December 2019

Spotlight on Success Header - Decembr 2019


December 2019


Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District Families,


Patrick Murphy headshotIncredibly, we are in the last couple weeks of the teen decade of this century. That means on January 1, we will officially start the 2020s. There have been many predictions about what life would be like in the 2020s. One of the more interesting ones was in 1900 when Ladies' Home Journal asked John Elfreth Watkins Jr., of the Smithsonian Institution, for his educated guesses about the 21st century. He predicted that sometime in the early 2000s, "there will be no C, X or Q in our everyday alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary." He said we would be spelling mostly by sound and would only communicate with "condensed words expressing condensed ideas." So, in 2020, we may say to our friends, "Me happy good, hi!"  Looking at my most recent text messages, I think Mr. Watkins may have been on to something. As we head into winter break, I do hope that your time with family and friends is not so condensed, but rather is unhurried and truly enjoyable.

You all hopefully know by now that with the new year, there will be an Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy on the February 11 Special Election ballot. School levies are the only locally approved ballot measures that directly pay for classroom and educational needs of students not funded by the state, of which there are many. Staff like nurses, counselors, social workers and security are disproportionately funded by local levy dollars. We have included information about the proposed Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy on our Olympia School District website. Visit the Levy 2020 webpage.


Also, with the ringing in of the new year, the Legislative session starts up in January. While the inequitable funding refrain may be getting tiresome, sadly it still exists for us in Olympia. Yes, we have had last minute assistance from the Legislature the last two years to help us avoid significant reductions; however, a long-term sustainable funding solution still alludes us. Unlike districts to the north of us, Olympia did not get regionalization dollars to offset the reduction in our local levy collection. Subsequently, we will be wrestling with reductions again this spring without some changes. That is why our school board recently approved legislative funding priorities to guide us as we continue our advocacy and pursuit of equitable, maintainable funding for Olympia students.


While that work awaits us, at the same time we are so grateful for the amazing students that come through our doors every day and the incredibly generous support from our community. I do wish you all a safe and restful winter break with family and friends. See you in 2020!



Patrick Murphy signature

Patrick Murphy




Peer Mentor participants


New peer mentor program grows in popularity at Centennial Elementary 

Kindergartner Angelo Monilla slides his small fingers into a chunky pair of plastic-handled scissors. Ever-so-carefully, he begins to cut along a bold black line drawn on an oversized piece of red construction paper. With each cut, the boy’s eyes remain fixed on the black line. He twists and turns the paper to cut around corners until eventually the excess paper falls to his desk, leaving him successfully holding a bright red paper flower pot.


When Angelo finally breaks his concentration to look up, he sees other students at his table beginning to glue their pots onto a large piece of black construction paper. He searches for a glue stick under what has quickly become a tabletop full of red paper scraps.


As he continues to search, fifth grader Aahana Lohan appears at his side with glue stick and a reassuring smile. She watches as the boy swirls a circle of purple-colored glue onto the black paper and then presses his red flower pot neatly onto one edge to form the beginning of a paper potted poinsettia plant.


Seeing his success, Aahana moves on to help other students. She is among a growing number of fourth and fifth graders who volunteer to help younger peers as part of a new peer mentor program this year at Centennial Elementary School.


Principal Shannon Ritter launched the 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.


“I just love how excited the kids are about this, both the mentors and the younger students,” Ritter says. “The mentor is another person in a younger student’s life that cares about them and wants them to be successful.”


Read the full story here



CHS Canned Food Drive collection


Capital High School heads up annual canned food drive

As winter break approaches, our schools are in the midst of participating in canned food drives across the district. Whether it’s individual canned food drives at the elementary or middle schools, or joining in the concentrated effort at Capital and Olympia high schools, students and staff enjoy their time engaging in this community-focused opportunity. Leadership student Caroline Hurley says, “We get to engage people in our school who aren’t always a part of something like this.”

At Capital High, all first period classes are engaged in a competition against each other. The winning classroom will receive Cougar Pride T-shirts. Currently, there is a significant rivalry developing between two of the English classrooms. Teachers Aaron Street and Caroline Street are fully enjoying the competition. “I think Mr. Street is in the lead right now,” says Leadership student Caroline Hurley. Leadership student Owen Schmidtzinsky was quick to point out that Mr. Street is well aware of the standings; “Every day Mr. Street updates our class on who is ahead.”

Capital High School also participates in an annual Walk N Knock event. Leadership Teacher Angel Elam says she got the idea from her time spent teaching in the Centralia area. The Centralia Chronicle would send out paper bags in their newspaper, and members of the community would then gather the canned food on the predetermined pickup day.

CHS students at work counting cans

Capital High School’s leadership students go out as a group into neighborhoods with a high concentration of houses. The students leave the paper bags on porches with information about the canned food drive and the date they plan to pick up. “I liked talking to people in the neighborhoods. They shared how thankful they were that we were helping out,” Owen says. Elam praises her leadership students, saying, “It’s fun to see the students take the lead, and how everyone pulls together. My whole focus in leadership is Character Strong. We are here to do things for others.” Clubs such as DECA and the National Honor Society are also banding together with leadership students to participate in this Walk N Knock opportunity.


