November 2020

Spotlight on Success header


November 2020


Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District families,


Patrick Murphy headshot

I noted last year at this time, that it was in the midst of the Civil War in 1863, at the height of battlefield deaths and casualties that Lincoln declared the final Thursday of November to be a national day of Thanksgiving. It might have seemed contradictory to those that heard his declaration to be grateful when things seemed so bad.


Upon reflection, it makes more sense to me now that when times are most challenging, this is when it is most important that we take stock of what is good in our lives and express our thanks. Otherwise, we can get submerged and lost in the problems of our lives, in our communities, and in our world, and not see the light and the good that is all around us.


When I truly look and listen, I see it and hear it every day. I see students reaching out to one another to check in on friends to make sure they are doing okay, to work together on assignments or just laugh together about something. I see teachers and staff extraordinarily transforming the way we deliver education and working tirelessly to find new ways to replicate the connections and relationship building that was so prevalent in our physical classrooms and is harder to do now. I see adults reaching out to give to families that are in need and supporting our Educational Foundation in record numbers. Meals, Internet connection, housing assistance and countless other basic needs are being met thanks to the benevolent actions of our community.


I suspect that most of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving differently this year. Our gatherings will likely be smaller, cozier and more intimate than we had originally planned. Whatever your plans, I hope you all not only find rest, joy and hope in these trying times, but the opportunity to give thanks as well.



Patrick Murphy Signature
Patrick Murphy



Thurston County Inclusion


OHS graduate establishes Thurston County nonprofit

While many of us are preparing for the cold and blustery winter approaching, one Olympia High School graduate already has her sights set on the summer. Natalie Stagnone is working tirelessly to ensure that the nonprofit she co-founded, Thurston County Inclusion, will be set for a booming summer 2021 kickoff. This includes planning a summer camp for local students with disabilities.


Stagnone, a 2018 OHS graduate, is one of two executive directors and co-founders of Thurston County Inclusion, an organization that aims to bring free summer camps to children with disabilities throughout Thurston County. The project began when Stagnone was a senior at OHS and thrived under the mentorship of OHS paraeducator Antonio McClinon, who serves as co-executive director.


The idea for the nonprofit was born in the summer of 2018, when Stagnone and her team secured a grant from Special Olympics to support inclusion in their community. They decided to use the grant to create a summer camp promoting inclusion for people with disabilities. The camp ran for seven weeks, included themed activities each week and was a huge success, Stagnone said.


“It was a really valuable opportunity for students with and without disabilities to interact during the summer months,” Stagnone said, adding that many participants formed and strengthened bonds that will last well into the future.


Immediately following the camp, organizers knew they had to find a way to keep the camp going in the years to come. That’s how Thurston County Inclusion was born. There were plans for fundraisers and a summer camp in 2020, but restrictions on gatherings due to COVID-19 stymied their plans. Stagnone is optimistic that in 2021 the organizers will be able to host their camp and raise the funds to do so.


“To see students continue the work that they’re inspired by at the high school after high school, it’s just a humbling experience,” said McClinon, who serves as a mentor and advisor for the project.


“Even though I had a hand in it, I give all the credit to the students,” McClinon said, adding that former Life Skills student Megan Parks also serves on the board of directors and was instrumental in forming the nonprofit. “Myself and these two students, we’ve gone on this journey in terms of working with peers with disabilities and peers without disabilities to see how we can make things better. The team is doing great work and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for them and Thurston County Inclusion.”


Thurston County Inclusion is currently seeking volunteers and participants for their 2021 summer camp. Signups, as well as an opportunity to donate, are available on the Thurston County Inclusion website.



OSD staffer Kris Norelius


OSD school counselor draws from experience as Olympic Gold Medalist

Notice the rhythm of the boat. That’s the biggest lesson OSD school counselor Kris Norelius took from her experience training, competing and winning a gold medal as a member of the eight-oared crew at the 1984 Olympics. Her rowing hardware also includes three world championship silver medals and a congressional gold medal, given to members of the 1980 Olympic team that was not allowed to compete due to the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics.


Norelius, now a school counselor at Centennial Elementary School and OSD Social-Emotional Learning Program specialist, says that the foundational values of tenacity and teamwork that she holds dear today were nourished during her time in a rowing shell.


