August 29, 2019 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

It is hard to believe that the start of school is already upon us. If you did not know, we will be celebrating the graduating class of 2020 at the end of this academic year; 2020! As I mentioned at a Welcome Back event with all staff this week, the Class of 2020 was the incoming kindergarten class of 2007-08. Where did the time go? So much has happened in the world in those 13 years. Nothing has been more impactful perhaps than the total infusion of technology and digital connectivity. At the same Welcome Back event, we had a guest speaker who is an expert in technology and education, and he reminded us that this current generation of students will never know a world without the internet. Being digitally connected all the time is as normal to our students as being in water is to a fish. That is not the world I grew up in, and I suspect many of our parents did not either.

A big part of our focus this year, as we expand our one-to-one take-home Chromebooks to most of our secondary schools, is to better understand how that connectivity makes our current students’ experiences different than our own. They may often communicate differently, and experience the world in another way, but like us, and all people, our students want to feel valued and respected.

I think our school board had that in mind when they reached out to our greater community and used that input to create our Student Outcomes. They know students today are living in a different, fast-paced world that is exciting and full of promise. At the same time, all of the information coming at our students, and us, so fast and consistently can cause worry and anxiety. Stress can be good, but too much can be detrimental.

Our Outcomes speak to the needs of educating the whole child so when they leave our system, they will have the skills and attributes that will allow them to live healthy, productive and satisfying lives. You may recall the Student Outcomes are:



  • Outcome 1: Be compassionate and kind.

  • Outcome 2: Have the academic and life skills to pursue their individual career, civic and educational goals.

  • Outcome 3: Advocate for the social, physical and mental wellness of themselves and others and be hopeful about the future.

  • Outcome 4: Have the skills, knowledge and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic and societal bias.

  • Outcome 5: Discover their passions, be curious and love learning.

  • Outcome 6: Be critical thinkers who contribute to and collaborate with our local, global and natural world.


Each Outcome has an accompanying set of indictors to expound upon its meaning and how those skills will be manifested in our schools and classrooms. To see the full set of indicators, visit the district website Strategic Planning webpage.Opening in a new window We are committed to using these Outcomes and indicators to drive the work of the district and to inform decision making around things like budget, programming and staffing. Look for future communications on how we will be measuring these important ideals and goals.

School districts need high quality educational facilities in order to provide environments that allow us to meet high expectations like those embedded in our Student Outcomes. We are so fortunate to live and work in a community that so generously supports our district through approving bond measures to fund school improvements. Many families will see those bonds at work as there are several construction projects across the district; some just finishing and some just starting. We know the final products will be beautiful; but, we want to thank you all for your patience and understanding with all of the inevitable disruptions that come with projects like these.

In closing, I want to encourage you to volunteer at your child’s school. We are so fortunate to have an abundance of volunteers in Olympia, and it makes a huge difference. We can always use more help to make sure every child in every school gets the support they need to reach their full potential. Sign up to volunteer on our district website.

Thank you, again, and have a great 2019-20 school year! 



Patrick Murphy


June 21, 2019 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

As we finish the last day of school today, I wanted to send you all a message thanking you for another wonderful year and wishing you a safe and restful summer break with family and friends.

There were so many great accomplishments this year in our classrooms, on our performance stages, on our playing fields and in our gyms. Our graduation ceremonies always serve as the perfect venue to highlight and appreciate all the hard work of our students, our families and our staff. This year’s commencement exercises were no exception. Student and staff speakers thanked parents and elementary school teachers for helping them get to the next stage in their lives.

Our graduates’ speeches and future plans were reflective of the recently board-adopted Student Outcomes. They spoke of compassion, and a determination to create a more just and equitable world free from bias. They encouraged their classmates to keep finding their passions and to never stop learning. They spoke of a desire to see and contribute to the world in productive and meaningful ways. There were amazing stories and celebrations of resilience and inspiration as our high schools recognized graduates who were recent arrivals to our country who spoke little to no English, and are now going on to college and building a strong future for themselves and their families. From continued pursuits in higher education, entering the world of work or serving our country in the armed forces – the Class of 2019 will undoubtedly be changing the world for the better.

Perhaps, like me, from time to time you worry about the future of our community, our country and our world. Our graduation ceremonies temper that fear and give us hope and optimism about the years to come.

In closing, take care of yourselves and each other this summer. We sent home some tips to all families to make sure we all stay safe when taking part in summer activities. Rest up, and we will see you all next year as we prepare to welcome next year’s kindergartners — the Class of 2032!



