June 2021



Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District families,


Patrick Murphy headshotIt seems fitting that we ended this school year with yet another unprecedented occurrence; a heat wave like no other. As the marine layer returned this week, and brought welcome breezes and cooler temperatures, we all could breathe a little easier as our more normal, temperate Northwest weather returned. Likewise, as our vaccination efforts across the region have taken hold and our COVID numbers have dramatically decreased, we are seeing the lifting of restrictions, a cautious sigh of relief, and the anticipation of next school year with full-time in-person learning, five days a week.


Much work has gone into the start of school next year, which includes an infusion of additional staff and supports in our schools to respond to the needs of our students after a year filled with so much change and uncertainty. If you have not seen our Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan, I would encourage you to do so as it spells out in detail our efforts to “get back to better.” While we expect the overwhelming majority of our families to choose in-person schooling at their neighborhood school, some may prefer to remain virtual. Subsequently we have created the Virtual Academy of Olympia (VAO) for those families that may choose to continue remotely. More information is posted on the VAO webpage. In addition, next year will mark a change in our school start and end times, so that our adolescent students have school hours that align with the research on teens and sleep patterns. This change affects all schools — elementary, middle and high.


Finally, I want to again congratulate the Class of 2021. As stated previously, your class, in many ways, was most impacted by the pandemic and your resilience, compassion and creativity inspired us all. Whether you are an Avanti Boxers, a Capital Cougar, an ORLA Orca, an Olympia Bear or a graduate from the Transition Program; we could not be more proud of each one of you. As was stated at our ceremonies, we cannot wait to see how you all will collectively change the world for good and know that, wherever you go, you will always be able to call Olympia home.



Patrick Murphy Signature
Patrick Murphy


Lincoln students show compassion with Helping Hands Project


Lincoln students show compassion with Helping Hands Project

It all began when fourth and fifth graders at Lincoln Elementary School read the book “Free Lunch,” by Rex Ogle. The story, a memoir that won a national award last year, tells Rex’s tale of growing up in a wealthy neighborhood as a child of poverty, who ate free school lunches.


“We all became inspired to research some of the issues present in the book,” said teacher Andrea Barranger. “Some of the issues included a child who suffered from food insecurity and embarrassment around this issue, a family who really needed mental health support, and a time where they no longer had a place to live.”


The Lincoln students began to consider whether there were people in their own community enduring similar struggles. There are. They brainstormed what they could do -- and the Helping Hands Project was born. The project is really a series of much smaller projects, all focused on the goals of making life just a little bit easier for those in our community suffering from food insecurity, mental illness or homelessness. Each student was allowed autonomy to decide how they wanted to contribute.


“I’ve learned that a sad amount of people are food insecure in Washington and there are a lot of ways we can help,” said fourth grader Drees Cushman, who helped out by gathering food and creating food bags for students at Lincoln.


Fifth grader Olivia Boulay is working on a letter to the Olympia City Council to see what they can do to help the homeless. She plans to write more letters to local business leaders urging them to donate.


“I just felt like it’s really sad to see people sitting on the end of streets,” Boulay said. “It makes me feel happy that our plan might work. And I’m hoping to see what else we can do to show people that there are shelters available for them.”


Evie Palensky, a fourth grader, has a special place in her heart for the pets of the homeless or impoverished. She is working to collect pet food to donate.


Fifth grader Maxwell Cutts is working with a partner on a slideshow to educate people on what they can do to help support local shelters. He is especially interested in Quixote Village, a project to build tiny homes to shelter the homeless. He has also written letters to local businesses asking them to donate. “It makes me feel pretty good that I can actually help someone,” he said.


There’s really no end to the creative ways Lincoln students have helped those in need.


Fourth grader Ellen Cummings is working on a podcast about food insecurity. She’s also gathered 10 bags of kid-friendly snacks to distribute to families in need at Lincoln. Fifth grader Mila Dickey is collecting cereal and canned goods. “I also brought towels too, for people that need towels,” she added. And fifth grader Shelby Sever raised more than $100 to donate to shelters by running lemonade stands. She is one of many students who plan to continue raising money for charities by running lemonade stands over the summer.


