September 2023

Spotlight on Success header 


Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District families,


Patrick Murphy headshot

As we end the first month of the 2023-24 school year, and the wind gets a little more brisk, I want to take a moment to thank all of our staff, students and families.


I want to thank all of our bus drivers, mechanics and dispatchers in our Transportation department for making sure our buses are in good working order and our children arrive at school safely each day. I want to give a special thanks to Bus Driver Wendy on Route 25 and all the wonderful student riders from Centennial and McKenney elementary schools, Washington Middle and Olympia High for such a fun ride to school on the first day back. Even more fun was seeing the family celebrations on the street corners of various blocks as moms, dads, grandparents, guardians and friends blew kisses and wished their children well as they rode off to begin a new year.


As mentioned in a previous message, we are narrowing our major focuses this year in our schools to the two key areas of inclusive practices and culturally responsive education. We want every student to have a rigorous, appropriately challenging educational experience where they feel welcome and honored in our schools.


We have a couple of other key initiatives happening related to those goals. Our school board continues its work in crafting an equity policy based on all of the data gathered last school year and beyond. That work is led by students, staff, community members and our school board. Information about that process can be found here.


We also have a School Facility Efficiency Review Committee exploring ways to ensure our students have access to the resources and staff they deserve in an environment with declining enrollment. I encourage you to read the article in this issue of Spotlight on Success to get more information on the status of that work. I want to extend my deepest appreciation to the dozens of staff, community members and students serving on that important advisory body.


I want to say thank you to our partners at Intercity Transit and our friends at the City of Olympia including the police department for another year of supporting and sponsoring Walk to School Month in October. Intercity Transit’s Walk N Roll program is an especially fun initiative where students parade to school on bikes and walking, sometimes with a police escort, to encourage healthy habits and physical fitness.


Thank you to all of our families for sending your students to us. All of the children of the Olympia School District are beautiful, amazing, talented and kind; each in their own unique way. We want to continue to work to make our schools places of belonging. If you have not already done so, please take the Panorama Family Survey that helps us gauge how we are doing in making sure our schools and places where students feel safe, welcome and valued. If you have any survey related questions, please reach out to your school office.


I was at one of our elementary schools today and a kindergarten teacher was reading a book titled Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn. Indeed, the end of the warm days can be a little bit of a downer. But when I see all of the smiling faces of our students in our schools, back and eager to learn, to play with their friends, to write creative stories, to solve complex problems, to play instruments, to run around on our fields and in our gyms; when I witness that, then these cooler days don’t seem so bad. Rather, the fall season is the indication of a new year of powerful learning.


I wish a wonderful 2023-24 school year for everyone!



Patrick Murphy Signature
Patrick Murphy



Your One-Stop-Shop: OSD Family Resources Webpage


Your One-Stop-Shop: OSD Family Resources Webpage

The Olympia School District Resources for Youth and Families webpage offers access and connections to local resources that support families and students experiencing challenges.


Do you know of a family, or an Olympia School District student, that could benefit from information about support groups, crisis lines, help with meals or bills, social and emotional wellness, or tips for taming toddler temper tantrums? You can find all that and much more on our Resources for Youth and Families webpage.

This webpage provides a one-stop shop for almost any community or district resource that a student or family might need. Information is grouped by topic: Community Resources, Parenting Resources and Supports, District Resources for New Families and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).

If you need additional assistance connecting with community resources or support:



For questions please contact OSD Student Support at: [email protected]



Centennial Elementary unveils its new Sensory Room


Centennial Elementary unveils its new Sensory Room

We recently had an opportunity to visit the new sensory room at Centennial Elementary School and WOW, what an experience!


CES Counselor Chelsea Richardson was the driving force that brought the idea of a sensory room to life. In previous years, this space was used for reading interventions and as a Resource Room. When it became apparent the room may be available, Richardson jumped at the opportunity.

The sensory room has been open/available to students since the start of the school year, and the response has been exceptional. The space was created to provide students with an alternative tool to refocus, self-regulate, regain concentration and help manage worry or emotional distress in a calming environment. There are 11 different sensory stations within the sensory room that provide a stimulating environment to engage and soothe the senses from soft furnishing, lighting, auditory and visual stimuli, tactile elements and interactive objects.

“Students are encouraged to visit the sensory room throughout the day if they need a five minute break or a change of scenery to refocus,” said Richardson. “With the sensory room being such a ‘neat place’ there was a worry that students might take advantage of the space and request too many breaks throughout the day. When students were introduced to the space, together as a class, we discussed the Centennial sensory room expectations of being kind, being responsible and being safe, really going in-depth on the “why” behind each expectation, which I believe has helped students look at the sensory room as a true tool.”

The expectation is that as the school year progresses the students will provide CES staff with feedback on what works best in the room and what possible tweaks or modifications need to be made. That feedback is always welcome.

While Richardson was the impetus for this amazing space, it doesn’t all come together without a $2,000 mental health grant from the Olympia Education Foundation. That funding allowed the CES staff to outfit the room with all gear that students now find in the 11 sensory stations which are featured on our OSD Facebook page.