Patrick Murphy



May 30, 2019 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,

We seem to say this every year, but wow – it’s hard to believe we are reaching the end of another school year. While there have been challenges, in many ways this school year seems to have gone by so fast. It reminds me of the popular TV ad campaign by the Idaho Department of Tourism entitled “18 Summers.” The gist of the campaign is you only have 18 summers to make memories with your kids, it goes by fast, so make them count. I find that kind of powerful. Time can go by quickly, we want to make every school year count and we want to savor all those formative moments, perhaps none bigger than our high school graduations. We look forward to celebrating with the graduates and families of the Class of 2019. Before doing so, I want to give a few end-of-year updates and thank yous.

First, we know the school year is going a little longer this year (finishing on Friday, June 21) due to some particularly snowy weather this winter. The 2019-20 calendar, which is linked from this newsletter, has a built-in snow day which we will use first if there is a weather-related district closure before adding on to the end of the school year. That “snow” day is the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.

Besides weather, another challenge we certainly faced this year was the uncertain nature of our finances and budget going into next school year. Given where we were projecting our deficit to be and where we landed at the end of the Legislative session, the Olympia School District is in a much better place going into next year. Our deficit was cut by about 80%. As a result, the budget we will bring to the school board for consideration on June 3 will have no reductions of returning staff. I believe our community’s collective effort in persistently pushing out information about the gravity of our situation, as well as highlighting the egregious funding discrepancies between Thurston County and districts to the north, contributed to the legislative decision to raise the levy restrictions and add last minute “hold harmless” money for districts like Olympia that were particularly harmed by the original McCleary Fix legislation. So a huge thank you to all of you, first for your patience. And secondly, thank you to all who attended our community meetings, read our updates, watched us on Facebook Live and did all you could to support our students, staff and schools.

I also want to thank two members in particular in the Class of 2019: our outgoing student representatives to the school board, Anna McClatchey of Olympia Regional Learning Academy and Grant Erickson of Capital High. We recognized both students with family and friends present at our May 20 board meeting. We will be forever grateful for their thoughtful contributions to our strategic planning process and for speaking loudly and passionately for the needs of their fellow students. Their voice was critical to many challenging topics addressed by the board this year.

I also want to give a quick shout-out to the staff, students and families of Boston Harbor Elementary, McLane Elementary, Jefferson Middle School and Avanti High School for continuing a longstanding tradition in Olympia of being recognized at the state level for outstanding academic achievement (see article about their state awards in this newsletter). Their recognition is a tribute to the dedication of the teachers and staff, and the hard work of students and support of families.

Thank you all for helping to make the 2018-19 school year such a wonderful year for our students. I hope to see you at many of our great end-of-year activities.



Patrick Murphy



April 19, 2019 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,

One way or another, we are finally coming to the end of a very frustrating and worrisome legislative session. As you are all aware by now, we are facing one of the biggest budget deficits we have ever faced as a district due to the disparate impact of the “McCleary fix” legislation. As we have said several times, we are not alone in this predicament, as most of our Thurston County school districts are facing cuts, as well as many others across the state. That being said, we take some solace in the fact that our projected budget deficit of $8.5 million could be reduced by as much as half if the Senate and House budgets make it out of the legislative session as they currently stand. Should that happen, the district has a reduction plan in place that will be shared with the school board on Monday, April 22, that will address our hopefully lower deficit without having to invoke a Reduction In Force (RIF) of teachers. Instead, the deficit will be handled through cost saving measures and not replacing a portion of central office, teacher and para-educator retirements and resignations.

Both the Senate and House have bills that would allow districts like Olympia to collect higher local levies, but that is a serious point of contention in the Legislature. To that end, we, too, have no desire to raise our local levy. We would much rather Olympia receive regionalization funds, or adequate special education funding, or fully funded health care — all of which contribute to our deficit. But those “fixes” are said not to be forthcoming, and therefore a levy lift is currently the only way to avoid substantially deeper cuts. Unfortunately, we won’t have certainty on the final state funding plan until the close of the legislative session, which is scheduled for April 28. Until then, I want to again say thank you to all who participated in our budget informational sessions and our online survey. As always, you can get the latest budget and legislative information, including survey results, on a dedicated budget page on our district website. Opening in a new window

Thank you for your steadfast support of our school district. 



Patrick Murphy



March 21, 2019 (Spotlight on Success) 


Hello Olympia School District Families,

Any time an organization contends with difficult situations like our recent budgetary worries, it is always good, I think, to key in on those things that the organization values and stands for. Core values help us prioritize and remember why we dedicate ourselves to this work and fight each day to get better.

In the Olympia School District, our key beliefs and goals are bound up in our recently adopted Student Outcome statements. These statements, approved by the Olympia School Board last December, are part of our school district’s Strategic Planning process. As you may recall, the Student Outcomes are:




  • Outcome 1: Be compassionate and kind.

  • Outcome 2: Have the academic and life skills to pursue their individual career, civic and educational goals.

  • Outcome 3: Advocate for the social, physical and mental wellness of themselves and others and be hopeful about the future.

  • Outcome 4: Have the skills, knowledge and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic and societal bias.

