History of the Board

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Throughout the years, the Board of Directors has carried out the work of the school district-- setting policy, overseeing the curriculum, planning for the future, communicating with the community, being responsible for the budget, and hiring the superintendent.

Here are some highlights of our Board throughout the history of our schools.


  • When the legislature of 1854 created the school district of Olympia, the first officials elected to govern the district were called "The Town Board." They were responsible for all town business including the schools. The town trustees were kept so busy they didn't have time enough for their own business affairs, let alone school management. Problems included those related to manufacturing, logging, troublesome bridges --Marshtown (to Westside) and Swantown (to eastside), muddy streets, selection of jail and courthouse sites, and the caving in of the long wharf on Main St. as the result of the docking of the Eliza Anderson.
  • 1877--The first official School Board minutes …were written on Sept. 21, 1877, by N. Crosby, Clerk. The board convened at the Bank of Mr. George Barnes, Chairman of the Board. At the annual meeting in November, no annual report could be given as the records had been destroyed in an August fire. The Clerk, pro-tem, D. N. Utter, wrote that "some remarks were made pertinent to the occasion, whereon the meeting adjourned." The next official school Board meeting was held nearly a year later, Sept. 1878.
  • In the first 100 years of the Olympia School District, only two women served on the school board. Esther Knox was the second--elected in 1952. She served until 1983--the longest serving director in the history of the district.
  • 1958--State law made all director positions voted on "at large" by the electors.


The School Board has always had the responsibility of overseeing the financial affairs of the district and setting budget.


  • 1882--It was the Board's responsibility to closely review every bill--the $1.50 for clock repair, $5 for slating black boards, 60¢ for a pail and dipper, and $14 for 3.5 cords of wood.
  • 1892--Even though salary improvements had been desired by the Board, money was so scarce in 1892 that no teachers' salaries were raised save that of Mrs. Keyes, who received $5 a month more. At the suggestion of the Board, the Superintendent started teaching a half-day in the high school so as to ease the teaching load of others and satisfy the Board.
  • 1896--School District funds were deposited with the County Treasurer to the Building Fund, the General Fund, the Apparatus Fund, and the Special Fund. In October, warrants issued in August on the General Fund were thereby cancelled on account of there being no money in that fund.
  • 1907--Bicycle sheds were built at the high school and at Roosevelt; an 8th grade room was established at Garfield; $20 was paid to remove logs in the streets near Roosevelt; one-half of the cost of putting in a walk south of Lincoln School was paid to the City and the Board agreed to help pay for sidewalks near the trestle on Union Street, the City to be in charge of the work. Three Singer sewing machines were purchased for $30 to $35 each and three microscopes for $100.
  • 1912--A plan to pay teachers for twelve calendar months was adopted.
  • 1914--The Clerk was instructed by the Board to look into purchasing land between 22nd and 24th Streets, and Washington and Franklin Streets for athletic grounds and school farm.
  • 1926--The high school salary schedule started at $1,350, with $50 annual increments ranging to a maximum of $1,700. The grade school salary schedule started at $1,040 with $60 annual increments and a $1,400 maximum.
  • 1929--Bids were called for two school buses. Two Studebaker chassis at $1554 each were to be fitted with Wayne bodies. Two employees of the district drove the buses--one to Butler Cove and the second to Gull Harbor.
  • 1936--The cost per year per student for a high school education was $14.
  • 1939--A court case, Smith Troy vs. Olympia School District, sought to enjoin the district from replatting and selling lots. Judge Wilson determined for the District.


The Board has always had the responsibility to meet the operational and facility needs of the district.