Thurgood Marshall Middle School has also had a great time with their school competition. If the school reaches its goal of 1,300 canned food items, three teachers will receive whipped cream pie in their face: sixth grade teacher Jennifer Huff, seventh-grade teacher Justin Gurnsey and eighth-grade teacher Ashley McCabe” says ASB Advisor Alma Bass.

The school has also taken the opportunity to team up with Capital HS to help them reach their own goal. “Capital is doing the honors of collecting them from us and taking them to the food bank,” Bass says.

We’d like to sincerely thank all our elementary, middle and high schools that participated in canned food drives this year. What a wonderful way to give back to our community during the holiday season!



Avanti High School graduation 2019


Olympia School District celebrates high on-time graduation rate

OSD student studying

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.


Capital HS Career Center

Lauri 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.”


Superintendent Patrick Murphy is also thrilled by this rise in the graduation rate. “We are happy to see among the highest on-time graduation rates in the history of the Olympia School District. This is a reflection, not only of the hard work of our students and support of their families, but also of the efforts of all of our teachers and staff, preschool through high school.”


Read the full story here



OSD Transition Academy students and staff


Transition Academy creates community for students

The Transition Academy is a program for post-secondary students with disabilities with the goal of providing more education and career-building opportunities after high school. This three-year program is for students ages 18-21.


The program was founded by Roberta Dee in 1991. The Dee House, purchased and maintained by grants, is one of several sites the academy uses during the school day.


Transition Academy teacher Julia Calhoon says she loves working with students on developing real-world skills. The program focuses on “functional academics;” skills that students can use in jobs and community involvement. Students volunteer in the community, practice household management at the Dee House and learn skills such as writing resumes. “Our students come to us with a wide range of support needs and skills, but all of them have the shared goal of increasing independence. It's amazing to see the amount of growth our students achieve while in our program, not only in their skills and independence, but also in maturity and self-confidence,” Calhoon says.


Transition Academy students at workThe success of the program shows in the smiles of the students and the tight-knit community it has created. Transition Academy student Lauren Pruett praises her teachers, saying, “They are always there to help you when you are confused, or not sure about something. They are like a practice boss. The staff members and students are all really sweet.” Student Rasmhi Santi says of the program: “It’s amazing. I like meeting new friends, meeting new staff. It’s a great school. The teachers are thoughtful and kind.”


The mission of the Transition Academy is to assist students as they prepare for the transition to their adult lives. “We are less concerned with a specific job such as being a secretary or doing job entry. We are more interested in the soft skills, such as following directions or what to do when you need help. We call those soft skills,” Transition Academy Teacher Jesse Davis says.


For Davis, one of the things he enjoys most is helping students to explore their interests and passions. One of his students was fascinated with culinary arts and wanted to find a way to travel to Seattle to visit family, as well as tour a few restaurants. With encouragement and development of independent skills at the Transition Academy, she was able to achieve that goal. Other students have had the chance to find and develop hobbies, such as volunteering at the Olympia Film Society. Yet another student found her niche at an insurance agency. “She is very outgoing and delightful; an ‘up’ personality. Her personality adds to the environment,” Davis says.


At age 21, students become eligible for many services such as a job coach and discounts for housing. The Transition Academy bridges the gap between high school and that eligibility, culminating in a graduation ceremony.


On weekday mornings, students work on skills such as interviewing and creating resumes, as well as visiting work sites. One of the Transition Academy’s partnerships is with the Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation. Students also work in senior living centers, learning how to set tables and prepare the dining room. Davis and Calhoon act as job coaches for many settings. “The goal is that the job coaches gradually pull back and the students rely more on the supervisors at the work sites,” Davis says.


The afternoons of the Transition Academy are for Community Access; the opportunity for students to split into groups and plan outings in the community. Students attend the library, YMCA and other activities. “Our students are preparing for adult life,” Davis says. One day a week, students also are involved in an Independent Living Group. They participate in cooking and chores at the Dee House. Students take turns with meal planning, chores and cooking. Davis began teaching about seven years ago. When he began teaching at the Transition Academy, there were about 10 students. Now there are close to 25 students in the program.


At the beginning of this school year, Davis created another program: the OSD Transition Club. He recognized the value of the parents of students having the opportunity to network. Many of the parents have the same questions, such as understanding how their student will travel safely and work with a job coach successfully. The program also allows current and graduated Transition Academy students to stay connected. He hopes to build many of the activities around events already in the community, such as Olympia High School’s Walk for Inclusion or the Procession of the Species through the City of Olympia. “Our goal is to create a program that is self-sustainable,” Davis says.


For upcoming OSD Transition Club activities, visit the Transition Program Facebook page or contact Davis at [email protected].



New OSD Board Members


School board elects officers and welcomes newly elected members

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


New board members being sworn in to serviceAt 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.


The board also appointed the following:

  • Maria Flores, legislative representative.
  • Leslie Huff, board representative to the Olympia School District Education Foundation Board of Directors.
  • Hilary Seidel, board representative to the Thurston Regional Planning Council.
  • Justin McKaughan, board representative to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.