The outfitting of the room itself was an organized team effort; Administrative Professional Megan Green was in charge or placing all of the various orders for different items, the entire CES staff took their own time to create a stunning sensory wall, and then Behavior Technician Travis King and Richardson pulled all of the pieces together and set up the space as summer was coming to a close to prep for kiddos. “A huge THANK YOU to Mrs. Ritter and the entire Centennial Elementary School family for believing in the importance of a space like the sensory room,” said Richardson.

We couldn’t agree more, what a total team effort. One that CES students will be reaping the benefits from for years to come. Just one more reason it’s good to be a Centennial Star!




October is Walk to School Month


October is Walk to School Month

Celebrate walking and rolling to school with students from the Olympia School District (and around the globe) during the month of October. Grab your walking shoes, bike or any other wheels you might have and kick off the month by getting outside and exploring a new route to your school.


Superintendent Patrick Murphy read the Walk to School proclamation during the September 14, 2023 Olympia School Board meeting. It states that in October, children, families and community leaders from around the world will join together for Walk to School events “to increase awareness about the health and environmental benefits of walking and biking to school.”

The proclamation also states that families, school employees and community leaders “can make a lasting impression among our community’s youth by modeling fun, safe and healthy behavior by accompanying students on Walk to School events.” Walking and rolling is a fun and healthy way for families to get to the classroom.

The City of Olympia has also proclaimed October as Walk to School Month. Superintendent Murphy shared about the school district’s proclamation during the September 26 City Council meeting and thanked both the city and InterCity Transit Walk N Roll program for partnering on walk-to-school efforts. InterCity Transit sponsors Walk N Roll to School events at several OSD elementary schools.

The partnership for Walk N Roll and Intercity Transit promotes physical activity, encourages healthy habits, builds community with neighbors and other school families, raises awareness, and improves safety of students on their trip to school.

This impressive event reaches far outside the City of Olympia. International Walk to School Month is a global event celebrated every October with more than 40 countries walking and biking to school on the same day.

We would like to take this opportunity to remind motorists to please slow down and observe the speed limit when driving in and around our schools. Help us keep those who take part in this wonderful activity safely by putting your cell phones away, reducing your speed, watching closely at pedestrian crossings and being prepared to stop.



Helpful Tips for Walk n’ Rollers


  • Use sidewalks when possible

  • Cross streets at intersections and crosswalks

  • Always look both ways before crossing the street

  • Pay attention and listen to crossing guards

  • Watch and listen carefully at driveways and other exits and entrances

  • Know your route and walk with others

  • Don’t talk to strangers




Let us introduce you to the WMS Bulldog News production team!

Washington Middle School students have returned to their production studio for the 2023-24 school year and are immersing themselves in developing new editions of the ‘WMS Bulldog News.’ The Bulldog News acts a a conduit for WMS visual communications students to lend their voice, and their technical skills, to addressing the greater WMS community.


The Bulldog News “staff” is comprised of 24 students and is led by teacher/instructor Andrew Callender. Their goal? To create unique and customized visual content (Bulldog focused of course) from start to finish. Students are responsible for planning, recording, editing, producing and releasing each episode. Callender helps troubleshoot any issues or questions that may arise throughout the process, but it’s up to the students to own their work. New episodes are produced every other week and posted on the official Bulldog Productions YouTube Channel.

Callender had this to say about the thoughtful process he observes his students go through; “In addition to video production, students gain valuable experience in professional communication, adhering to strict deadlines and team collaboration.”

If you would like additional information about the Bulldog News program, or have suggestions for an upcoming episode, please contact Callender at: [email protected].

Building real-life skills, informing the greater WMS community and taking leadership opportunities in the classroom? That sounds like a win all around. Great work Bulldogs!

NOTE: The Olympia School District recently put together a brief feature video on the Bulldog News production team. You can view that piece in the video embedded above!



School Facility Efficiency Review Committee gets under way


School Facility Efficiency Review Committee gets under way

More than 40 students, staff and community members representing every school in the Olympia School District have been named to a newly formed School Facility Efficiency Review Committee.

The committee met for the first time on September 25, 2023. It is supported by a technical team made up of district leaders and other employees who work in support buildings. The committee facilitator is Shannon Bingham, of Western Demographics, and the current membership list is posted on the district website.

“The committee is made up of an impressive group of people,” said Superintendent Patrick Murphy. “There are a lot of diverse experiences represented in the room.”

During its first committee meeting, Bingham hosted committee introductions, described the committee charge and familiarized the group with the school efficiency process. The meeting then transitioned to a presentation on enrollment forecasting.

FLO Analytics, a consulting company with offices in the Pacific Northwest, shared an enrollment forecast report that it first presented to the school board at the August 24, 2023 meeting. The study includes enrollment forecasts for kindergarten through grade 12 from the 2023-24 school year through the 2032-33 school year.