  • 1892--C.H. Hale was appointed to ascertain the amount of money needed in the district for a ten-month school and (Director) Estep to determine the maximum rate levied for taxes in the leading towns of the Territory. In July, the Board voted to raise $3,000 by means of a special tax on district property, for the purpose of providing "additional school facilities, for building an addition to the present school house and providing two additional school rooms in other parts of the district."
  • 1893--A special election was held at the Barnes Hook and Ladder Company on Fourth Avenue and the following questions were put before the voters:
    1. Shall the Board sell school site in Percival Addition?
    2. Shall the Board purchase lots 1-15 in Block 10, Youngs' Addition?
    3. Shall the Board borrow money and issue bonds in the sum of $15,000 for the purpose of erecting a schoolhouse on Block 10? Bonds not to draw more than 6 percent interest.

    With 568 votes cast, all issues received more than 400 "Yes" votes (a 70% yes vote).

  • 1917--When the State requested that they purchase the site of the current Wm. Winlock Miller High School to add that site to the Capitol grounds, they offered the site across the street. Olympia voters were queried on four questions:
    1. Shall the District sell its interest in Block 86 for $25,000?
    2. Shall District erect high school on Block 88 Sylvester Addition--cost, $100,000?
    3. Shall District spend $25,000 received to build in part a new high School?
    4. Shall District borrow money and issue bond, $75,000 at interest no to exceed 6%?

    Voters favored all four measures by overwhelming margins. A new William Winlock Miller High School was to be constructed.

  • 1920--Caught in an inflation spiral, the Board asked for a special five million levy to raise salaries 10% and to pay for heating equipment repairs. The levy passed.
  • 1929--In January, at an election held at the YMCA, it was voted to spend $15,000 for land and $130,000 for building and equipping a new Garfield School. It was specified that all pupils' desks must be finished in brown and come equipped with inkwells.
  • 1939--A $5 million building levy and a $10 million operation levy received a 90% "yes" vote. The campaign was lead by the Kiwanis, with support from PTAs, press, and civic groups.
  • 1948--For the first time, state support was received for "transportation of pupils to and from public schools." The Board directed the Superintendent to notify parochial and private school students that transportation would no longer be available to them.
  • 1951--A Citizens Advisory Committee was formed by representatives of the AAUW, PTA, and service clubs. The Board believed that more widespread information regarding school operations could result in better schools.
  • 1956--Madison School was dedicated. Briggs Nursery supplied 20,000 ivy starts to be planted on the slopes of Madison.


The School Board has always had the responsibility for setting policy.


  • In 1883, a division of playgrounds was ordered to separate the boys from the girls and teachers and principal were asked to enforce this rule.
  • In 1890, the Board adopted the first Commercialism Policy:
    Teachers shall not announce or permit to be announced in their schoolrooms, notices of entertainments or shows nor distribute or permit anyone to distribute in their school rooms any advertisements or advertising matter.
  • In 1892, a policy governing custodians was put in place. Janitors shall not enter a school room for the purpose of sweeping before one-half hour after the regular time for dismissal except by permission of the teacher in charge.
  • 1909--Increased community demand for the use of the new high school requiring the adoption of policy that all scheduling of events be done by the Clerk of the Board.
  • 1917--The following policy was enacted:
    The Board will hold open positions of any teacher who may by enlistment or conscription join the U.S. Army or Navy except reinstatement could not be made during the school year if the position them by held by a teacher under contract.
  • 1922--The Board adopted the following policy proposed by the high school faculty:
    Any student who does not pass in three subjects in addition to required work in gymnasium will be placed on probation at the beginning of the following semester, with notice to parent or guardian. Failure to pass in three subjects during probation semester shall cause him to be dropped at any regular report time provided parent or guardian has been duly warned. Time of dropping is optional with principal. Students coming under this ruling may, if deemed advisable by principal and parents, be given a special mental and physical exam as an aid in determining the disposition of their individual case. Exceptions to the above are part-time students or those having illness.
  • 1926--Board develops rules for use of public school buildings by the public.
  • 1929--A sick leave policy for teachers was adopted to provide ten days leave per year with the provision it could accumulate to a maximum of 30 days. The policy was retroactive to the date each teacher was hired. (The policy had been in place for several years but it wasn't until Oct., 1929 that it was made official.)
  • 1940--The Board ruled that all children age five by September 1, 1940, could attend kindergarten for a half day at Washington. No transportation was provided.


