June 30, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,


With the end of the school year comes sunshine and hopefully time for people to wind down a little, be with family and friends, and refuel the energy tanks.


And at the same time, the summer break is a time for us to reflect, think and plan for the work ahead. One thing the last couple of years has given us is permission to think outside the box on how to deliver education. The traditional confines of the facility, the daily clock and the calendar have been loosened, and we have license like never before to explore new ways of customizing learning for all students to better meet their individual needs. Our teachers and school staff have been at the forefront of this transformative work, and we will continue to plan and prepare with them for the ongoing work of creating a better, more responsive school system in the future.


For those who want or need continued learning opportunities, again, we will be extending the school year calendar and providing our OSD Summer School program (offered for elementary and secondary students).


Also, as a reminder, summer is a time for building maintenance around the district. You will see our ground and facilities team working away the next couple of months, with a particularly big remodel at Avanti High School in full effect this summer. Our schools always look so shiny and welcoming come September thanks to the hard work of our dedicated Operations team in the summer. A special thanks to the maintenance staff who keep our buildings looking good and running smoothly.


I wish all of our students, families and staff a well deserved restful and joyous summer break with family and loved ones. In the meantime, we will work hard to be ready to welcome students back to school on Wednesday, September 7, which will include for the first time, our new incoming kindergartners, the Class of 2035. 



Patrick Murphy



May 31, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,


We are in the home stretch, and it is the time of the school year to give a special thank you and fond farewell to the graduating seniors of the Class of 2022. Maybe like my family, you have a graduate of your own in this year’s class. Because of COVID-19, each class over the last couple of years has faced monumental challenges and heartbreak. And while the pandemic is not over just yet, in many ways, this graduating class leaves our schools with more hope, resilience and abilities that strengthen my belief that we will emerge from this crisis stronger and better. They say necessity is the mother of invention and that adversity breeds character. Goodness knows that this group of graduates had to adapt to new ways of doing things and navigate troubles and trauma like few before them.


Each year at this time, I have the great joy to sit down for exit interviews with some of our graduating seniors. If you have not done this, I encourage you to reach out to one of our local high schools to participate sometime in the future. It is a life-affirming and hope building exercise.


Whether it is Avanti, Capital, Olympia, ORLA, or our Transition Academy and Project Search; you will find graduates with goals and dreams and plans as unique and impressive as the students themselves. This year was no exception, but I sensed an air of wisdom and discernment with the grads I spoke with this year that seemed more elevated. It was as if they were fully aware that they are leaving school and going out into a rapidly changing world that they will likely shape and define more quickly than any generation before them. They know that change is inevitable, and can and should be good. And they also understand, thanks to technology, that the pace of change has never been faster.


For those, like me, who grew up at a time when things seemed slower, more predictable, perhaps even more innocent; this future of sudden change can be nerve-racking, worrisome and cause us to feel unstable. And yet, what I heard from my interviewees was not a desire to slow down, or get off the freeway at the next exit. On the contrary, I heard them talk about the great benefit of living today, of the endless possibilities, and how we now have the means to make a meaningful difference, more quickly, to better the lives of all people, who need it now.


A Capital High graduate shared with me that space exploration opens up so many opportunities for his generation. When I asked if that meant that he might want to be an astronaut or explorer, he smiled and said, “No, I intend to practice Space Law.”  He’d already researched the best universities and gained admission to be at the forefront of this new field. I spoke to a graduate from the Freedom Farm program at Olympia High who shared with me how his love for music and keen interest in botany and organic medicine was driving him to pursue a science career to wipe out the scorn of opiate addiction that has particularly plagued the entertainment industry. Another shared that they will run their own construction business but will earn a degree in accounting so they are not reliant on others to keep the books and better ensure their financial success. Some shared their intention to live and study overseas, to serve their country in the military, enter the field of health and medicine as doctors, nurses and therapists, or work to save the environment.


In each instance, there was an optimism in their stories, and a desire to serve others; a beautiful contrast to the stories that too often fill the news and social media. They were not pollyanna, nor were they deceiving themselves into thinking that great challenges do not lie ahead. What they all seemed to have, in different ways, was a belief that they have agency; that they, more than anyone else, determine their own destiny.


This mindset going into the future will serve them well. It is a reflection not just on them, but their families, their teachers and friends. Congratulations Class of 2022 and thank you for inspiring and shining light on the path to a better future.



Patrick Murphy



April 27, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,


Spring break has concluded, warmer days with more daylight are upon us, and we are making the turn down the homestretch of the 2021-22 school year. While this has been one of the more challenging years for students, staff and families as we continue our recovery from the pandemic impacts, there are also lots of signs of the fog lifting and brighter days ahead.


