February 2020

Spotlight on Success header February 2020


February 2020


Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District Families,


Patrick Murphy headshotThere is an anecdote I find amusing that goes something like this: A man standing on the bank of a river decides he needs to get to the other side. He jumps in and begins to swim and gets halfway there, but decides he is too tired so he turns around and swims back to where he came. It’s silly because he ended up swimming the same distance but did not get to his desired destination. I guess the moral is if you are halfway there, you might as well keep going.


Well, this is the halfway point in our school year. And yes, there are challenges ahead, and sometimes we get tired, but we, too, need to keep going … and the destination is worth it. Early February also means we are a few weeks into the legislative session. It appears at this point that there is very little legislation with funding for K-12 this go-around. We will continue to advocate for equitable revenue distribution for all school districts, especially those like Olympia that did not fare as well as other districts that received regionalization. Many of those districts can incur increased costs and continue on with business as usual, while we, and many others, have to wrestle with reductions.


This winter season has also been marked with celebration. During the month of January we held ribbon cutting ceremonies at the newly remodeled Centennial, McLane and Roosevelt elementary schools. Thanks to the generosity of our voters and community, the fruits of the 2016 building bond are evident at these three schools. If you get a chance to visit, walk through these modernized buildings to see the remarkable new learning spaces for students and staff.


And speaking of ballot measures, just a reminder, our Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy is on the current Special Election ballot. These ballots must be turned in by February 11. Even with the reduced levy authority as a result of the McCleary fix, the local levy accounts for nearly 17% of the district’s overall operating budget. To learn more about the levy and specific staff and programs funded by it, please visit our school district website Levy 2020 webpage.


As always, thanks to all of you for the time you spend in our schools and at home helping students to succeed. I wish all of you a wonderful and productive second half.



Patrick Murphy signature

Patrick Murphy




STEAM Fair at Centennial Elementary School


Centennial Elementary School STEAM Fair helps creative minds thrive

Centennial Elementary School recently transformed its building for a student science exposition, with a multitude of exhibits and projects on display. From sound wavelengths, to planets and rockets, to the intricacies of snowflakes and fossils, students were encouraged to visit Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics (STEAM) exhibits spread throughout the school. Teachers and Centennial Elementary School booster club members helped reach out to local scientists in the Olympia community to invite them to the event and provide input into the exhibits.


Fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Knight coordinated this amazing event, remarking; “We invited every student at Centennial to participate in the fair by displaying a STEAM project from class. Seven of those students submitted a Science Fair experiment that they also presented. Community scientists were invited to give written and oral feedback to junior scientists and community members at the fair.”


Student projects varied greatly from growing borax crystals, putting engineering concepts to work by building a Billy Goats Gruff Bridge to learning more about the color wheel. This is the first year that Centennial has held a STEAM Fair. “We wanted something interactive and engaging for all our students,” said Principal Shannon Ritter. Although Centennial has held science fairs in past years, the format for the event this year got the entire school involved.


Despite the wet weather, there was plenty of interest in the outdoor activity available to attendees. Students launched bottle rockets, and immediately sprinted off down the field with a measuring tape to see how far it had gone. Meanwhile, other students got to explore a variety of displays, from ocean creatures (complete with mussels in a tank), to a table where they could build their own rocket, to a demonstration where they could learn more about snowflakes.


In the gym, groups of students were transfixed, entirely focused on the presentation taking place in front of them. “The smallest piece of matter is called an atom. So just like the letter A or B have their own sounds and properties, each of these elements has their own properties and you can use them to put together any type of material object,” said Andrea Kunder, a scientist at St. Martin’s University. Later, Kunder showed students what liquid nitrogen does when added to marshmallows or pieces of cereal. She encouraged students to try the frozen pieces and chew with their mouths open. She demonstrated, and steam came out of her mouth like a dragon's breath as students laughed excitedly.


Knight had this to say after a boisterous evening of science-based learning; “The best part of the event was the enthusiasm and energy shared all day long by all ages. From kindergarten to fifth grade, to staff and volunteers, everyone had a smile on their face all day long, engaging in hands-on science that transformed the typical school day!”



OSD Teachers of the Year 2019


Nominate an OSD Teacher of the Year by February 12

The Olympia School District is accepting nominations through Wednesday, February 12, 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, works directly with students for at least 50 percent of their time, has not already been recognized as a Regional or State Teacher of the Year, and plans to continue teaching through the 2021-22 school year, is eligible to be nominated.