  • Outcome 5: Discover their passions, be curious and love learning.

  • Outcome 6: Be critical thinkers who contribute to and collaborate with our local, global and natural world.


The next big step of the Strategic Planning process is to expound and explain what we mean by each outcome. That deeper explanation will be in the form of “indicators” under each outcome so that students, teachers and parents know what this means in our schools and classrooms.

For example, under Outcome 4, which says our students will “have the skills, knowledge and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic and societal bias,” an indicator could be:


  • Our students will develop an appreciation of world cultures, which may include the understanding of the basic structure of another world language


Or under Outcome 2, when we say that our students will “have the academic and life skills to pursue their individual career, civic and educational goals,” an indicator could be:


  • Our students will read, write and speak effectively for a wide range of purposes, including the interpretation and analysis of both literary and informational texts


Other examples of possible indicators, as well as background about the Strategic Planning process, are included on the district’s Strategic Planning webpage.Opening in a new window This type of specificity will help students, staff and parents better understand how the outcomes will be realized in our schools. We will be pulling together a targeted group of students, staff and community members to help us on the "indicator" development at a gathering this Friday, March 22. If you are unable to attend either of the community meetings and would like to comment online, please share your thoughts on a Student Outcome Draft Indicators online feedback form. The deadline to submit comments is Monday, April 8, 2019. 



Patrick Murphy



March 15, 2019 (Email to all OSD Families)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

As we enter the second half of the state legislative session, I am deeply disappointed to report that we have not seen lawmakers propose and support the kind of clear-cut financial resolutions to adequately address our projected $8.5 million budget deficit for the 2019-20 school year.

We are at a point where we would be remiss in our duties if we did not begin more formal planning for spending reductions in the event there is no legislative fix, or an inadequate one, by the end of the session. Schools need to prepare their staffing and programs now for the coming year.

We will look across our entire system to identify potential spending reductions while trying to minimize impacts to the classroom. We will again be asking for your help via an online budget survey to help us set budget reduction priorities. We will also use our recently adopted Student Outcomes, developed as part of ongoing Strategic Planning work, to help in this process.

For those of you unfamiliar with the history leading up to our projected deficit, we have been clear since the adoption of House Bill 2242 in 2017 that the so-called “McCleary fix” legislation did not help the Olympia School District. Instead, it resulted in a disproportionate allocation of revenue to districts across the state, thus creating winners and losers. Unfortunately, our district is in the latter category.

We have shared in previous messages to our community how the Olympia School District failed to receive state regionalization dollars. This is particularly perplexing as every other district on the I-5 corridor that touches Puget Sound received this money. Lawmakers have been unable to explain why we were left out of receiving regionalization given that Olympia housing prices exceed housing prices in several districts that received regionalization funds.

Equally concerning, the state eliminated a long-time funding mechanism that apportioned more funds to districts with more experienced and thus higher-paid staff (staff mix funding). The elimination penalizes districts like Olympia with more highly educated and/or highly experienced teachers. In 2018, the Legislature agreed to allocate $2.3 million to Olympia beginning in the 2019-20 school year to address this problem, which we were grateful to receive. However, even with this new funding, we still would have received millions of dollars more and been better off under the state’s old funding model. This was confirmed by a recent study of the Washington Association of School Administrators. The association calculated that the Olympia School District should receive $5.9 million in hold harmless funding because our district, like 83 other districts in the state, would have been better funded under the old funding rules.

Additionally, state funding for our students with special needs continues to be inadequate. We subsidize our special education programming between $4 and $5 million annually out of our local levy funds. There is proposed legislation to increase state funding; however, the legislation we have seen is sorely lacking in its ability to make up for this subsidy.

Without any regionalization and staff mix funding, we were especially hard struck by the new state-imposed restrictions on our local, voter-approved levy collection. The McCleary legislation imposed an arbitrary limit of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value for school levies. As a result, our local levy collection has been cut in half. We previously used that levy to pay for teachers, nurses, librarians, principals and other critical support staff. Other districts in north Puget Sound with higher property values are collecting all or nearly all of their previous levy amounts. And in many cases, those same districts are collecting significant regionalization dollars on top of that. The result is that some districts saw hefty increases in revenue while others saw minimal or fractional gains. Once again, Olympia is in the latter category.

We have heard some legislators — not from our legislative district — declare that budget deficits are a result of school districts irresponsibly bargaining pay increases. To be clear, our district’s significant deficit was projected long before any salary bargaining had occurred. We value our staff greatly, as they are the key to the quality of our educational programming. We are committed to attracting, recruiting, retaining, and supporting the finest educators in the state, and we have. It is frustrating that we are planning for reductions to support this commitment while other districts are implementing enhancements. Again, this is due to the disparate revenue disbursement to districts as a result of the McCleary fix.