Other students have been selling popsicles before and after school, collecting recipes for a cookbook to sell, gathering supplies, passing out fliers and even using their own allowances for donations.


“Most of the ideas were created by the students and they collaborated to make this happen,” Barranger said.


Teacher Michael Stine said he and other teachers are considering whether to make the Lincoln Helping Hands project an annual tradition. “In terms of what I see of student learning, for me, it's the value of serving our community,” Stine said. “Kids researched their own community and learned about it, from that decided on affinity areas, and went from there.”


He continued, “They hopefully took away how meaningful service is and can feel, which can be a lifelong value. This also fits in with Lincoln’s mission/values. This is a great example of project-based learning, where children can participate in meaningful, experiential learning at their own level and with their own particular interests. They see education as participating in life instead of preparing for life after schooling is finished.”


Support the Lincoln Helping Hands Drive by donating to one of these organizations:



Graduate Profile: Refugees find success at Capital High School


Graduate Profile: Refugees find success at Capital High School

Zawadi Kezia and Sinafasi “Faith” Imani say it’s difficult to put into words how they felt as they stood in front of the mirror in their caps and gowns on graduation day.


Excited? Yes. Proud of their accomplishments? Absolutely.


But it was more than that, they said.


“It was the day I was waiting for all of my life,” Faith said. With an affirming smile, Zawadi added, “I thought, finally life is giving me a second chance to achieve my dreams.”


Zawadi and Faith, refugees from Uganda and Congo, are the first in their family to graduate from high school. They are cousins, but think of themselves more as sisters.


Only four years earlier, the two girls were seated with their mothers and four younger siblings on an airplane taxiing to the runway at Entebbe International Airport in Uganda. They were among the lucky ones from the tens of thousands of families living in the Kyaka II refugee camp to be chosen to come to America as part of the U.S. refugee admissions program.


As the plane lifted high into the air, the girls looked out the window and watched as the countryside grew smaller and smaller until it gradually disappeared from sight.


Read more about Zawadi and Faith, including a description of their life in Uganda, their arrival in America and their time at Capital High School, by following this link!


OSD School board welcomes two new student representatives


OSD School board welcomes two new student representatives

The Olympia School Board welcomed two new student representatives to the board — Taz McBeth and Matthew Scott — during the June 10, 2021 school board meeting.


McBeth, an eleventh grader this fall at Avanti High School, and Scott, who starts his senior year in September at Olympia High School, took the oath of office for their one-year positions.


The board also bid farewell and expressed their thanks to this past year’s student representatives -- Rebecca McMillin Hastings of Capital High School, and Isabel McClatchey of Olympia Regional Learning Academy.


Student representatives are non-voting members and contribute to school board discussion by providing student insight and perspective, serving as a liaison for students districtwide, and reporting to students about the work of the board and district activities. They are selected by their high schools on a rotating basis in the spring of each year to serve on the board for the following year.


Each student representative term begins in June and concludes in May. In even numbered years, Capital High School and Olympia Regional Learning Academy students are selected to serve. In odd-numbered years, the opportunity is open to Avanti High School and Olympia High School students.


Welcome Taz and Matthew!


Class of 2021 Graduation Live Stream Videos & Photo Galleries


Class of 2021 Graduation Live Stream Videos & Photo Galleries

First things first, a big congratulations to the Olympia School District Class of 2021. You have spent the past 16 months of your high school careers navigating a pandemic and have done so in stunning fashion! You’ve made it to the finish line and we could not be more proud.


Included below are links to recordings of all the OSD Class of 2021 graduation Live Streams which were live-streamed and posted on the district Facebook page. You will also find links to Facebook photo albums from each graduation. We hope you enjoy!



Capital High School teacher/soccer coach, joins semi-pro team


Capital High School teacher/soccer coach, joins semi-pro team

Adriana Montes Cervantes hopes that she is more than a teacher and a coach to her students at Capital High School. She also wants to be a role model.


Montes Cervantes is certainly an example of ambition, hard work, skill and solid time management. She recently accepted a position playing for a new, local, semi-pro soccer team - Nido Aguila. The team is connected to Club América, a popular professional club in the Mexican League.


