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2019-20 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 Conor Schober, Communications and Community Relations Coordinator, at Photos are welcomed and encouraged!


September 2019


Three photos of national merit finalistsThree Olympia School District students named National Merit Semifinalists

Three Olympia School District students were named as National Merit Semifinalists out of 1.5 million juniors who applied. The mission of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation is to “recognize and honor the academically talented students of the United States.” Each year, students throughout the United States who meet the rigorous qualifications for this scholarship program are selected as semifinalists. Paloma Sharangpani, a senior at Capital High School, is one of three Olympia School District students selected for this honor. Her future plans include a desire to attend a small college and major in English. Paloma is looking forward to writing her essay which she will submit to qualify for the National Merit Scholar award. Quinn Murry, a senior at Olympia High School, also was selected as a semifinalist. He is looking forward to majoring in biology at college. He credits his teacher, Ed Bassett, a recently retired biology teacher, with his interest in biology. Quinn also credits his Physics and Robotics Teacher Alex Steinkamp. “Mr. Steinkamp is an amazing teacher in general and always really happy. It’s nice to come into a class with a smiling face,” Quinn says. Gabriella Larsen, a senior at Olympia High School currently enrolled in the Running Start program, was excited to learn of her placement as a semifinalist. “I knew my PSAT score. I wasn’t too surprised, but it was nice to know I was a semifinalist.” She is still exploring the world of college classes and is waiting to decide on a major. “Once I’ve had a chance to take a wider variety of classes in college, I’m hoping to figure out what I’m interested in,” Gabriella says. Congratulations to our three Olympia School District semifinalists!


Olympia HS student selected as Top Young Innovator

Olympia High School ninth grader Nidhi Krishna Kumar has been selected as one of the top 300 middle school scientists in the country. The Broadcom MASTERS competition had more than 2,300 applicants. “I was really excited when I found out. I’ve been placing every year in science fairs, both regional and state. But to know that my work is being recognized nationally is a big deal,” Nidhi says.

Girl poses in hallway of her high schoolNidhi’s science fair project was originally presented at Jefferson Middle School in April 2019. “I built a device which I nicknamed ‘Cura’ which means ‘care’ in Latin,” Nidhi says. This automated greenhouse control system has three sensors: soil moisture, temperature, and humidity and luminosity. “These are the four factors that affect climate the most,” Nidhi says. The data is ultimately uploaded to an app that Nidhi created.


Applicants were judged on the creativity and originality of their submitted science fair projects, as well as on relating Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) principles to the real world. Students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade entered their science projects in Society-affiliated fairs around the country.





October 2019


Reeves teacher conducts research project in Netherlands 

Reeves Middle School teacher teaches in her classroom

Reeves Middle School math teacher Jana Dean set out to discover more about the connection between math and language last year during a six-month stay in the Netherlands. The veteran math teacher, a 2019 recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching, boarded a plane last January for the small country in northwestern Europe.

Her trip abroad, funded by a Fulbright grant, focused on an inquiry project she created called “Math Between Us.” Dean immersed herself in Dutch culture to learn more about the intersection of math and language as people — especially those who teach and learn math in a language different from their native language — communicate with each other about what they see and learn.


Capital HS celebrates Red Ribbon Week for second year in a row

Capital HS has been busy this week highlighting Red Ribbon Week; a nationwide movement that encourages students to be drug free. Capital HS leadership students stood in front of their school bright and early, handing out red ribbons to their peers. To take a red ribbon is to pledge to stay away from drugs. "I pitched the idea of Red Ribbon Week to the leadership kids, and they ran with it," Chemical Dependency Counselor Lorissa Cloud said. Nice job, Cougs!  


Capital high school teacher helps students with work at desks

Capital HS math teacher is finalist for state-level award

Carol McKay, a precalculus and algebra teacher at Capital High School, is one of five finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

McKay is one of only two state-level finalists for the math award. The other three Washington educators are finalists for the science award.