Olympia HS student Sathvik Nallamalli and Principal Matt Grant


OHS 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.


The inspiration for his two projects came from India, where his family is from. “There is a lot of pollution there, and the air quality is really bad. A lot of people have lung issues. Many people are not able to get medically screened because it is very expensive. I wanted to create something that could be used for the public,” says Sathvik.


Many people along the way helped encourage Sathvik during his journey to create these two science and engineering projects. Sathvik is grateful to Science Teacher Brian Wright for helping him print the chambers for his Lung Aware App on the school’s 3D printer. Ed Bassett, a recently retired biology teacher, was another teacher that Sathvik shared his ideas and work with. “Mr. Bassett had done a lot of biology research in college. He would ask how my research was going.” Principal Matt Grant also encouraged Sathvik along the way. “Mr. Grant would often be one of the first people I would pitch ideas to. Even if he knows a project is not possible, he always gives me an alternate route. He doesn’t lack in resources and is always wanting you to push forward,” says Sathvik.


Sathvik was able to create his Lung Aware App model his freshman year with materials costing less than $50. His creation is a combination of sensors, tubes, a filter and two pieces of 3D-printed plastic chambers designed similar to the shape of a lung. “If you could mass produce this, you could make it really cheap,” says Sathvik. His model simulates a normal breathing environment, with tapered ends for input and output of air.


Read the full story here



OSD Student Outcomes


District and school improvement plans posted on website

Comprehensive school and district improvement plans, which outline goals and action plans for the 2019-20 school year and beyond, are available for viewing on the Olympia School District website.

The improvement plans serve as a roadmap for schools and the district to set goals and outline how they plan to work to achieve those goals — all in line with the district’s Student Outcomes.

To view the school improvement plans, visit the Home page of any of the 19 schools. Go to the “Our School” tab near the top of the page and click “School Improvement Plan.” To view the district plan, visit the Home page of the Olympia School District website. Go to the “Our District” tab near the top of the page and click “District Improvement Plan.”



Snow covered downtown Olympia


Winter Break schedule

All Olympia School District schools will be closed for Winter Break from Monday, December 23, 2019 through Friday, January 3, 2020. Classes resume on Monday, January 6.


During Winter Break, the district Knox 111 Administrative Center will be open to the public on December 27 and 30, as well as on January 2 and 3. Otherwise, the Knox 111 building will be closed until Winter Break ends on Monday, January 6.



OSD School Board 

School Board Recognition Month is in January

School districts across the state and nation, including Olympia, honor their board of directors during School Board Recognition Month every January.


The Olympia School District will recognize its school board with a special program near the start of the meeting on Monday, January 27. The community is invited to attend the board recognition, which begins shortly after the meeting opens at 6:30 p.m. at Hansen Elementary School, 1919 Road Sixty-Five N.W., Olympia.


The public is also invited to meet and connect informally with school board members between 6 and 6:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.


This marks the 25th year of the annual School Board Recognition Month initiated by the National School Boards Association in 1995.



Upcoming Events



  • December 23 - January 3: Winter Break (No School)



  • January 1: New Year’s Day
  • January 6: School Resumes
  • January 8: Early Release
  • January 8: Parenting Workshop (MS & HS) at ORLA 6:30 p.m.
  • January 13: Board Meeting: Knox 111 Administrative Center at 6:30 p.m.
  • January 15: Early Release
  • January 16: Temperance and Good Citizenship Day
  • January 20: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (No School)
  • January 21: Parenting Workshop (ES) at ORLA 6:30 p.m.
  • January 22: Early Release
  • January 27: Board Meeting: Hansen ES at 6:30 p.m.
  • January 29: Early Release
  • January 30: Half Day (HS) High School Grading
  • January 31: 1st Semester Ends / Half Day ES/MS/HS Grading



OSD Notice of Nondiscrimination

The Olympia School District will provide equal educational opportunity and treatment for all students in all aspects of the academic and activities program without discrimination based on race, religion, creed, color, national origin, age, honorably-discharged veteran or military status, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, marital status, the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. The district will provide equal access to school facilities to the Boy Scouts of America and all other designated youth groups listed in Title 36 of the United States Code as a patriotic society. District programs will be free from sexual harassment. Auxiliary aids and services will be provided upon request to individuals with disabilities.


The Olympia School District offers many Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs/courses in the following areas: Skilled and Technical Sciences/STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics); Agriculture/Natural Resources; Business Marketing; Family and Consumer Sciences; and Health Sciences. For more information about CTE course offerings and admissions criteria, contact Pat Cusack, Director of College and Career Readiness, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506, (360) 596-6102. Lack of English language proficiency will not be a barrier to admission and participation in CTE programs.


The following people have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies, reports of alleged sexual harassment, concerns about compliance, and/or grievance procedures:

Michael Hart, Title IX Officer

Ken Turcotte, Section 504 and ADA Coordinator (Students)

Starla Hoff, ADA Coordinator (Staff)

Scott Niemann, Affirmative Action Officer and Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator

Pat Cusack, Director of College and Career Readiness


All six individuals may also be contacted at 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA, 98506.