Rowing a racing shell requires precise technique and tremendous physical effort. “It seems a little counterintuitive, but I think one of the reasons I was selected for the team in 1984 is because I had learned if I focused a little less on my own performance, and more on blending with the rhythm of the other rowers, there was a synergy that made the boat move more efficiently; it seemed lighter,” Norelius said.


That philosophy, of focusing on the team rather than the individual, became a touchstone for Norelius over the years even after the Olympics. “Life is a team sport,” she said. “If we each spend our time and energy trying to be the superstar, we’ll never see the bigger picture and recognize how we can contribute. Although it was personally satisfying to develop technically, physically and mentally as an athlete, the deeper reward came from knowing I was contributing to the collective. I truly believe I would feel that way even if I never had been first across a finish line.”


Norelius knows the effort it took to win an Olympic gold medal but she also realizes part of her success was about opportunity. Her family had the means for her to go to college and train with top coaches. She recognizes the privilege that came from her circumstances and that there were plenty of potential Olympic athletes that just never had such opportunities.


As she sees it, part of Norelius’s job now as a counselor is to help close the privilege gap and provide opportunities for all students. “When I’m working with kids and families, I think about how they might see themselves internally, and within the context of society and their circumstances. Like all of us, they are growing and I hope I can tune into them to help guide them to where they want to be and what they want to achieve,” she said.


After a career as a social worker, 17 years ago Norelius moved on to become a school counselor so that she could make an even bigger difference in the lives of children, she said. “I felt like I could have more of an impact by guiding kids and families so they could prevent problems and by helping kids develop tools to navigate social and emotional challenges.”


Norelius has been a school counselor at Centennial Elementary since 2015. As the OSD Social-Emotional Learning Program specialist she collaborates with OSD educators in efforts to support student social and emotional wellness.


Kris Norelius is seated third from right in the photo featured above.



Capital High School graduation 2020


District celebrates historically high on-time graduation rate

The Olympia School District’s on-time graduation rate for the Class of 2020 reached 92.8%, marking the highest on-time graduation rate in district history. The percentage of students who graduated in five years also rose in several high schools and contributed to an overall district extended graduation rate of 94.5%.


“First and foremost, this achievement is a direct result of the hard work and dedication of our graduates and the support of their families,” said Superintendent Patrick Murphy. “The class of 2020 faced adversity in their senior year like none had experienced before, and their persistence is reflected in this all-time graduation rate. Likewise, our teachers and educational staff, from preschool through high school, worked tirelessly to serve and support this class and prepared them to not only graduate from high school, but to go on and confidently pursue their post-secondary goals, whatever they may be.”


In addition, district leaders attribute the increased graduation rate, in part, to important staff and innovative programs including:


  • Graduation specialists in each high school provide extra support for students who are struggling to fulfill requirements.
  • Online education classes offer students a robust menu of online courses which can help students attain the credits they need to graduate.
  • High School and Beyond Plans, facilitated by career center counselors, engage students pursuing a variety of future paths, whether that be college, career or military.
  • “Opportunity Time” each week in schools provides high school students additional time with teachers, allowing the students to revisit instruction, ask additional questions and take exams.
  • Restorative Practices have reduced student suspensions and have not only kept students in school but engaged in their instruction.


Mick Hart, Executive Director of Secondary Education, credits district staff for implementing the programs that lead to student success. “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 our district a place to feel success,” Hart said.


House Bill 1599, which was passed in 2019, also provided a boost to graduation rates for 2020, Hart said. House Bill 1599 expanded the ways Washington students could show their readiness for their next step after high school and provided multiple pathways to graduation. Hart estimates the new state graduation requirements will continue to have a positive impact on graduation rates in the years to come.



Walk N Roll Yard Signs


Walk N Roll yard signs...designed by you?!?

Are you an Olympia School District student interested in putting your artistic talents on display by designing a traffic safety yard sign that could be selected for display throughout the Olympia community? Not only that, but the winning designer will also receive a $50 gift card!


Intercity Transit's Walk N Roll program is partnering with Target Zero Thurston Task Force, Safe Kids Thurston County and the City of Olympia Police Department to design, print and distribute yard signs with traffic safety messages. Signs will be displayed at homes located in school zones and neighborhoods where students are walking and riding bicycles. The goal of this pilot project is to encourage drivers to slow down to improve safety.