Montes Cervantes thought she had retired from soccer about seven years ago when she was injured while playing for the women’s Seattle Sounders. “I wanted to continue playing but I didn’t want to put my body through a lot of rigorous work,” she said. So she found herself investing her energy and enthusiasm for the game into coaching the girls soccer team at Capital.


When she was approached and asked to join Nido Aguila, Montes Cervantes was slightly hesitant. She wasn’t sure at first that she could build the strength and endurance to compete with much younger players. She began training six days a week and found she was quickly able to get back into shape. Her knowledge and experience also make her a huge asset to the team.


Her new role with Nido Aguila is one of both a player and a mentor, Montes Cervantes said. She has experience playing for the women’s Seattle Sounders, Portland Rains and the University of Oregon.


“Coaching is my love now, so it’s been a lot of fun to be able to play and mentor these athletes and give them my wisdom,” Montes Cervantes said.


Playing semi-professional soccer helps Montes Cervantes be a better teacher and coach at Capital, she said. “I sometimes find myself in my classrooms in my Spanish classes also bringing my coaching skills in. Both of them combined have helped me become not only a better coach but a better teacher.”


As a coach, Montes Cervantes helps players find their unique strengths and she does the same thing in her classroom with students, she said. She also teaches physical education at Capital, and she’s found that when she participates in the workouts alongside her students, they put forth more effort.


Montes Cervantes hopes that she is a role model for high school athletes who may be struggling with time management. “One of the reasons I also decided to play is so that I can motivate some of my athletes that are on the verge of deciding maybe they don’t want to play anymore or they don’t know if they can.”


Montes Cervantes is a testament to how much one can achieve with solid time management. She works full time as a teacher, also coaches after school, has two young children, is planning a wedding and now also plays semi-pro soccer.


“There’s a lot of stuff that I juggle,” she said. “You’re very much capable of balancing a lot of work and still reaching the highest level in soccer that you’re capable.”



Jefferson MS highlighted in statewide school improvement study


Jefferson MS highlighted in statewide school improvement study

Jefferson Middle School is one of 38 Washington schools recognized in a study released this month for removing barriers and creating conditions that amplified strengths of Black, Latino/a, American Indian/Alaska Native, and/or Students Experiencing Poverty.


Notably, Jefferson was the only school in the state recognized for gains in three of the demographic groups studied.


Jefferson was first identified as a “Positive Outlier School” in spring 2020, based on student-level academic and engagement data from 2014-19. The data measured “systemic performance and improvement” in areas such as attendance, progress for English learners, math, English language arts, and readiness for high school.


The school was then invited to participate in a study this past year, conducted by the Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE) with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The study included interviews and/or focus groups with representatives from the 38 recognized elementary, middle and high schools.


CEE Chief Executive Officer Dr. John Steach said the study resulted in “the critical understanding of what is happening in the Outlier schools. This provides a blueprint of promising practices, programs and systems for others to study and possibly implement in their districts. Not only in Washington, but also across the country."


Jefferson Middle School Principal Michael Cimino said of the honor, “Often times people ask how we have narrowed the achievement gap for all students. This includes students of color, poverty and special needs. Many think there is a magic sauce or one program that will make a difference. There is no such thing. I view the success through the lens of hard work and dedication to every student that walks through the doors of Jefferson. Each student is treated as an individual with individual needs.”


He continued, “The key to it all is to hire dedicated staff who have experienced hardships in their own life that can respond to students with empathy and grace while at the same time impart knowledge and wisdom. That’s called great teaching.”


The Educational Landscape and Systems Analysis of Washington State study concluded that the Positive Outliers schools “far exceeded the performance and improvement of their peers.” It found that “adults are not the only equity leaders in these schools. Students are the agent of change and take a role in educating their peers and teachers about race."


The study concluded that "these schools demonstrate that it is possible to illuminate the strengths of diverse students and dismantle unproductive systems put in place when the US public school system began."


