not achieve at the levels we would hope for. It is that relentless pursuit of meeting the needs of all children that drives us as educators each and every day. In the end, we know there is nothing more satisfying and gratifying then helping students, especially those with more to overcome, to reach their potential.

Students who have significant barriers to overcome in our system include those from undocumented immigrant families. If there is no legislation to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program/executive order, then thousands of students across the nation in our K-12 schools will be impacted. DACA was necessitated because the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act, failed to pass the U.S. Congress in the past. It was brought up before the U.S. Congress again this summer. I want you to know, with the support and direction from our Olympia School District Board of Directors: Mark Campeau, Justin Montermini, Eileen Thomson, Joellen Wilhelm and Frank Wilson; we will be signing a petition, along with other area district leaders, urging our congressional leaders to immediately pursue and approve decisive, bipartisan legislation that will ensure all the children we serve continue to have the same constitutional rights, no matter their immigration status. 

Thank you for your ongoing support of our students and schools. I look forward to seeing you at our many school events and activities throughout the year.

Patrick

Patrick C. Murphy, Ed. D.
Superintendent
Olympia School District


August 31, 2017 (Spotlight on Success)

 

Hello Olympia School District families, staff and community,

We are excited to begin another school year in the Olympia School District. The start of school is a time of renewal and optimism. It is an opportunity to set and pursue new goals, dreams and aspirations. As I have mentioned before, I am honored and humbled to be your new superintendent. Each day in the position, I come away more impressed with the enthusiasm and the commitment from the students and families I have met. Our supportive community has allowed us to progress and move forward on many school bond improvement projects, including five new classroom mini-buildings in our elementary schools and a turf field that will be lit and open year-round at Capital High School.

I've been equally impressed by the obvious compassion and dedication of our Olympia School District staff. They are looking forward to welcoming our students back on the first day of school. We know that our students are set up to do their best when they are in school every day. September is Attendance Awareness Month across the country, and unless students are sick, we really hope to see them every day in the classroom where quality teaching and learning happens. Student success is also largely dependent on our nearly 5,000 volunteers. We welcome you to become involved as a volunteer in our classrooms and in our schools. It makes a big difference.

As the new superintendent, I also want you to be aware that the 2017-18 school year marks the final year of an expiring 5-year Olympia School District Strategic Plan. The results of that plan have been stellar over the past four years. The Olympia School District has never been more diverse ethnically and socio-economically, and in 2016 it boasted an on-time graduation rate of 90% — an achievement that can only be claimed by a small group of districts in the state of Washington. And as you probably already know, the Olympia School District accounted for 40% of all schools in the region recognized with the State's Academic Achievement Award for student growth. Seven of our schools in all were recognized, with the next closest district receiving two awards.

This type of excellence is an expectation in Olympia that must continue with our next strategic plan. At the same time, we must look closely at our student data and outcomes and determine who is not being as successful as we would hope in our system. In our next strategic plan, we must determine what steps and practices must change to reach a 100% on-time graduation rate so that all students reach their academic potential. The school board has set goals for the year around this and given specific direction to me on how to move forward.

By the end of this year, with community engagement, we will create a new strategic plan for the purpose of managing the future work of the district. The work will include establishing agreement among Olympia School District stakeholders around shared core beliefs and student outcomes, setting priorities, focusing resources, strengthening operations, and ensuring that all staff are working toward common goals. The plan will include the continued development of a district vision for equity and the organizational development required to enact the vision; consideration of the social/emotional, and mental health of our students and how best to support them; a continued focus on early learning while incorporating the recommendations from the 2017 Early Learning Report; and relentless pursuit of closing the achievement/opportunity gaps. Stay tuned for upcoming information in future Spotlight on Success newsletters around how you can be a part of the development of the new strategic plan.

Enjoy family and friends during these last few days of summer break. Our teachers and support staff are hard at work preparing their classrooms and buildings for that all-important first day of school. Whether you have a kindergartner new to our system, a senior embarking on their final year, or a student in one of the grades in between, we hope you have a wonderful and memorable start to the new school year.

Sincerely,

Patrick Murphy