A committee comprised of STEM experts and award-winning teachers selected the five finalists over summer 2019. National awardees will be based on content mastery, use of effective instructional methods, effective use of assessments, reflective practice, life-long learning and leadership in education inside and outside the classroom. The PAEMST program typically announces national award recipients in the spring.


Olympia High School celebrates October as Disability Awareness Month 

Olympia High School celebrated October as Disability Awareness Month during an assembly in the PAC. Motivational speaker Steve Ferreira was invited to speak to students about his journey, successes and challenges with Cerebral Palsy. Olympia HS students also shared about their time in Unified Sports, a Special Olympics program. "It's made me a kinder and well-managed person," one student said. Another student shared how Unified Cheer "spreads positivity across the court." Way to go Oly HS students! You are making a difference in the world.  


High school students study at computers

Capital HS students take part in cybersecurity research study 

Scott Le Duc’s Career and Technical Education classes at Capital High School have been a part of a cybersecurity research study sponsored by Portland State University (PSU). The study began in fall 2019 and will be completed six months later, finishing with a survey that examines the students’ knowledge and experience using the Yubikey. Le Duc has been teaching students what makes a strong password, as well as what “phishing” is and how to guard against it. Students were also provided with a USB device called a Yubikey from PSU. Yubikeys are a security tool used for hardware authentication. Le Duc describes them as, “like car keys for Google accounts.”


Avanti HS Math and PE teacher named Teacher of the Week 

Nikki Winkley, a math and PE teacher at Avanti High School, was named Teacher of the Week by Seattle Mariners Radio Network and WSECU. Nikki received a $500 classroom grant that will be used to build a pavilion at Avanti HS. This pavilion will expand the learning spaces at Avanti and include a construction-based class opportunity for students. Congrats Nikki! What a wonderful adventure for Avanti HS.




November 2019


Elementary girl grins as she paints on her art projectOlympia School District unveils Elementary Art Pilot Program 

The Elementary Art Pilot Program is currently in its first year at the Olympia School District. There are three teachers in district who are teaching art at their schools: Lindsey Johnstone at Hansen Elementary, Julia Bloom at LP Brown Elementary and Mike White at Garfield Elementary. “Our board members had an interest in expanding art programs in our elementary schools,” says Executive Director of K-12 Teaching and Learning Lauri Klancke. With this piloting program, each student at the three schools receives an art class once a week.


Olympia HS team takes Overall Sweepstakes at the High School Math Meet

The Olympia Math Group recently competed in the High School Math Meet hosted at The Evergreen State College. The Math League High School Program holds competitions throughout the year. OHS team members took a variety of first, second and third placings, as well as second place in the Overall Sweepstakes. We'd also like to give a shout-out to Avanti High School who attended the first time this year. Go, Olympia School District teams! 


OSD staff member talks with bilingual mom holding her childWelcome Center reaches out to bilingual families 

This year, the Olympia School District opened its doors to the Welcome Center, located at Roosevelt Elementary School. The Welcome Center is available to families of students of all ages, from elementary to high school. It was created to help “facilitate communication between Olympia School District staff and our bilingual families,” said EL Coordinator Carol Richardson. Nancy Swanson, who works as a Bilingual Family Engagement Specialist added, “The goal of the Welcome Center is to welcome families and take care of their registration and interpretation needs, as well as any additional questions they have. We want to connect them with all the different departments in the district, and with all other available resources.”


Olympia HS senior named football captain for inspiring determination 

OHS senior, Daniel Duncan, suffers from a rare genetic disorder. He was voted captain by his fellow seniors for inspiring his teammates. Although his genetic disorder may lead to Duncan being legally blind in the future, nothing stops Duncan from pursuing what he loves to do. Duncan hopes to coach football down the road.  


Capital student named The Olympian's 2019 All-Area Player of the Year in volleyball

Capital High School junior outside hitter Devyn Oestrich was named The Olympian's 2019 All-Area Player of the Year. She began playing volleyball at the age of eight, inheriting a love of the game from her dad. This is Devyn's third consecutive year on the All-Area team. She was named Most Valuable Player of the 3A South Sound Conference. She also holds Capital's career record for service aces with 146. "She's a team captain. She enables everyone to play well," Capital coach Katie Turcotte says. 


