October 30, 2019

  • Decrease Text Size
  • Increase Text Size

SOS Header - October 2019


October 30, 2019


Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District Families,


Patrick Murphy headshotWith the arrival of November, we are officially into the full swing of the school year. Fall sports are finishing and winter sports are just around the corner. Our musicians are busily preparing for upcoming holiday performances. The last vestiges of summer apparel have been replaced with winter coats, scarves and warmer clothing in preparation for the inevitable cold weather. This is a good reminder, if you have not already done so, to check out our inclement weather school contingencies in case we have a delay or cancellation. This information, including snow bus routes, is posted on our district website.


It is also a good time to thank our incredible parent and community organizations for their amazing support of our schools. Many of you are probably aware that the Olympia School District Education Foundation had its annual Principal’s Emergency Fund Breakfast. Once again, the Foundation raised tens of thousands of dollars to ensure our students and families experiencing financial difficulties are supplied with seasonally appropriate clothing, proper fitting shoes, eye glasses, groceries and bus passes among other things. In addition, the OSDEF awards teaching and learning grants, supports outdoor learning and is sponsoring mental health initiatives in the district.


Similarly, we recently hosted a Parent Group Leader dinner and annual training for leaders of our local school parent organizations, such as PTOs, PTAs, and Community Councils. We collectively learned about best practices around fundraising and how to best partner in meeting our students’ needs. Our parent organizations also support classroom needs and teacher and staff recognitions, as well as hold wonderful events to build a stronger sense of community in our schools. It is the unsurpassed community support that makes Olympia such a strong and vibrant school district. So thank you!


I also want to remind everyone that our school board recently approved an Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy request. This proposal will be on the February 11, 2020 Special Election ballot and would replace an expiring four-year levy approved by voters in 2016. Once again, it would fund those things that are not fully funded by the state like additional teachers for science, mathematics, fine arts and special needs education; school nurses; social, mental health and security staff; and athletics and extracurricular opportunities. Look for more information about the levy in this issue of Spotlight on Success and on the Levy 2020 webpage on our Olympia School District website.


Lastly, our board recently approved our new District and School Improvement Plans based on our six (6) adopted Student Outcomes. Outcome 6 speaks to our students having the ability to “be critical thinkers who contribute to and collaborate with our local, global and natural world.”  In addition, there is an indicator under that outcome that says our students will: “Participate on teams and know the power of teamwork.”


We want to be sure that we model whatever we ask of our students. Fortunately for us, we have such a supportive, collaborative and involved community that this is one outcome that we can illustrate quite effectively. Thank you again.



Patrick Murphy signature

Patrick Murphy




Jana Dean teaching in classroom at Reeves MS 

Reeves teacher reflects on research project in the Netherlands

City streets in the NetherlandsEveryone can learn math. One key to success, says Reeves Middle School math teacher Jana Dean, is understanding the connection between math and language and how it creates opportunities for students to make meaning for themselves.


Dean set out to discover more about that connection 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.


Dutch students learning

Visits to 30 diverse classrooms

The Olympia educator hopped on and off trains as she moved her way around the country visiting more than 30 classrooms in urban and suburban schools made up of diverse student populations. All the while, she was a second language learner herself, trying as quickly as possible to learn the Dutch language.


From the capital city of Amsterdam to smaller cities in the Dutch countryside, Dean visited special education classrooms, schools with large numbers of refugee students, dual language Dutch-English middle schools, and a tutoring program for historically marginalized students.


Read the full story here



Students learning at the OSD


Building Blocks for Success

Monday, November 18 is our first Building Blocks for Success event of the 2019-20 school year: Families to Friendships.


Building Blocks for Success is a series of events promoting kindergarten readiness in the community. These events are for families with children ages 4-5. Childcare is available for children ages 3-10.


You can help your child prepare for kindergarten in fun ways. Try these tips to support kindergarten readiness when spending time with your child:


  • Practice calming down by naming your feelings and taking belly breaths.
  • Learn fair ways to play by playing together, trading and taking turns.


Building Blocks for Success will be held at West Olympia Head Start Community Center, 1209 Fern St. SW, Olympia, WA. This event runs from 6-7:30 p.m.



Carol McKay teaching in classroom


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.


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal announced the state PAEMST finalists in a press release earlier this month. The release describes the award as "the highest honor bestowed on science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science teachers."


“We know math and science is critical to helping today’s students grow into tomorrow’s innovators,” Reykdal wrote in the release. "The way these five educators balance competing priorities in the classroom is remarkable. Teaching in math and science classrooms is no small feat – these educators include teaching sequential standards, weaving in dynamic hands-on learning, maintaining high safety standards, connecting the classroom to the community, and incorporating the most contemporary research.”


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.


This isn't the first time McKay, a National Board Certified Teacher, has been honored at the state level. In 2017, she was named the Capital Region Educational Service District (ESD 113) Teacher of the Year.


“Carol McKay is one of the best teachers I've had the pleasure of working with,” said Capital High Principal Curtis Cleveringa. “She has extraordinary skills relating difficult content to all students. I wasn't all that surprised to hear Carol being named a finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, as we've become accustomed to her brilliance here at Capital High School. Best of luck, Carol, moving forward.”