For more on this study, view:



New 3D Design and Fabrication class mixes art, science and math


New 3D Design and Fabrication class mixes art, science and math

It’s hard to tell at first whether the students in the shop are playing or working during Olympia High School’s 3D Design and Fabrication class. When asked, most would say it’s a mixture of both. This is the first year students at OHS have been offered the class, which is part of the Career and Technical Education program.


Recently in class, students were working with a variety of materials and machines to create toys, hats and miniature chairs. Students begin their projects using OnShape computer aided design software before moving into the manufacturing process, where they use 3D printing, laser cutting or CNC milling. They also get hands-on time with molding and mold making.


Eleventh grader Ashley Harp was making a small cat figurine. She had to carefully sand the toy after it came from the 3D printer to smooth out any excess material or defects. The cat was one of many toys the students were making to sell for $1 in a gumball machine in the school cafeteria.


Harp would say that the class is more play than work. “I was pleasantly surprised. This class is awesome,” she said. “After you get past the tutorial stuff it’s really nice to just have your freedom to make things.”


The students are given assignments to practice various skills and use different equipment. But as for what they will create, that’s mostly up to them. Their individuality shows in projects such as the foam hat project, where creations varied from an old-fashioned plumber’s cap to a set of horns. For a recent project using the 3D printer, students were assigned to research and then create a miniature model of a historical chair.


“It’s more of a creative outlet than a lot of the STEM classes are,” said 12th grader Blake Willepp.


Students are gaining experience that will help them in a variety of future career fields. Some students said they wanted to work in engineering, manufacturing or robotics. One student said she hoped the skills she learned would help her in a future career as a theater set designer.


That’s part of the beauty of the 3D Design and Fabrication class. Students are learning skills that will help them in pretty much any future path they choose, OHS Principal Matt Grant said.


“It promotes creativity and ingenuity because students can craft something from their imagination or create something that hasn't been done before.” Grant said. “This class presents so many relevant opportunities to get a taste of where the manufacturing world is going. It allows a hands-on experience for students who might have interest and talent in the STEM field. The skills will be transferable to other disciplines and jobs in the future.”


There’s been a boom of interest in STEM and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at OHS since the new class began, Grant said. “In the past year, this course has generated lots of enthusiasm for learning in the CTE field. In one year, the interest for this class has nearly doubled. We are excited to see what other opportunities this course will bring.”


CTE teacher Andrew Woodbridge said future plans for this class include making portfolios of student work, learning to set up an online shop to sell handmade goods, and inviting monthly visitors including artists, technicians, museum staff and more. There are also plans to implement work-based learning opportunities to allow students access to internships and job shadowing.


Free school meals available through summer and 2021-22 school year


Free school meals available through summer and 2021-22 school year

The district will continue to serve free meals to youth 18 years old and younger, as well as any current OSD student older than 18, throughout the summer and the 2021-22 school year.


Summer 2021

Free grab-and-go sack lunches, as well as breakfast for the following day, will be available at selected school and community sites weekdays throughout summer 2021.


Youth 18 years old and younger, and any current OSD student older than 18, are eligible to pick up a grab-and-go meal. No identification is required in order to pick up a meal and no pre-order of a lunch is necessary. Breakfast and lunch will also be provided to students attending summer school at Garfield and Roosevelt elementary schools.


The summer meal program will be held at the following sites:


  • Centennial Elementary: 2637 45th Ave. S.E., Olympia 98501
  • Garfield Elementary: 325 Plymouth St. N.W., Olympia 98502
  • Hansen Elementary: 1919 Road Sixty-Five N.W., Olympia 98502
  • Roosevelt Elementary: 1417 San Francisco St. N.E., Olympia 98506
  • Olympia Regional Learning Academy: 2400 15th Ave. S.E., Olympia 98501
  • Ashwood Downs Apartments: 1900 Ashwood Downs Lane S.E., Olympia 98501 (off of 18th Avenue S.E. and Hoffman Road S.E.)
  • Evergreen Vista Apartments: 1209 Fern St. S.W., Olympia, 98502
  • The VFW Post 318 parking lot (across from Aztec Lanes): 2902 Martin Way E., Olympia, 98506


Summer meals will be distributed from 12 noon to 12:30 p.m. on all weekdays except on July 5. 2021. No meals will be served on this day in observance of the Independence Day holiday.