Please complete the online nomination form and submit by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, February 12, 2020. A committee will review the applications and select the individual(s) to be recognized based on who best exemplifies the following Teacher of the Year criteria (please include examples of the following in your nomination):


  • The teacher has the respect of their community;
  • The teacher is knowledgeable in their field and guides students of all backgrounds and abilities to achieve excellence;
  • The teacher collaborates with colleagues, students and families to create a school culture of respect and success;
  • The teacher deliberately connects the classroom and key stakeholders to foster a strong community at large;
  • The teacher demonstrates leadership and innovation in and outside of the classroom walls that embodies lifelong learning;
  • The teacher expresses themselves in an engaging and effective way.


The individual(s) chosen will be eligible to be considered for the regional Teacher of the Year selection process. The winner at that level advances to the state Teacher of the Year selection process.


Complete the OSD Teacher of the Year online nomination form



Olympia Unified 'Pack the Gym' event


Olympia 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.


“Watching all of the athletes from both teams celebrate in victory whenever someone made a basket was just amazing,” says Junior Ashley Clay. “There’s nothing like seeing them so happy, it just makes you feel so proud and good inside. The Olympia student section and the rest of the entire gym was packed, and I couldn’t have been more happy with how that night turned out! One of my favorite moments was when the Unified Cheer team came out and started their dance routine and then the music got louder and everyone went to go dance on the floor together. It has absolutely been the most exciting Olympia memory I’ve had since I moved back!”


Read the full story here



Remember to Vote graphic


Remember to vote by February 11

Ballots for the February 11, 2020 Special Election have been sent to registered voters and must be mailed or dropped off in postage-free ballot drop boxes by Election Day to be counted.


Ballot drop boxes are open 24 hours a day during elections and will continue to accept ballots until 8 p.m. on Election Day. For a list of drop box locations in the Olympia School District, visit the Thurston County Auditor’s Office Elections Division website.


There is one Olympia School District measure on this Special Election ballot: Replacement of an expiring four-year Educational Programs and Operations Levy. For additional information about the proposed Replacement Levy, visit the Levy2020 webpage on the school district website.


Voter registration

  • You may register to vote online, by mail, via a voter registration drive or by any other means through February 3, 2020.
  • You may register to vote or update your voter registration address in person until 8 p.m. on Election Day on February 11. In-person voter registration is done at the Thurston County Elections Division, 2000 Lakeridge Dr. S.W., Bldg. 1, Rm. 118 in Olympia. Replacement ballots are also available at the Auditor’s Office.


To register to vote you must be:

  • A citizen of the United States.
  • Residing at your current address for a minimum of 30 days before Election Day.
  • A legal resident of Washington state.
  • At least 18 years old by Election Day.


Note: Citizens may pre-register to vote at age 16 and will be automatically eligible to vote and sent a ballot during the first election after their 18th birthday.


For additional voter registration information, visit the Thurston County Auditor’s Office Elections Division webpage. For more information about ballot items, read the Thurston County Voters’ Pamphlet.



MLK Assembly at Capital High School


Martin Luther King, Jr. continues to inspire students

Every year the Olympia School District celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work for our country. This year, the Tacoma Arts Alive theater company toured our schools, including Reeves Middle School and Capital High School. Olympia High School also had a diverse presentation of student poetry, speakers and a song during a school assembly.


In Tacoma Arts Alive’s production “Get on the Bus,” students had the chance to watch two intersecting stories: that of Talia and her classmate James, and that of Vivian, a stranger the two kids meet. Talia has her heart set on going to a rally protesting the treatment of immigrants. James is supportive of his friend but is focused on studying thoroughly for an upcoming test. And Vivian? Well, she is ready for this rally. She used to be a Freedom Rider when she was their age.


Reeves Middle School students and staff gathered in their gym to watch this performance. Students laughed as the character Vivian hurried on stage, panting from exertion. The play transported the students back in time to when Vivian herself was a student, standing up for what she believed was right. She said that when she went to school, there was still segregation, and each school day was a struggle. “It takes real sacrifice sometimes to have your voice heard,” Vivian told the two students.