Capital High Assistant Principal Michelle Anderson, who nominated McKay for both the Regional Teacher of the Year award and the PAEMST honor, added, "In all my years, it is rare to have the pleasure to work with a teacher who takes the time to check in with every single student, every single day. It might be related to the math concepts, but it might be related to an activity the student participated in the day before or just to check in with how the student is doing. This action is done in a very intentional way with thought behind every word spoken. Because of the atmosphere intentionally created, consistently, students share how much they feel valued in her classroom and in turn feel comfortable asking questions without fear."


Congratulations Carol McKay on being selected as a state PAEMST finalist!



School Schedule Changes Survey

CAC SurveyA Citizens Advisory Committee on School Year Calendar/School Start Times, commissioned by the school board, is seeking your feedback on proposed new start and end times for the Olympia School District. The deadline to complete this survey is 5 p.m. on Friday, November 15, 2019.  Please complete the survey (below) one time per person.


The CAC School Schedule Changes Survey is available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Please select the survey link below that best suits your needs:



Have any additional questions? Contact the CAC at: [email protected].



Harvest Festival at Lincoln ES


Lincoln and Pioneer elementary schools celebrate annual harvest events

After a steady week of rain, the day of Lincoln Elementary School’s Harvest Festival dawned with perfect fall weather. Sunny skies and a brisk wind accompanied the outdoor festivities. Face painting, cider press and hay jump stations were scattered through the school playground and field. The wheelbarrow, three-legged and gunny sack races were one of the favorite events for the excited students. “Wheelbarrow race?! I love that one!” a kindergartner exclaimed when the race was announced. Students and parents wandering through the school’s garden also had the opportunity to participate in a wood carving station. Although the garden had already been harvested, it was still a pleasant walk for those who wandered through its gates.


In the covered gym, the Lincoln Community Band serenaded attendees with a variety of songs such as the traditional “Boil them Cabbages Down,” “The September Song” (with lyrics written by a band member) and “My Roots Go Down.” This band was started by Michael Dempster in 1987 when he was teaching at Lincoln. It began with four members, three of which were parents, and has had more than 150 members since its genesis.


As the activities drew to a close, parents, staff and students began to wander toward the Lincoln cafeteria for a delicious meal — a highlight of the festival. Produce for the meal was taken from the school garden, planted and tended by students during the previous school year. Maribeth Wheeler’s second- and third-grade classes prepared the garlic bread and fresh pesto sauce. Michael Stine’s fourth- and fifth-grade classes cooked a savory mix of potatoes, beets and beans, flavored with garlic. Dessert included delicata squash muffins, beet brownies and (of course) pumpkin pie. The food was so good that partakers ate from their paper plates as they moved from one dish to the next, following the long line to the selection of desserts waiting just outside the cafeteria.

PES Annual Fall CarnivalPioneer Elementary School also has a time-honored tradition since 2001 of hosting an annual Fall Carnival. The school was decked out for the Saturday event earlier this month in spider webs, lights and more. In the pumpkin decorating station, paper-plate ghosts hung from the ceiling. In one dark hallway, black lights highlighted the ghostly-white ghouls and zombies painted on stand-alone boards. Behind these boards, “Pioneer alumni” middle and high school students waited, smiling and chatting with each other as elementary students threw lightweight balls toward the boards.


Sunny Hougan, a previous Pioneer Elementary parent, wanted to create a “fun-filled family event that included the teachers.” She based it on her own experience of a fun night event at East Olympia Elementary in 1977. In 2010, Denise Krone agreed to take up the task of organizing the event. Denise Krone was a Pioneer Elementary School parent at the time. She currently works in the school district’s Student Information Systems department. One of Denise’s fond memories was working with Carmen Kardokus, a K-12 Science Specialist, to create a sweet shop at the event called “Sickenly Sweet.” Denise enjoyed creating a “magical experience” for the kids.


Principal Joel Lang says of the event: “It is wonderful to see so many families connecting and sharing an evening together. As adults, we have few chances to become kids again and dress in costumes. At this event, we are all allowed to tap into our inner child!”


Many of the sets, including the ghouls in the hallway and the bean bag toss boards in the gym, were built by parent volunteer Jason Kardokus and painted by parent Dave Krone. The elaborate makeup and costumes by attendees attested to the fun of the event. Principal Lang says he especially enjoys the face painting station. “The volunteers are very talented and take great care in creating the perfect image on delighted faces.”

View a photo album of the Lincoln and Pioneer festivities on our Facebook Page!



OSD is hiring school bus drivers

OSD School BusThe Olympia School District is hiring school bus drivers for the important job of transporting students to and from school. This is an ideal job for retirees, stay-at-home parents or anyone needing a flexible schedule. No experience is necessary, and training is provided at no cost by the OSD Transportation Department.


Bus drivers enjoy summers, school breaks, holidays and weekends off. Hours are flexible with morning and/or afternoon shifts available. Medical and dental benefits, paid sick and vacation leave, and 11 paid holidays. Starting pay is $17.83 per hour under Teamsters Local #252.