Middle school students pose in front of school bus at Washington CenterPerforming Arts Initiative brings storytelling, music and more to students 

Olympia School District students from four elementary schools, one middle school, and two high schools recently attended a performance by a music group called Che Apalache. This performance was sponsored by the Performing Arts Initiative (PAI) and was performed at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. The purpose of the PAI is to enhance students’ opportunities to enjoy the performing arts. One of the PAI’s goals is to reach students who don’t have equal access to the performing arts. PAI performances cover a wide range of the performing arts. Professional storytelling, comedy, music, poetry, opera and more are brought to our students through this initiative. Funding is mainly provided by the Dawkins Charitable Trust, as well as through grants and private donors. Schools occasionally pay a small fee to host or attend PAI performances. 


ORLA freshman participates in OHS varsity team

Jordan Gram, a freshman at Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA), received the Biggest Cheerleader award from the OHS seniors on her cross country team for her team spirit. Out of the eleven Cross Country races she ran in, eight were as a member of the Olympia High School varsity team. She clocked her time for the 5000 meters at 21:55 minutes. 


Linda holds bouquet and poses with Garfield Principal and OSD SuperintendentClassified School Employee of the Year named 

Congratulations to Linda Kim-Zaccagnini, administrative assistant at Garfield Elementary School, for being named this year’s Olympia School District Classified School Employee of the Year.

Superintendent Patrick Murphy delivered the news during an impromptu Garfield Elementary staff meeting. Cheers and applause filled the room as Murphy announced Kim-Zaccagnini as this year’s award winner.

The annual award recognizes employees who consistently demonstrate outstanding work performance, professional leadership and collaboration. “For many years Linda has been the point person for Garfield Elementary,” said Principal Brendon Chertok. “Her thoughtful approach toward students, families and staff has contributed to an environment that is inclusive and compassionate. Particularly with families who do not speak English, Linda's ability to speak several languages has eased the transition for many of our families. Linda has also created and organized after-school opportunities for Garfield students. In cooperation with community volunteers, staff and parents, these classes include arts/crafts, sports and a homework club among many others.” 



December 2019


Grad specialist works with student in her officeOlympia School District celebrates high on-time graduation rate 

The Olympia School District’s graduation rate for the Class of 2019 reached 91.1%, ranking it among the highest on-time graduation rates in school district history. The percent of students who graduated in five years also climbed at several high schools and contributed to an overall district extended graduate rate of 92.5%.

Many programs contribute to this huge achievement for our district. High School and Beyond Plans facilitated by our Career Center Counselors, have aided in these rising stats. Opportunity Time each week has provided students additional time with their teachers, allowing the students to revisit instruction, ask additional questions and take exams. Restorative Practices have reduced student suspensions and have kept students engaged in their instruction. 


Group of Capital graduates smile at camera, ready for graduationLauri Klancke, executive director of K-12 Teaching and Learning, says, “This is definitely a team effort from elementary through high school. Our teams are working hard to ensure no student falls through the cracks.” Although our programs contribute to these successes, it is our staff who implement them, leading the way to success for our students. Mick Hart, executive director of secondary education, shares the heart behind these programs, saying, “Finding ways to reach students and provide opportunities for them to access instruction, services and a safe place to share their own life struggles has given students in the Olympia School District a place to feel success.”

Older student helps younger peer with schoolworkNew peer mentor program at Centennial ES 

Principal Shannon Ritter launched the peer mentor program shortly after school opened in fall. She asked for interested volunteers during morning announcements over the school intercom. Not long thereafter, 35 students showed up at the door eager to sign up, far exceeding her expectations. The number of mentors has nearly doubled since then as word of the program has spread.

The fourth and fifth graders substitute one of their 35-minute recesses each week to help students in kindergarten and first-grade classes, as well as in the school’s new Developmental Learning Center (DLC) classes.