The School Board has the responsibility of hiring the Superintendent.


  • 1880-1883 Mrs. F.C. Hale (Pamela)
  • 1883-1887 L.E. Follansbee
  • 1887-1887 Frank Dixon
  • 1887-1894 B.W. Brintnall
  • 1894-1895 Professor W.H. Beeler
  • 1895-1897 W.C. Hazard
  • 1897-1899 T. B. Hawes
  • 1899-1902 Mrs. C.W. Durrette
  • 1902-1906 W.M. Montgomery
  • 1906-1909 Frank O. Kraeger
  • 1909-1920 C.F. Beach
  • 1920-1931 Elmer Breckner
  • 1931-1958 Leland P. Brown
  • 1958-1969 Dr. Rolland Upton
  • 1969-1973 Dr. Charles R. Marshall
  • 1973-1980 Dr. Howard Coble
  • 1980-1990 Richard Hunter
  • 1990-2001 Dr. Albert R. Cohen
  • 2001- 2012 Bill Lahmann
  • 2012-2017 Dick Cvitanich
  • 2017- Patrick Murphy


The Board sets the District calendar.


  • 1895--After deliberation on the length of the school day, the Board decided that school hours would be from 9 to 12 and 1 to 4 with a brief recess at 2:30 in the afternoon. The school year ended on March 10, 1896.
  • 1932--Board requested that school year be shortened to save money with a budget deficit of 20%.
  • 1942--Spring vacation was eliminated so schools could close at the end of May and older students could get jobs.
  • 1949--Spring vacation was moved to March 16, 17, and 18 so students and teachers could attend the state basketball tournament.


The Board oversees curriculum.


  • 1897--Botany was added to the high school course of study so that local high school graduates would be admitted to the University of Washington without examination.
  • 1910--A new curriculum requirement was required by the State. Agriculture.
  • 1911--A textbook committee was named by the Board. Domestic science was taught at Washington and manual training at Garfield, Roosevelt, and Washington.
  • 1911--Chemistry was added to the curriculum.
  • 1940--Metals and Electricity were added to the pre-vocational training curriculum as was aeronautics.
  • 1946--Distributive Education (on the job training) was offered in combination with Merchandising--a pioneer educational program in Washington.
  • 1959--The recommendations of the Gifted Child Committee were incorporated into the school curriculum.
  • 1960--Federal funds were available to hire school counselors. Both junior highs received one with three for the high school.
  • 1961--Elementary schools were equipped with TV antennas and more sets to take advantage of programs by education TV Channels 9 and 56.


The Board listens to the community and communicates with the community.


  • 1908--North Olympia residents wanted a new two-room school in their area. The aging one-room school, they said, had become too crowded. The Directors visited the school and later reacted favorably to the patrons' request. The new school was named Roosevelt. It was insured for $2,000. The outhouses cost $355.60. Sidewalks cost $176.60.

    Piety Hill residents then looked at their one-room school. It wasn't the latest clapboard design. Their grounds were cramped. Land was donated. In October, McKinley School was dedicated.

  • 1910--A questionnaire went to parents asking if they would contribute their children's books to the schools if the District would supply texts to all students in the future. The result was a resounding "yes." The initial textbook cost was $1,500.
  • 1915--Washington and Lincoln PTAs asked for improvements on their school grounds because they were "quagmires." The Board voted to allocate $5 for sand for each school--provided each PTA would put in $10.
  • 1931--The Board requested that the Olympia School District be designated as a district of the first class (this meant Olympia had a population of over 10,000.
  • 1957--State law required that public notice be given for all school board meetings. Notice could be sent to print or on-air media. This had been a practice of the Olympia School District for a long time.