Olympia has always been the envy of many because of the bountiful contributions of volunteers and organizations throughout our community. We average 5,000 official volunteers annually and more than 50,000 hours of service to our schools. While COVID hampered our volunteer capacity due to restrictions for being on-site, it, too, is on the rebound. Our district celebrated Public School Volunteer Week April 18-22, and we are on the road to recovery as thousands have returned to our schools under the existing safety protocols.


No organization better exemplifies the commitment to service and to our families like our own Olympia School District Education Foundation. OSDEF is committed to “Empowering every student through community support.” Its values dovetail beautifully with our Student Outcomes, and it supports the district in countless ways. Key areas include 1) the Principal’s Emergency Fund (PEF) 2) Classroom Grants 3) Mental Health 4) Hands On/Outdoor Learning.


The principal's fund gives schools critical resources to support families in need without red tape or encumbrances which is so helpful in a crisis. The classroom grants encourage innovation and give teachers a wonderful ally in their work as they constantly seek ways to make their classrooms more engaging, which is especially important right now in our recovery efforts. The last two years have impacted the collective mental health of our community and OSDEF’s support for staff training in this area has been crucial. And while some of our overnight outdoor learning experiences have been hindered this year for safety reasons, the Foundation remains committed to hands-on learning that is a hallmark of the Olympia community.


I encourage you all to follow OSDEF on social media (Facebook and Instagram) and attend or sponsor a fundraising event (PEF Golf Scramble in August; PEF Breakfast in September/October). OSD staff also can consider automatic payroll deduction. If you want to help in a more direct way with your time, consider joining the Board of Trustees (more details available on the OSDEF website in early June 2022), volunteer at an event, or work on a committee. Please reach out to [email protected] to learn more!


In addition to the OSDEF we have other strong community partners like the City of Olympia, Thurston County YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and the South Sound Reading Foundation. All of them tirelessly support our students and families and better ensure we meet our Student Outcomes. And yes, like our school district, much of their work is largely completed thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers and supporters.


Thank you to all of our community volunteers. We are able to do so much more because of all of you. As we welcome spring and the promise it holds, I wish all a successful last quarter of the school year.



Patrick Murphy



April 1, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD

Hello Olympia School District Families,


It is hard to believe that Spring Break is here and we are heading into the last quarter of the school year. While this year has proven to be one of the most challenging as we recover from the harm of the pandemic, it is heartening to see our students and staff meet those challenges and accomplish amazing things.


There was one particular recent accomplishment that symbolizes, I think, how perseverance, effort and support can help us clear even the seemingly impossible hurdles we face.


Amanda Moll, and her sister Hana, are twin sisters and juniors at Capital High School. On March 25 in Austin, Texas, at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays Track Meet, Amanda broke the national record in the girls pole vault when she cleared 14-9 ½ (4.51m). By the way, her sister Hana’s personal best is 14’-8”. Competitors are all given three tries, and it was on her third and final attempt that Amanda set the new national record.


According to the twins’ mother, the girls practice, support and compete against each other which helps them to keep improving. In addition to family support; numerous coaches, community members and staff have encouraged and assisted them through the years since they were young. Read more about the Moll sisters in an article in the August 2021 Spotlight on Success newsletter.


Individual dedication coupled with community support are the key ingredients to success in any endeavor in school. I have marveled at the dedication of our students across the district as they have worked through the challenges of the past couple of years. Likewise, I am humbled by the dedication, expertise and loving support shown by our staff to ensure that all of our students have what they need to reach their full potential. Their efforts in this most challenging of years are especially inspiring.


Each student and family has their own unique circumstances, supports and challenges. The school board is in the process of gathering community input for an Equity Policy that will augment and reinforce our strategic plan and student outcomes. Making sure every student gets the support they need will be the foundation of that plan. But it is our families who know their children’s needs best, so working with all of you is crucial to creating this policy. A steering committee is working on the community engagement process that will start up after spring break. For more information, visit the Equity Policy Development webpage.


Fiercely advocating for resources to support our staff and students has been a hallmark of Olympia long before I arrived here. I am pleased to report that for the first time in a while, those efforts, too, have paid dividends in the last legislative session. While it did not resolve all of the funding inequities that have negatively impacted Olympia, there were important bills and budget measures passed that will help us moving forward to equip our staff with resources to better support all students.


We can work exceptionally hard, but without the right equipment and staffing, we will be hard-pressed to clear the big hurdles. Amanda proved that when you have those supports, nothing is impossible. Likewise, I am optimistic as spring approaches, that we too, as a district, will continue to achieve at higher levels as we get back to better.