Sathvik leans on OHS bear with Principal Grant posing on other side of bearOHS student places 4th in Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 

Sathvik Nallamalli, a junior at Olympia High School, finished in fourth place in a science and engineering fair competition out of 1,800 students worldwide. His sophomore project “LC Detect,” or “Lung Cancer Detect,” was the next step for his freshman project “Lung Aware App,” which also took fourth place the previous year. The Lung Aware App took fourth place in the Embedded System Category and LC Detect took fourth place in the Translational Medical Science Category.


Sathvik thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to attend and compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. “It’s the best of the best. Professionals judge your projects, and they know what they are talking about because they are from the field you are competing in. I was able to meet a lot of scientists and professors that I can now work with to get these projects to the public. Getting to talk to people I aspire to be is pretty cool,” says Sathvik.


Three School Board members are elected

At its December 16 meeting, the board elected Hilary Seidel as this year’s board president. The board also elected to have Scott Clifthorne continue as vice president.

Outgoing Board President Joellen Wilhelm administered the Oath of Office to newly elected directors Maria Flores, District 1, and Justin McKaughan, District 2. Both won their respective seats in the November 2019 General Election. Seidel was also re-elected to her District 4 board seat in last month’s election. 



January 2020


High school girls cheer sit on bleachers and hold handmade signs to cheer on teamOlympia Unified Sports 'Pack the Gym' raises the roof 

The bleachers of Olympia High School’s Chick Rockey Gymnasium were overflowing for the Olympia Unified Sports Pack the Gym basketball game. Excited students, staff and families held up handmade signs as the gymnasium loudly cheered on the participants. The game itself was fast-paced and engaging. The players on both teams were flying up and down the court, encouraging each other throughout. When one team scored, both teams celebrated. The camaraderie was evident and the joy the players exuded was genuine.

Unified Sports is a program that promotes social inclusion through sports and competition. Olympia High School places a large emphasis on inclusion, and Olympia Unified Sports is just one of the many ways the school promotes this. Students from OHS, Tumwater High School and River Ridge High School (Lacey) attended the event. This is the fifth year that OHS has participated in Unified events, as well as the fourth year hosting this particular event.


Capital HS School of Rock students receive feedback

Capital High School Arts and Technology Teacher Scott Le Duc wrapped up the third session of composition and recording cycle with his School of Rock students. Eight class advisors listened to compositions and provided feedback to the students. What a great way to encourage these students' talent and hard work!


Crowd of students gather as principal cuts ribbon across school hallwayDedications celebrate remodeled elementary schools 

Hundreds of students, staff, families and community members gathered in January to celebrate the opening of the newly remodeled Centennial, McLane and Roosevelt elementary schools.

Dedication events at each school featured highlights including a ceremonial ribbon cutting, self-guided tours of new learning spaces, and speeches celebrating each school’s past, present and future.

There were also some surprises for guests, including the unveiling of contents inside a 1989 time capsule found during construction at Roosevelt Elementary. At McLane Elementary, there were gasps and even some tears as Principal Anthony Brock announced that an unknown person had recently returned the bronze school bell that went missing from the school’s main entry last March.


Capital Cougarettes Dance Team takes high placings

The Cougarettes Dance Team took first place in Jazz, first place in Pom, first place in JV Pom and first place Overall High Score for the Day for Jazz. The competition was held at Heritage High School and was for teams in southwest Washington. 


OSD Student Rep Alexis Nevy attends WSSDA's annual conference 

OSD Student Rep Alexis Nevy attended Washington State School Directors' Association's annual conference. She wrote about her great experience at the conference in WSSDA's blog: hearing educators' share, feeling like a VIP and being encouraged by all our education system is doing for our students.


Painting of a girl with multicolored hair with coy fish swimming in the airOlympia High School art students are recognized by the Woman's Club of Olympia 

The following students were recognized by the Woman's Club of Olympia for their artistic exploits in a recent competition: 


1st place: Maya Chermack
2nd place: Elise Caddy
3rd place: Whitney Sederberg
4th place: Olivia Vazquez
Honorary Award: Layla Reda