Read the full story here



Countdown to Kindergarten 2020


Incoming OSD families invited to Countdown to Kindergarten event

Countdown 2 Kindergarten is an informational event for parents and guardians who will have children in kindergarten in the 2020-21 school year. Parents and guardians of incoming kindergartners are encouraged to attend this event on Saturday, March 7 to learn about transitioning to kindergarten in the Olympia School District.


The event begins at 10 a.m. with a welcome and presentation by Superintendent Patrick Murphy and presentation by Executive Director of Elementary Education Autumn Lara. An information fair follows in the Capital High School Commons where you can meet and greet school staff and learn about: 


  • Registering for kindergarten
  • Using Skyward Family Access (OSD Student Information System) 
  • Riding the bus 
  • Alternative kindergarten program options
  • Before- and after-school childcare 
  • Community partner services


Countdown 2 Kindergarten will be held from 10-11:30 a.m. Join us at Capital High School Commons, 2707 Conger Ave. N.W. in Olympia for this introduction to kindergarten. Please note that this event is primarily for adults, but children are welcome. Child care is not provided.


We look forward to seeing you there!



School dedication at Roosevelt Elementary School


Dedication ceremonies 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.


Olympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy, school board members, district staff, architects and their teams joined students, staff and community members at the events. Photo albums from each dedication are posted on the Olympia School District Facebook page:



The three elementary school modernizations are among school improvement projects approved by voters as part of the 2016 school bond.



Middle School Options Night


Optional MS Program Nights are coming up

The Olympia School District optional middle school program nights are right around the corner! Come check out a few of our wonderful middle school options programs (time/dates included below).


Thurgood Marshall MS: Citizen Science Institute (CSI)

You are encouraged to attend a parent/student information meeting on Tuesday, February 4 at 6:30 p.m. This event is specifically for the CSI program and will be held at Thurgood Marshall Middle School.


Jefferson MS: Jefferson Accelerated Math & Science (JAMS)

The informational meeting for the JAMS program will be held on Thursday, February 6 at 6:30 p.m. This event is specifically for the JAMS program and will be held at Jefferson Middle School.


For information pertaining to any of our district optional programs visit the district educational programs page. Should you have additional questions simply follow the contact information listed under each program description.



Annual musical showdown "Beatles vs. Stones"

Olympia HS and Capital HS students prep for annual musical showdown

Perhaps many of you grew up enjoying the songs of the talented musicians in the Beatles and the Rolling Stones bands. Olympia and Capital high school students will once again bring this music to life with their performance of Beatles vs. Stones - A Musical Showdown, held at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. A string quartet of OHS and CHS students will join professional musicians on stage for the performance. The show pits Rolling Stones tribute band Satisfaction against rival Brit boys Abbey Road in an all-out musical showdown for rock dominance. This performance has toured the last six years.


“I am always pleased on how the students are able to take skills they have learned and walk into a professional situation and function at a high level with these touring professionals. Students benefit from being able to see from the inside of what goes into a professional touring show, interact with people in the industry, and it is really fun music on top of that!” says Olympia High School Orchestra Director Joe Dyvig.


Olympia High School juniors Jenny Jang and Helen Hauschka, sophomore Camille McLean, and Capital High senior Gwen Bayer will join these two bands for the songs “Eleanor Rigby,” “Yesterday,” “A Day in the Life,” “Hello Goodbye,” “Hey Jude,” “Gimme Shelter” and “Ruby Tuesday.” These students are a part of the SOGO String Quartet coached by Teaching Artist Mary Jo Rydholm. 


This touring show will be at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts on Monday, February 24 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online at www.washingtoncenter.org, by phone at (360) 753-8586 or at the Theatre Box Office.


Photo credit: Krina Allison


Students at Washington Middle School

School Performance Reports & School Improvement Plans

School Performance Reports and School Improvement Plans are published annually by the Olympia School District. We hope you're interested in the performance of your child's school and how it compares districtwide and across the state.


Should you have any questions regarding these reports, plans or district policies please contact the OSD Communications Office at [email protected] or (360) 596-6103.



FIRST Tech Challenge robotics event

Olympia School District robotic teams compete in Star Wars themed event

Don’t worry, there’s more than one way to immerse yourself in the Star Wars universe! The FIRST Lego League recently held its FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Watt Inter-League Championship. What might that be you ask? This is a partnership formed by FIRST Lego League, LucasFilm and Disney. This partnership inspires creativity and teamwork as students have the opportunity to learn and grow while competing against each other. “I think one of the things the students enjoyed most about the championship was getting the chance to see the other teams’ robots and ideas to bring back to their robotics club next year,” said Olympia High School teacher Andrew Woodbridge.