I wish you all a safe and restful spring break with family and friends.



Patrick Murphy



February 5, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD

Hello Olympia School District Families,


First off, I want to thank the entire Olympia community for their overwhelming support in passing our 4-year Technology and Safety Replacement Levy. At a time when school district ballot measures were struggling to pass in various places across the state, nearly 70% of our voters said “yes,” which was among the highest approval rates of any district in the state. Thanks to our generous community, we will have the resources to continue to build “back to better” as we come out of the pandemic.


Related to that, most of us are aware by now that the governor announced that on March 21, face coverings will be encouraged but no longer required in K-12 schools statewide. Our local health department intends to release updated guidance around the first week of March to school districts based on our local context in Thurston County. We knew as we came out of the pandemic that it would not be a flick of a switch, but more like a turning of a dial, as some mitigation measures are rolled back slowly over time as case counts diminish. It is encouraging news, and we will keep our community posted as we get new information.


You may have heard information over the last few months about the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s support for school districts to explore the idea of a “balanced calendar.” Olympia is one of dozens of school districts across the state that received a grant to assist in that exploration. A balanced calendar would modify the traditional 180-day school calendar to keep the learning process more continuous. Instead of a calendar dominated by a very long summer break, students would have more periodic, longer breaks throughout the school year and a shorter summer break. Students attending schools that follow a balanced calendar receive the same number of instructional days and hours as those who attend schools that follow a traditional calendar. This schedule has proven beneficial for addressing social-emotional needs of students and staff, and research has shown it to be particularly beneficial for students and families impacted by poverty. I invite you all to attend a webinar on March 15 to learn more. In addition to the community webinar, our Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) will be sharing more information in the weeks and months to come, and distributing a survey to our community in the early spring. So stay tuned for more information on that.


Lastly and importantly, the school board continues its work on the creation of a district equity policy. It is committed to a collaborative process with the community so the policy development will include extensive community engagement. The board will discuss next steps at its March 3, 2022 board work session, and we will keep the community informed about how it plans to authentically engage with all community members.


I wish everyone a strong and fruitful second half of the school year.



Patrick Murphy


January 27, 2022 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,


As we reach the midpoint of the 2021-22 school year, it coincides with the time on the calendar when our schools and district annually celebrate the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., proclaim our annual recognition of Black Lives Matter at School Week, and launch Black History Month. And at the same time, we know that combating racism and promoting racial equity is not something relegated to a specific federal holiday or a singular week or month. It is an ethical imperative that we must commit to every day, every month, throughout the year.


When racial incidents take place, like the one that occurred recently at one of our basketball games (see January 19 message to families), they must be investigated thoroughly, accountability must be firm, and restoration pursued. Given the protected privacy (FERPA) of student discipline for all students, it is understandable that some may feel unsatisfied without knowing particulars. It is also easy to understand why that level of dissatisfaction and/or skepticism may be heightened for those who distrust our system and leadership because they have their own past or present experiences with racist behavior that appeared to be dismissed or brushed “under the rug.”


I have heard many of those voices and experiences over the last week. And I heard them before this week. We have a bigger cultural, systemic and adaptive problem that our school district and our community faces, and it is not unique to Olympia. This is not new news. We’ve known this. And while this is an essential, national and global responsibility, Olympia is where we live; this is our sphere of influence, and here is where we can make a difference every day in our actions and interactions with everyone in our community.


The fact that students and community members feel empowered today to share their experiences and that they expect change is a sign, I believe, that we are in a better place than we were before. Exposure, accountability and transparency are the keys to creating an anti-racist school district and school environments that recognize, honor and respect all children, families and staff.


My sharing in this column of what we are doing in the Olympia School District to promote racial equity is not meant to be taken as some ultimate remedy or “fix'' to the problem of racism. Rather, it hopefully gives you an idea of the ongoing work we are doing to make a difference in our “sphere of influence” to better ensure that racial actions and ideas have no fertile ground in our district in which to grow.


The following is a non-exhaustive list of steps we are taking in response to this particular incident and responses to past incidents, and also some ongoing districtwide equity work and initiatives:


  • School administration has reached out directly to students, families and the greater community at CHS and spelled out initial steps.

  • CHS has reached out to student leadership at River Ridge High School and is planning for student leaders from the two schools to meet, build a stronger relationship and partner on collectively coming up with ways to create schools free of racism.

  • Principals in other schools have shared video messages and posts on school social media platforms to promote anti-racist work.