While we have been sharing the message about our projected shortfall with you for nearly a year now, as stated, we had hoped that there would be a clear legislative fix by now. The governor’s proposed budget and at least one proposed Senate bill (SB 5313) were encouraging, but the Senate bill never made it out of committee. A new House bill (HB 2140) is now under consideration, and while we remain hopeful there will be relief before the end of this legislative session, time is getting short in our budget planning process for the 2019-20 school year.

We also want to make it clear that increasing the levy is not our preferred way to address the revenue inequities facing Olympia. We would rather legislators give us state regionalization or special education dollars; but, if those solutions do not become reality or do not close the gap, we believe our voter-approved levy should be an option for our community.

We will continue to advocate, educate and implore our local legislators to help push through sensible, sustainable funding for the students and families of the Olympia School District. Many of you have asked how you can contact your local legislators. A list of our local legislative contacts, and more information about the budget, are posted on the school district website.

Thank you for your ongoing support of our schools,

Patrick Murphy, Superintendent



February 1, 2019 (Email to all OSD families and staff) 


Good afternoon OSD families,

We want to take a moment to update you on some exciting events and activities from around the district. Also, be sure to stay up-to-date on district news by visiting our district website,Opening in a new window reading our monthly Spotlight on Success newsletterOpening in a new window and following us on our social media platforms (FacebookOpening in a new windowTwitterOpening in a new window and InstagramOpening in a new window).

Below is a summary of some news/event information and links to our website to learn more about these topics:

Measles outbreak in Washington

Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency in all Washington counties in response to confirmed cases of measles in the state. While there are no confirmed cases of measles to date in the Olympia School District, we encourage families to learn about this highly contagious infectious disease. The Washington State Department of Health urges everyone to check their immunization records to verify they are fully immunized.

Read more about the measles outbreak and related resources for familiesOpening in a new window

Snow in the forecast

The latest weather forecasts for next week indicate a chance of snow and colder temperatures. The school district will make every effort to operate normally, despite the weather. On rare occasions, however, weather conditions may make it necessary to delay the start of school, modify bus routes with emergency snow routes, and potentially close school. The Olympia School District will inform you as soon as possible when school schedules change through our phone/email/text messaging system, our district website and district social media (Facebook and Twitter). We also encourage you to monitor local radio and/or television stations for up-to-date information about weather-related closures or delays. Please familiarize yourself with a list of our emergency snow bus routes on our Snow Bulletin webpageOpening in a new window.

Kindergarten registration, and Countdown to Kindergarten event February 9

Kindergarten registration for the 2019-20 school year begins on March 4, 2019. Parents and guardians who will have children in kindergarten in the 2019-20 school year are invited to learn about transitioning to kindergarten by attending this year's "Countdown to Kindergarten" event. The event is from 10-11:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 9 at Capital High School, 2707 Conger Ave. N.W., Olympia. The event begins at 10 a.m. with a welcome and presentation by Olympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy.

Are you interested in serving on a new School Year Calendar/School Start Times Citizens Advisory Committee?

The Olympia School Board agreed in January to form a new School Year Calendar/School Start Times Citizens Advisory Committee.


The committee is charged with developing recommendations to the school board regarding potential changes to the academic calendar and school start times. Anyone interested in serving on the committee is encouraged to attend the first committee meeting on February 12, 2019 or contact Olympia School Board Vice President and committee facilitator Scott Clifthorne. Please email Clifthorne at an OSD email set-up for this committee work at [email protected]. The meeting is scheduled from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Knox Administrative Center Board Room, 1113 Legion Way S.E., Olympia. Learn more about the committee and see the board-approved committee charter on the SY Calendar/Start Times Advisory Committee webpageOpening in a new window.

Budget outlook and funding priorities for 2019-20 school year

The school board approved a resolution in January declaring the school district's legislative and funding priorities for the 2019 Legislative Session. View the resolution and see related budget links, including questions and answers related to the 2019-20 budget and projected deficit, on the Budget webpageOpening in a new window.

Nominate someone for OSD Teacher of the Year

The Olympia School District is accepting nominations through Friday, February 15, for one or more staff members to be honored as OSD Teacher of the Year. The program recognizes the work of teachers who have made a positive difference in their profession. Any Washington public school teacher who has a current certificate and works directly with students for at least 50 percent of his/her time is eligible to be nominated.

What are the OSD Student Outcomes?

The Olympia School Board unanimously agreed in December to approve a set of Student Outcomes as part of its Strategic Planning process. The Student Outcomes were reached after a six-month process that included extensive community input.

The school board unanimously approved a new student dress policy during its regular meeting on January 22, 2019. View a copy of Policy 3224Opening in a new window and accompany Procedure 3224POpening in a new window.