To apply, please visit EdJobs NW.


For more information, contact the OSD Transportation Department at: (360) 596-7700.



Scott LeDuc's CTE Class


Capital High School 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.”


Le Duc’s students have been working in conjunction with CyberPDX, a program out of PSU. Le Duc’s classes are the first this university program has worked with. PSU Professor of Computer Science Wu-chang Feng says, “We are seeking to measure the impact this may have on their attitudes toward pursuing a cybersecurity degree or coursework.” PSU Sociology Professor Robert Liebman adds: “We think we are doing something new and important for U.S. research by studying students at Capital High School.” Le Duc is excited for this opportunity for his students. “We are a snapshot of Capital,” he says. The goal of this research is to strengthen students’ security practices and continue to improve the teaching of online security.


During Le Duc’s classes, he discussed with students real life examples of hackers succeeding in their attempts to access sensitive information. Le Duc emphasized the importance of keeping accounts safe and secure. “They realized that just having a password is not enough and that many people have the same password on many accounts, which leaves a person really susceptible to having numerous accounts compromised,” Le Duc said.


Like many career and technical education classes, the knowledge from these classes provides students with real-life applications that can be used throughout their lives.



OSD School Board


School board approves replacement levy proposal for February election

The Olympia School Board has unanimously agreed to place an Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy proposal before voters on the February 11, 2020 Special Election ballot.


The proposed levy is not a new tax. The measure on the February 2020 ballot would replace an expiring four-year educational programs levy approved by voters in February 2016.


School levies are the only locally approved ballot measures that directly pay for classroom and educational needs of students not funded by the state.


Levy funds would be used to continue to provide education to students with disabilities and provide classroom and districtwide support staff not funded through state basic education such as paraeducators, school nurses, social and mental health supports and security staff. Funds would also support middle and high school athletic and extracurricular activities, transportation outside of the basic school day, preschool programs for students with special needs, visual and performing arts programs, staff professional development, and maintenance and operations not funded through state basic education.


“This renewal levy continues the district’s efforts, as outlined in our Strategic Plan, to prepare students for success now and into the future,” said School Board President Joellen Wilhelm. It creates opportunities for our students to build knowledge and skills to meet their individual goals.”


The levy would raise an estimated $133.6 million over four years (2021-24), or an average of $33.4 million per year. The proposed $2.50 maximum tax rate for the Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy in each of the upcoming four years is one cent more than in 2020.


The estimated levy rate depends on the final dollar amount of assessed value of property within the school district. State law limits school districts to collect a maximum of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for Educational Programs and Operations levies; the rate may be lower than $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation but it cannot be more than $2.50.


Using the projected rate of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, the owner of a $250,000 home would pay about $52 a month, or $625 per year, for the replacement levy.


The proposed replacement levy tax, combined with the Olympia School District voter-approved school construction bonds and the technology and safety levy, would keep overall tax rates below 2020 levels. The total projected tax rate over the four years would be between  $4.84 and $5.05 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which is less than the $5.15 tax rate in 2020.


For more specifics on the replacement levy proposal, including a list of frequently asked questions, visit the Levy 2020 webpage on the Olympia School District website.



New online sports registration now available for winter sports

OSD Soccer practiceRegistering students for athletics is now easier than ever. The Olympia School District has partnered with FamilyID, a secure online registration platform that is a user-friendly way to register students for middle and high school sports.


Winter sports clearance started online for all high school students this past Monday, October 28.


When a family registers through FamilyID, the system keeps track of the information in a FamilyID profile. This allows information to be entered one time for multiple seasons, multiple family members and multiple programs.


Athletic clearance forms in Spanish will continue to be available to download on the Olympia School District website.


To register for fall sports, visit the Sports Clearance Process webpage on each of the four middle school and two comprehensive high school websites. The direct link to that webpage is under Announcements on each school’s website.



Remember to vote in the November 5 General Election

Remember to vote graphicBallots for the November 5, 2019 General 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 are three Olympia School Board seats on this General Election ballot:


  • Two candidates are vying for the District 1 seat: Maria Flores and Heath Howerton.
  • The candidates for the District 2 and District 4 seats are running unopposed. Justin McKaughan is vying for the District 2 seat that will be vacated by Director Joellen Wilhelm, and Hilary Seidel is running for re-election to the District 4 position, which she has held the past two years.


Following is the final voter registration deadline for the upcoming General Election:


  • November 5, 2019: You may register to vote in person and update your voter registration address up until 8 p.m. on Election Day November 5. 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.



Upcoming Events


  • November 3 - Daylight Savings
  • November 5 - General Election Day 
  • November 6 - 50-Minute Early Release
  • November 6 - Free Parenting Workshop: Positive Discipline. ORLA @ 6:30 p.m.
  • November 11 - No School (Veterans Day)
  • November 12 - Board Meeting: Knox 111 @ 6:30 p.m.
  • November 13 - 50-Minute Early Release
  • November 20 - 50-Minute Early Release
  • November 25 - Board Meeting: Lincoln ES @ 6:30 p.m. 
  • November 27-29 - No School (Thanksgiving Break)



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.