2021-22 School Year

The Olympia School District will continue to offer free meals to all children through the 2021-22 school year as part of an extension of a federal program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Schools throughout the country can provide children with continued access to free meals through June 30, 2022, regardless of families’ ability to pay. The continuation of the program, which was first implemented at the beginning of the pandemic, is part of the federal government’s plan to reopen schools safely.


While meals will be free next school year for all students, families are still encouraged to complete an application for free or reduced-price lunches, as eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches could possibly lead to future benefits. These benefits include access to free or reduced-cost child care programs, college scholarships, and free or reduced-cost field trips, activities, athletics and clubs.


In mid-August 2021, the district will mail an application for free or reduced-price lunches to every Olympia School District student. If you have recently moved, or are newly enrolling with our district, please email [email protected] to make sure you receive an application. You may also email us to request an application in Spanish or Vietnamese, as well as other languages.


USDA Nondiscrimination Statement


Capital Cougarettes take state and national championships this year


Capital Cougarettes take state and national championships this year

Not everyone will look back fondly on the 2020-21 school year — but the Capital High School Cougarettes dance team members certainly will. With both a national and a state championship under their belts, the 2020-21 season was one of the best in team history.


Training to become state and national champions during a worldwide pandemic brought a host of unique challenges. The dancers trained for 12 months leading up to this year’s competitions. Many practices took place via Zoom. Dancers also trained individually using prescribed workouts and videos. Occasionally, team members met in small groups. They rarely got the opportunity to practice together as a team.


“When we would have Zoom practices it was kind of complicated because not a lot of girls have a lot of room in their house,” said Capital 12th grader Eva Rodriguez. “It was also kind of hard on Zoom because sometimes when our coach was counting, the internet would be a little laggy and not all of us would be on time exactly.”


During the rare opportunities the team did meet live, they got creative finding places to meet outdoors where they had space to dance and socially distance. “I remember practicing on the asphalt at Hansen Elementary,” said Capital 12th-grader Andrea Pham. “Those were the opportunities we used to learn the routine and to synchronize together.”


For home practices, the dancers incorporated more ballet techniques than they had in previous years. “Practicing ballet requires a little less space,” Rodriguez said. “In drill we do use some elements of ballet, but they are kind of adapted to be more jazzy.”


In addition to technique and coordination, members of a successful dance team need strength and stamina. Individually, the dancers did extra cardiovascular exercises this year and focused on building lower body strength.


“It was all up to personal motivation I guess,” Rodriguez said. “Our coaches provided us with plenty of videos of workouts or just technique things to stay in shape and stay well-practiced, but they didn’t necessarily make us do these things every day. It was just kind of up to us to manage ourselves.”


It was that heart — the passion and perseverance of each team member — that led to such a successful year, said Head Coach Jaci Gruhn. “The hardest thing was not knowing and pushing through: saying to ourselves, we may not dance in front of people, we may not have a competition season, but I am here, on this Zoom or outdoor practice because I love this team.”


“Our team is special because I truly believe that the athletes on our team love our team,” Gruhn said. “We believe encouragement is a difference-maker. We have high expectations for our athletes and we make no apologies for it. We have a special bond because we go through so much together. There is nothing better in this world than watching athletes push each other through the hard days. Because on the other side of hard days, is greatness.”



Upcoming Events


  • July 4: Independence Day (Observed)

  • July 8: OSD Board Meeting in-person and online via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.

  • July 8: OSD Executive Session (Not open to the public) - 8:30-9:30 p.m.

  • August 12: OSD Board Meeting in-person and online via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.

  • August 19: Board Work Session online via Zoom at 6 p.m.

  • August 26: OSD Board Meeting in-person and online via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.



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:

Title IX Officers

  • Autumn Lara, Executive Director of Elementary Education: [email protected], (360) 596-8534
  • Michael Hart, Executive Director of Secondary Education: [email protected], (360) 596-8545


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.