There were 35 teams from Seattle to Vancouver that participated in the competition this year. Six of those teams came from our very own Olympia and Capital high schools. Olympia School District team names included CHS The Countdown, CHS Error, OHS Oly-wan Kenobi and OHS Root Bear Floats. Although participating in robotics builds teamwork in many fun ways, it also helps build camaraderie in practical ways. One of the many skills robotics focuses on is problem solving. At one point during the competition, an OHS robot stopped working. The team quickly assessed the situation and rebuilt the robot so they could get it back out on the playing field. Throughout the competition students are right there on the sidelines cheering their teammates on.


The game board for this particular challenge includes two loading zones and two building zones in the corners of the field. There are a total of 56 blocks to work with, called “stones.” Four of these are the unique “sky stones,” used to score higher points for the teams. Basic points are scored for programming the LEGO robots to move stones to the “building zone”, to move stones under the bridge belonging to the team’s alliance partner, and for transferring a tray to a better location to offload the stones. Points are deducted for blocking another robot, knocking over an opponent’s skyscraper or reaching outside the playing field. Bonus points are scored for placing a capstone on a completed skyscraper, built of blocks.


Olympia High School Principal Matt Grant was in attendance and commented; “I love the energy and passion for competing that these students show. It rivals any athletics competition in its intensity, yet the cooperative spirit is present like no other event. I saw students helping each other, laughing with each other, and encouraging each other when I visited. They were eager to tell me about their experiences and were immersed in the competition. I enjoyed hearing students tell other participants that they were going to take what they learned and make improvements for next time. The students were inspirational throughout my visit.”


We can’t wait to attend future robotics competitions to see what new and exciting innovations these remarkable teams bring to the game board!


OSD Board of Directors

Students share music and art during school board recognition

Every January time is set aside at one of the Olympia School Board meetings to honor directors for their service as part of School Board Recognition Month.


There is usually a surprise or two during these special recognitions, and this year was no exception.


As board members and other staff and community members arrived at Hansen Elementary School for the meeting, they were greeted with music performed by orchestra students Nicholas Evans, Sophia Sarber, Bella Lang, Jack Beers-Bracey and Rigo Tecpile Itehua. Students performed under the direction of orchestra teacher Mary Jo Rydholm.


Just before the meeting opened, second/third-grade teacher Darci McMaster’s students performed a song both by singing and using sign language. Principal William “Billy” Harris accompanied the students on acoustic guitar, choir and music teacher Amy Barene played bass guitar and kindergarten teacher Austen Anderson played the electric drum. Harris also presented the board with an oversized poster, signed by first graders, that contained the message: “School Board You Rock. Thanks For All Your Hard Work!”


During the meeting, Superintendent Patrick Murphy read Gov. Jay Inslee’s School Board Recognition Month proclamation, presented a Washington State School Directors Association certificate of recognition to each board member and asked each board member to open a special wrapped gift placed in front of them at the board table.


Much to their delight, each of the directors received original student artwork created as part of a new Elementary Art Pilot program this year at Hansen, LP Brown, and Garfield elementary schools. Several of the student artists attended the meeting to watch as the directors opened their framed artwork. The students talked and posed for photos with board members during a meeting recess.


Thank you Olympia School Board President Hilary Seidel, Vice President Scott Clifthorne, directors Leslie Huff, Maria Flores and Justin McKaughan, and Student Representatives Ruby Gruber and Alexis Nevy for your service to the Olympia School District.



Upcoming Events



  • February 4 - Thurgood Marshall MS CSI Program Informational Night at 6:30 p.m.
  • February 5 - 50-Minute Early Release
  • February 5 - Free Parenting Workshop at ORLA 6:30 p.m. “Effective Communication”
  • February 6 - Jefferson MS JAMS Program Informational Night at 6:30 p.m.
  • February 10 - Board Meeting: Knox 111 6:30 p.m.
  • February 11 - Special Election Day
  • February 12 - 50-Minute Early Release
  • February 17 - No School - President’s Day
  • February 18 - No School - Mid-Winter Break
  • February 19 - 50-Minute Early Release
  • February 24 - Board Meeting Jefferson Middle School 6:30 p.m.
  • February 26 - 50-Minute Early Release



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.