The study, which is posted on the district website, includes detailed data in three areas:


  • Demographic and residential development analysis

  • Enrollment assessment

  • Enrollment forecasting


To learn more about the work of the School Facility Efficiency Review Committee, be sure to visit the School Facility Efficiency Review webpage on the OSD website. Reports, meeting summaries, committee membership, the committee charter and other resources are featured on this webpage.



National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists named


National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists named

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced on September 13, 2023, that five Olympia High School seniors have been named National Merit Semifinalists.

Seniors Cassius Love, Hadley Manista, Grace Matsuoka, Junelin McGauly and Cole Wilson met the qualifications and were among the highest scoring participants from 21,000 high schools. This is the 69th edition of this annual scholarship program.

The semifinalists will compete against approximately 16,000 other students for a chance to obtain a National Merit Scholarship this spring. “We are always proud of our students' ability to embrace academic rigor while serving as great citizens of our school at the same time. They demonstrate personal excellence and care about our community. These students make us optimistic about the future because they are well rounded human beings,'' said OHS Principal Matt Grant.

National Merit Scholarship Program is a national academic competition for high school students to provide scholarship financial aid to attend college. Students qualify for the program by achieving a high score on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). In early September high scorers (which is students who scored in the 99th percentile and above of overall testers) are notified by the NMSC that they qualify as semifinalists.

The next step for the semifinalists includes meeting necessary program requirements. Each student must:


  • Be enrolled in their last year of high school.

  • Submit a detailed application.

  • Continue to have a very high record of academic performance.

  • Be fully endorsed for finalist standings including principal recommendation.

  • Take the SAT or ACT and earn scores that confirm the PSAT/NMSQT performance.

  • Complete an essay demonstrating leadership and contribution to school and community activities.


If chosen as finalists, the five OHS students will be considered for one of three types of National Merit Scholarships: College Sponsored, Corporate Sponsored or National Merit $2,500. The 7,250 awards available have a combined value of more than $28 million. Winners are chosen on the basis of their abilities, skills and accomplishments. Notification of scholarships for finalists begins in March 2024.

We look forward to following this process along with our Olympia High School semifinalists. Congratulations to Cassius Love, Hadley Manista, Grace Matsuoka, Junelin McGauly and Cole Wilson on their accomplishments and dedication to their future. Great work Bears!



Take our 2023 Family Survey


Take our 2023 Family Survey

The Olympia School District values your feedback! We encourage all of our families to take a few moments to complete the 2023 Panorama Fall Climate Survey, which launched on September 26 and continues through October 9, 2023. Students will complete the survey during school using their OSD Student ID number.

We are surveying OSD families, staff, and students in grades 3-12 about their experiences at school. Responses will provide invaluable insights into how we can improve and adapt our district to meet our students’ needs.

You may complete the family survey online through October 9, 2023 by visiting the Panorama website.



Please complete a survey for each of your students enrolled in our district. Your time and feedback are greatly appreciated and will be used by district and school leaders to guide planning for the 2023-24 school year.

To administer these surveys, we have partnered with Panorama Education. Panorama safeguards your privacy, keeping your responses confidential.

We thank you in advance for your participation.



Free COVID-19 test kits


Free COVID-19 test kits

With the viral respiratory season under way, Thurston County Public Health and Social Services (PHSS) has shared guidance for how families can order COVID-19 test kits. Over-the-counter COVID-19 test kits for personal use can be picked up from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday at Timberland Regional Library locations throughout the county. Free at-home COVID-19 tests may also be ordered online via



Thurston County PHSS encourages everyone to stay home when feeling sick and to test for COVID-19 if experiencing symptoms. Please follow the Washington state Department of Health COVID-19 decision tree if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

COVID-19 test kits are available for pick up from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday at the following Timberland Regional Library locations:


  • Lacey 

  • Olympia

  • West Olympia

  • Regional Library - (located inside Capital Mall)

  • Tumwater

  • Yelm



Upcoming Events




  • September 28: OSD Board Meeting (in-person and online via Zoom) at 6:30 p.m.

  • October 1-31: Disability History Month and Walk to School Month

  • October 4: 50-Minute Early Release

  • October 11: 50-Minute Early Release

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

  • October 13: No School - Non-Student Day; OEF Breakfast 7:30 a.m. CHS

  • October 18: 50-Minute Early Release

  • October 23-27: Half Day for K-8 Conferences (ES/MS)

  • October 25: 50-Minute Early Release (High School)

  • October 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 Paula Perryman, 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:


James Whitehead, Title IX Officer

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-8545

[email protected]


Autumn Lara, Executive Director of Elementary Education

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-8534

[email protected]


Ken Turcotte, Section 504 and ADA Coordinator (Students)

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-7530

[email protected]


Starla Hoff, ADA Coordinator (Staff)

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-6185

[email protected]


Scott Niemann, Affirmative Action Officer and Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506

(360) 596-6185

[email protected]


Paula Perryman, Director of College and Career Readiness

Knox 111 Administrative Center, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506


[email protected]


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