In-person new voter registration ends February 4

There is still time to register to vote for the February 12, 2019 Special Election. Thurston County residents have until Monday, February 4, 2019 to register to vote if not currently registered in Washington state. This registration must be done in person, as the deadlines have passed to register online or by mail. There are no Olympia School District candidates or measures on this Special Election ballot; however, we notify our families annually about election dates and encourage people to vote.

Stay connected

Be sure to read our latest Spotlight on Success newsletterOpening in a new window. Remember, too, to follow us on social media where we feature numerous photos and videos of student learning and school activities. We are proud of our students, staff and community!



February 25, 2019 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

There is a saying that the month of March “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” meaning the weather is cold and harsh to start, but by the end of the month the milder climate and conditions of spring start to arrive. Given the record amount of snow we had in February, I think we would all be happy with months full of lambs.

Given that we had to miss four days of school due to the snowstorm, our calendar has been adjusted. By contract, any missed school days are made up at the end of the school year. Currently our last day of school has been changed from Tuesday, June 18, to Monday, June 24. However, because the storm was declared a “state of emergency” by the governor, we are eligible to apply for a waiver for one or more of those days. We know that having the school year end the following week is problematic for some families who have other commitments. We also need to be mindful of our graduation dates for seniors and any ramifications a later end to the school year could have on those ceremonies. We intend to keep those graduation dates as they are currently scheduled. We also know that every day of instruction is important, and that many of our students and families rely on the school for a variety of services that, if possible, we don’t want to limit.

As many of you have seen in weather forecasts for this week, we are not out of the woods yet with potential inclement weather, so we are holding off on any decision regarding a waiver submission until we get closer to spring. That being said, we know that families and staff need time to prepare, so look for a final word on that mid-way through the month of March. Lastly related to weather, I want to remind families to keep your information up-to-date in Skyward Family Access so you receive all emergency communications in a timely manner.

Having our school district located in the state’s capital, we more than most are very aware that we are in the middle of a legislative session. We continue to closely follow proposed legislation and how the proposed bills could help with our projected budget deficit. We’ve stayed in close contact with our local legislators to make sure they are fully aware of our financial outlook. There have been some encouraging bills that could substantially help with our projected shortfall. We will keep the community informed of related developments as the session continues.

Lastly, with winter coming to an end, lots of other events and happenings are right around the corner. We will be welcoming incoming kindergartners at a Countdown to Kindergarten event on Saturday, March 2. That cohort will be the high school graduating Class of 2032….that’s incredible. Our student performers and athletes throughout the district are working hard to prepare for spring concerts, theater productions, athletic events and regional/state/national competitions. If you haven't visited our schools in a while, consider attending a concert, watching a stage production or cheering on students at an athletic event. You won't be disappointed.

Thanks as always for your amazing support for our Olympia Schools.


Patrick Murphy



January 24, 2019 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

I hope the new year is off to a good start for all of you. You may already know, but the end of January marks the midpoint of the school year calendar. I can’t believe that the school year is already half completed. Our students in the Olympia School District continue to do remarkable things in the classroom, on performance stages and athletic fields, and in gyms. At a recent school board meeting we reported that our on-time graduation rate for the Class of 2018 was approximately 90% and the extended graduation rate (5 years) was just under 95%. While we will always strive for 100%, these results continue to be among the highest in the state for a district our size. You may remember in past articles, I‘ve mentioned how we are excited about our strategic planning work and the school board’s commitment to support our staff and families to better meet the needs of the “whole student.”  Because of the feedback from students, families and staff, social-emotional learning and physical and mental wellness are key aspects of our new strategic goals that we believe will further strengthen our academic performance and help us reach our goal of 100%.

It is in the midst of this success and excitement about the future that we sadly once again face a significant budgetary predicament that can’t help but dampen enthusiasm. I mentioned in the November newsletter that like a “broken record” we once again face a substantial deficit going into the 2019-20 school year. The reasons for that deficit are multilayered, but the fact is that the legislative “fix’ to the McCleary Decision resulted in a disproportionate allocation of revenue to districts in the state creating winners and losers.

This is confusing for people because there was indeed a significant infusion of new dollars by the Legislature to public education since the 2017 session, but the methodology was flawed and as a result some got significantly more than others. Things like receiving zero “regionalization” dollars and the elimination of the “mix factor” particularly injured the Olympia School District. (Read more about regionalization and mix factor in the November Spotlight on Success newsletterOpening in a new windowOpening in a new window). But Olympia was further damaged, and the inequity further exacerbated across districts, when the Legislature reduced the Olympia community’s ability to make up for state deficits through local levy funding. Instead of being able to collect up to 28% of a voter-approved levy to enhance and fill in gaps in state funding, the new state law imposes an arbitrary tax limit of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value on local levies. Subsequently, Olympia’s ability to backfill our state funding shortfall has been cut in half. This was not, however, the effect on all districts. More property-rich districts were already generating a 28% enhancement to their district budgets through a local levy of $1.50 or even less, so the net impact on their revenue was zero or negligible.