Student-designed artwork is being accepted through December 31, 2020. Visit the Intercity Transit website to learn more!



OSD National Merit Scholar Semifinalists


District recognizes National Merit Scholar Semifinalists

Congratulations to our Olympia School District National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists and commended scholars. This program recognizes the most talented students throughout the country for demonstrating a proven commitment to academic achievement.


At Olympia High School this year, semifinalists include (pictured above): Bethel Asomaning, Hollen Foster Grahler, Kayla Jones, Andrew Pan, Michael Tsien, Blake Willett, and Aren Wright.


OHS commended scholars include: Evan Butler, Pranav Gundrala, Zachary Hayes, Jenny Jang, Veronika Kettel, Kaylee Lam, Joy Matsuoka, Kalani Pavel, Kimberly Savel, Samantha Savel, Isabella Widrow and Elena Zimmerman.


At Capital High School, Rebecca McMillin-Hastings and Caleb Anderson were recognized as commended scholars.


In order for semifinalists to advance to the next round, they must complete an application, have a consistently high academic record, write an essay and be endorsed and recommended by a school official. Finalists will be notified in February. These students are competing for approximately 7,500 scholarships that will be awarded throughout the country. Way to go OSD scholars!



OSD meal distribution during winter break


Request free meal boxes for winter break by December 7

Families may request a free five-day supply of breakfast and lunch for each of their students during winter break by completing a form at a current school/community meal distribution site or emailing the Child Nutrition Services department by Monday, December 7.


Five-day meal boxes will be distributed between 10 a.m. and 12 noon on Monday, December 21 and Monday, December 28. Families from schools throughout the district may choose one of the following six school locations to pick up the meal boxes: Hansen, Pioneer, Centennial, Garfield, McKenny or Roosevelt elementary schools.


All students and youth up to age 21 are eligible to order the free meal boxes.


To reserve a five-day box of meals for the week of December 21 and/or December 28, please obtain a request form from any of the current school and community meal distribution sites, open weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Return the form to any meal site by Monday, December 7. An interactive map showing the locations and driving directions to the current meal distribution sites is posted on the district website.


Families may also email the district’s Child Nutrition Services department at [email protected]. Be sure to include in your email:


  • How many students/youth in your family need a five-day box of meals.
  • Where you will pick up the five-day supply of meals (Hansen, Pioneer, Centennial, Garfield, McKenny or Roosevelt elementary school).
  • Whether you will pick up meal boxes on Monday, December 21, Monday, December 28 or on both dates.



Video Tours of Capital and Olympia HS


Take video tours of the remodels taking place at Capital & Olympia HS

Earlier this month Capital High School Principal Curtis Cleveringa and Olympia High School Principal Matt Grant were nice enough to invite us on walkthrough tours of the major remodels currently taking place at their buildings. Everything is really starting to come together. We hope you enjoy this little glimpse of what CHS and OHS students have to look forward to when all students return to our buildings!




OSD Inclement Weather


2020-21 Snow Bulletin

Every year, inevitably, snow or severe weather conditions lead to a delay in start times or the closure of our school buildings. This year, with most of our students learning remotely, we have modified plans for school schedule changes, as well as the way we will communicate with families about inclement weather.


Important: As most students are learning this year remotely, even when start times are delayed or schools are closed due to inclement weather, remote learning will continue on regular schedule. The advantage to transitioning to a remote learning day, as opposed to canceling school, is to alleviate the need for makeup days at the end of the academic calendar in June.


Students should be prepared for potential school schedule changes by making a habit of having their Chromebooks at home and charged every day.


The Olympia School District will inform you as soon as possible when school schedules change through our district messaging system, our district website, and social media platforms.


We also encourage you to monitor local radio and/or television stations for up-to-date information about weather-related building closures or delays.


On rare occasions, weather conditions may make it necessary to modify school bus routes. When that occurs, district and media outlets will announce the use of “snow routes” or “emergency routes.”




Upcoming Events


  • November 25-27: No School (Thanksgiving Break)
  • December 10: OSD Board Meeting online via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.
  • December 21-31: No School (Winter Break)
  • January 1, 2021: No School (New Year's Day)



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.