Because of this, our school board has adopted a resolution of legislative funding priorities that we are sharing with legislators. A list of these funding priorities is posted on our district websiteOpening in a new windowOpening in a new window. The first request supports the Governor’s recent budget proposal to restore the ability of school districts statewide to raise levy lids to 28%. That change alone could reduce our projected deficit of at least $8.5 million by almost 80%.

But our board also calls out the need to fully pay for staff and teachers so as not to incentivize principals and school districts to hire the “cheapest” teacher as opposed to the “best.” We asked the Legislature to fully fund special education and pay the full cost for proposed increased health care benefits that would be a great thing for our employees. Lastly, in the board’s resolution directors ask the Legislature to support not just the academic but the mental and emotional health of our students by funding more counselors, social workers and nurses, just as our community and our school board call for in our newly adopted student outcomes.

While the Governor’s proposal is hopeful, we will not stop in our ceaseless advocacy for our students and staff until a viable, sustainable solution for the Olympia School District comes to fruition. We also know that the solution needs to be fair for the taxpayers and supporters of education in our community.

I believe we do the world’s most important work: educating the leaders of tomorrow. It is also, I believe, the most rewarding work one can do. But that said, we also know that teaching and mentoring and guiding our children can be challenging and requires great love, strength and stamina. Doing that work in an unstable and unpredictable financial environment makes it harder for all of us. We will keep close tabs on the legislative process and keep people up-to-date (see budget page on our district websiteOpening in a new windowOpening in a new window) while we simultaneously prepare for potential cuts that we hope we will not have to make. Thank you, as always, for your steadfast support as we navigate an uncertain budget process yet again, with hopefully a predictable, maintainable outcome for Olympia at the conclusion.




December 20, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

The end of the calendar year and holiday season is, for many, a time to celebrate with family and set resolutions for the new year. With the adoption of our new Student Outcomes by our school board earlier this month, I think in a way that we, too, have made a resolution. We have resolved, as a district, to renew our commitment to our students and families.

The Student Outcomes were reached after a six-month process that included extensive community input. Our board considered this input, including a two-day Educational Summit, two online surveys that elicited thousands of responses, and approximately 50 meetings with staff, students, families and community members, to create, revise and eventually adopt six “will statements” as expectations for our students. These statements look a little different than traditional school district strategic goals. They reflect ideals and traits that, I believe, we all want for our children, but perhaps have not seen stated so explicitly in the schoolhouse.

In addition to the customary and appropriate academic skills that Olympia has always placed a high priority upon and done so with great success for many in our system, these outcomes also speak to characteristics that are perhaps more difficult to measure but are yet equally important in life. We want our children to grow up to be healthy, inquisitive, ethical, caring and strong individuals who can work together with others for good. We’ve always wanted this, and our school staffs have historically worked tirelessly to create classroom environments that promote these ideals. With these outcomes, I am hopeful that, as a district, we can set goals and allocate resources to better support our teachers and support staff even more intentionally in their efforts. We believe this more deliberate focus on the whole student will lead to greater academic gains for all.

There is more work to be done. The board is committed to a process in which district leadership, with input from staff, students, families and community members, will further define and interpret these broad outcomes. That deeper explanation will be accompanied by metrics so that staff and families will know what we mean by each outcome and how we will measure if we are successful in reaching that result for all students. Our goal is to have that work completed by the end of the school year, so look for information on opportunities to participate after the new year.

In the meantime, if you have not seen the Student Outcomes for the Olympia School District, they are:


  • Our students will be compassionate and kind.

  • Our students will have the academic and life skills to pursue their individual career, civic and educational goals.

  • Our students will advocate for the social, physical and mental wellness of themselves and others and be hopeful about the future.

  • Our students will have the skills, knowledge and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic and societal bias.
    Our students will discover their passions, be curious and love learning.

  • Our students will be critical thinkers who contribute to and collaborate with our local, global and natural world.


I wish all of our Olympia School District families a happy and restful holiday season with loved ones and friends, and a wonderful New Year.




November 27, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

Hopefully all of you enjoyed a restful and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. As we approach the winter holidays, it is a good time to reflect on all of the things that we are thankful for in the Olympia School District. The greater Olympia community continues a long history of supporting our schools in so many ways. Thousands of volunteers continue to dedicate tens of thousands of hours of help in our classrooms every year. We have talented, dedicated teachers and support staff serving our students skillfully and compassionately. As evidenced by strong achievement results, our hard-working students continue to excel academically, artistically and athletically. All of this makes Olympia a destination for families and staff in search of an extraordinary community in which to live and work that is committed to public education.

As the calendar year comes to an end, this is also the time that we refine our budget projections for the upcoming school year. You may recall from an earlier newsletter message that we are once again looking at a significant shortfall in the 2019-20 school year. I suspect for some that this is probably beginning to sound a little like a broken record, but the fact remains that the McCleary “fix” — legislation passed in 2017 — was not a fair solution for all school districts in the state. There were winners and losers because the revenue was not distributed equitably, which has actually caused more inequality between school districts. Several factors have contributed to this disparity in funding and our bleak financial outlook:

  • The state issued “regionalization” funding bonuses ranging anywhere between 6% and 24% to about one-third of the state’s nearly 300 school districts. This “no-strings attached” addition to these chosen districts’ state apportionment was reportedly distributed in part because of a higher cost of living in certain areas of the state. But when looking at a map of the districts that did or did not receive “regionalization,” it does not make sense. Olympia School District received zero regionalization dollars.

  • The McCleary fix created a new state education tax, which was funded in part by markedly reducing school districts’ abilities to raise funds through local levies. The new local levy formula, like “regionalization,” has had a massive unequal impact across school districts. The new formula states that local communities can only run local levies at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. In Olympia, we ran our previous, voter-approved Educational Maintenance and Operations levy at a rate of just over $3 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. As a result of the new law, we will only be able to collect about half of our previously approved amount. Instead of a $27 million collection in 2019, we will only collect about $14 million. The infusion of new state dollars does not cover that dramatic reduction. The inequity is glaring in that some districts, particularly to the North with higher property values, will still collect 100%, or close to it, of their previous levy amounts under the new funding formula. Compounding the inequity, some of those districts that will collect their full levy amount will also collect 18% in regionalization.

  • The Legislature eliminated a long-time funding mechanism that apportioned more funds to districts with more experienced staff who earn more. As a result, the change penalizes districts with more senior and experienced teachers and staff. As stated previously, in Olympia we have a significant number of experienced and dedicated teachers, high above that state average, who are committed to our community and stay in our district. This was one area in which our advocacy efforts last year paid off and resulted in an increase in dollars for Olympia beginning in 2019-20; however, that increase does not fully make up for the funding we would have received under the old formula. In fact, it falls about $2 million short.

  • Increased health benefits for part-time staff, special education requirements and mandatory class-size reductions in the lower primary grades will cost millions of dollars to implement because they are underfunded state mandates.


All of these factors together have us currently projecting a budget deficit of between $8.5 and $9 million in 2019-20 if we continue to operate all schools and programs as they are currently staffed and funded. To reduce our budget by that amount would result in about a 6% reduction in our approximately $137 million operating budget.

As mentioned previously, we are not alone in facing a significant budget shortfall next year. You will hear similar messages from many districts in Thurston County, as well as other counties statewide, because the factors that are impacting us are also impacting many of them.

We will be providing our community with more information and feedback opportunities for how best to approach the projected budget deficit. As stated previously, we had some success last year but will need to be even more successful this longer legislative session, which begins in January, in urging lawmakers to find long-term solutions for Olympia School District students, staff and families. And given prior history when the Legislature faced major policy and budget decisions during a longer session, any possible financial solutions will not likely be finalized until June. Unfortunately, that would be too late for some of the budgetary decisions we will have to make due to legal and contractual timelines.

This budgetary challenge will undoubtedly be stressful. While we are committed to a transparent process with ample opportunities for all stakeholders to provide feedback, we know there will not be any easy or pain-free solutions. And while we relentlessly educate and advocate for our district with state officials, we will do all we can to protect those things that make Olympia such a wonderful learning community.



October 17, 2018 (Email message to all OSD families)


Dear OSD parent or guardian,

The safety and security of our students and staff are always of the utmost importance. Subsequently, we continuously review our policies and procedures to ensure that recent research and best practices support our safety protocols. As we see a need to modify our practices, we do so after careful research, consultation with our law enforcement partners and consideration of what is best for students.

To that end, we want to make you aware of some new additions to our safety training, used in school districts nationwide, that will be presented to our students beginning this fall. We invite you to learn more about the training at one of two parent meetings:

Tuesday, October 23 at Capital High School, 2707 Conger Ave. N.W. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the theatre.

Tuesday, October 30 at the Knox Administrative Center, 1113 Legion Way S.E. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. on the first floor in the board room.

The Olympia School District has partnered with the Olympia Police Department to present the A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) training to our staff and students. Your school principal will be emailing you a follow-up letter soon outlining when your child’s school is scheduled to deliver the training to students.

Preparing our students for emergency situations at school is not new. As you are probably already aware, we host a variety of drills at our school throughout the year to help students understand how to respond in the event of emergencies such as an earthquake or a fire. Sadly, in more recent years, we are also preparing our students and staff in the case of an armed intruder.

The number one goal of A.L.I.C.E. and our school is to keep students and staff safe and away from harm. The training is basically an enhanced lockdown drill. During an enhanced lockdown, students lock themselves inside a classroom or other school space when directed to do so by school staff. Blinds are closed, lights are turned off and teachers and students may barricade the room if possible. Additionally, A.L.I.C.E. gives staff or students the option to evacuate or flee an area if that is the best course of action.

This training also teaches staff and students, particularly in middle and high school, to be prepared as a last resort to “counter” – apply skills to distract, confuse and gain control.

We have given careful consideration to presenting the A.L.I.C.E. training in an age-appropriate way. Students in grades 6-12 will be trained by staff and/or Olympia Police officers on the full A.L.I.C.E. protocols.

Students in elementary school will be trained in their classrooms in the context of a lockdown drill. The protocols that we teach elementary students will be personalized to their environment and grade level. We will emphasize that students listen and follow directions from their teacher.

We certainly understand that it is difficult to think about potential emergencies, especially the thought of a violent intruder in our schools. We recognize, also, that this particular training may be a difficult topic for some students and families. While we hope that we never have to apply this training in our schools, we would be remiss in our duties if we did not prepare our students and staff how to be as safe as possible. If you have concerns about your student participating in this activity, I encourage you to contact your school principal.

For more information, we hope you are able to attend the October 23 or the October 30 parent meeting. More information about the A.L.I.C.E. training and tips for parents in talking with your child are also posted on our district websiteOpening in a new window.


Patrick Murphy


October 24, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

That extra chill in the wind and the colorful leaves littering the streets of Olympia are letting us know that the sunny warm weather we’ve so enjoyed is fading fast and winter is not too far away. As we break out the winter clothes and gear up for the cooler temps, I want to take one more opportunity to encourage you to give us your feedback and ideas around the draft student outcomes created by our school board.

You might recall in last month’s Spotlight on Success message that I mentioned the board’s community outreach efforts to gather feedback on the draft student outcomes that will be the driver of our new Strategic Plan. The school board, like a strong classroom teacher, knows the importance of establishing learning targets before making lesson plans. Learning targets guide teachers on what materials they will need and which instructional strategies to use. Likewise, the school board wants to firmly establish the outcomes we want for all of our students to help inform decisions on budgets, staffing and programs.

To date, we have met with more than 40 focus groups, including school employees, students, parent organizations, community groups and service clubs. We’ve had more than 300 responses to our online survey. The board is hoping to solidify the outcomes at a November board meeting, so if you have not had a chance, please take a moment to answer the brief questions on the feedback formOpening in a new windowOpening in a new windowbefore November 1. Thank you for your help with this important work.


Patrick C. Murphy, Ed. D.


September 28, 2018 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,

As we complete the first month of the 2018-19 school year, hopefully we are all getting back into the routine of school. From your morning rituals, to preparing lunches, daily schedules, bus rides, car pools, sports practices and homework; there really is a rhythm to school that takes a while to establish, but once you find it, there is a comforting quality to it that is quite reassuring. As we settle in, I wanted to take a moment in this column to update you on a couple of important items.

First, our school board is diligently moving ahead with its community outreach efforts to gather feedback and input on the Draft Student Outcomes that will be the driver to our new Strategic Plan. From staff meetings, to PTA’s, to community organizations, directors are determined to hear from as many of you as possible to get your thoughts on the goals for our students that will drive our decision making for years to come. If you can’t make it to the input gathering session at your child’s school, you can always share your thoughts on our online feedback formOpening in a new windowOpening in a new window.

Secondly, we will be coming out later this fall and winter to provide information on our budget projections for the 2019-20 school year. Some of you may recall that last year we had projected a significant deficit for this current school year that would have required significant cuts. Those cuts were averted due to a last minute infusion of funding at the end of the last legislative session. However, that was one-time funding and did not represent a long-term fix for the Olympia School District. Unfortunately, we are once again looking at a significant shortfall in 2019-20 and have no reason to suspect that a fix — short or long-term — will be forthcoming.

You may recall from last year’s communication that Olympia was not helped by the funding formulas that came out of the Legislature’s response to the “McCleary Decision.” While the Supreme Court has ruled the state is in compliance now due to a significant infusion of new dollars into the state education coffers and a restructuring of how taxes are collected and allocated, the fact is that that revenue has not been distributed equitably and has caused more inequality between school districts. We are not alone in facing significant shortfalls next year.

We will be providing our community with more information on this troubling fiscal situation in the months to come and provide feedback opportunities for how best to approach the projected budget deficit. We had some success last year in our advocacy efforts and hope we can be even more successful this session in urging the Legislature to find long-term solutions for Olympia School District students, staff and families. Stay tuned for more information.

In the meantime, enjoy the last burst of summer weather mixed with the beautiful autumn colors and falling leaves that surround our school campuses. As I visit school open houses, drop by classrooms, and attend campus activities and events, I am so proud of the hard work and learning taking place around the district.


Patrick C. Murphy, Ed. D.