  • Schools have held schoolwide assemblies and/or grade-level meetings around ending racism.

  • There have been student cafes, and community cafes (conversations with students, staff and community members such Black Alliance of Thurston County) in response to incidents of racism.

  • An ethnic studies class was created at Olympia High School about 5 years ago, which is a product of discussions held during the student and community cafes (see bullet point above). The addition of this class, which is open to Olympia High School seniors, was a student-led initiative and we are working to make this available districtwide.

  • Avanti High School’s Social Justice Institute sponsors monthly workshops and book studies for students and staff to examine an array of topics including race, gender and class. 

  • Guest speakers are invited annually to campuses across the district to specifically address racism. They have also returned to campuses to support students when specific incidents of racism occur.

  • Olympia School District partnered the past three years with North Thurston School District and some other school leaders in the region to organize the Stay WOKE conference. The event gives students of color opportunities to talk and support one another and increase leadership opportunities. This year’s conference will be in May.

  • The Olympia School District launched a student mentorship program that provides peer mentoring and leadership opportunities with an emphasis on supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) across the district.

  • The district also has an affinity group “OSD Educators of Color” for staff throughout the district to share experiences and generate ideas to support, recruit and retain more staff of color.

  • During homerooms and advisories, including at the middle school level, there are consistent lessons that raise awareness about ongoing racism and confronting racial bias.

  • Staff throughout the district have participated in book studies related to the creation of anti-racist institutions. Additionally, the district Teaching & Learning team has supported OSD educators with participating in a statewide book study on equity that launches this month. Teaching & Learning has also worked with principals to help schools plan for and celebrate Black Lives Matter at School Week and Black History Month.

  • With board approval, Restorative Justice Centers and Practices have been put in place in our schools, in part, to respond to the historical disproportionality of school discipline and school exclusion.

  • Schools have established Equity Teams, and districtwide equity teams, including students. These equity teams are earmarked to be in our new equity policy.

  • OSD works with Panorama Education to annually survey students, families and staff on a variety of social-emotional topics including questions around climate and racial equity. The data is analyzed to inform future planning for the school and the district.

  • The District Improvement Plan contains a commitment to more diverse hiring in order to have staff and educators who more proportionally represent the races and life experiences of the children we serve.

  • Our district coordinated a Whole Child Conference for OSD staff last August, including a breakout session focused on social justice.

  • The Olympia School Board has held work sessions and most recently devoted time at its January board retreat to finalize planning for the creation of an OSD Equity Policy with an emphasis on authentic community engagement to inform and collaboratively create the policy.

  • OSD hired a Native Education and Tribal Relations Program Manager this year and has initiated government-to-government relations with local tribal leaders. Our tribal partners have worked directly with schools like the Nisqually Tribe at Capital High School in October.

  • The District Leadership Team continues to participate in trainings as they have over the past few years around creating an anti-racist organization working with organizations like Cultures Connecting and the Puget Sound ESD Equity in Education Team.

  • Elementary family liaisons are participating in training specific to supporting students of color and anti-racist work moving forward.

  • The district uses processes when adopting curriculum and instructional materials to identify and eliminate bias.

  • We adopted the use of an OSD Race and Equity Impact Decision-Making Tool last year that is used by staff across the district to help make district and school decisions. The purpose of this tool is to engage everyone involved in the Olympia School District to learn, think and address how race and equity impacts choices in instruction, programming, staffing, funding and policy.


Again, this list is only meant to give an overall idea of some work that is going on in the district and not meant to be comprehensive. I have heard suggestions from some this last week and previously, that so much talk and teaching of the impact of racism by the Olympia School District actually contributes to more racist events occurring; because it is divisive. There are national debates about that. If that were true, and I don’t believe it is, then I can’t help but wonder why we are hearing from people from years and decades ago about their experiences with racism in our school district and greater community. If we were less likely to have unfiltered candid conversations about racism then, it did not help. Putting our heads in the sand or choosing to ignore our past and present realities is never a good teaching or learning strategy. We won’t do that in the Olympia School District.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other icons of our nation's Civil Rights movement literally gave their lives to ensure that the world knew of the injustices that plagued our nation and were inflicted on Black citizens. It was their courage and tenacity that resulted in legislation and cultural change to help us get closer to our national ideals of becoming a “more perfect union.” We celebrate them in the weeks ahead, but more importantly, to fully honor their legacy, I ask that we take this time to recognize we are not there yet, and commit ourselves, or recommit more fervently to never giving up in that pursuit.



Patrick Murphy



December 17, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,

2021 is slowly coming to a conclusion, and this Winter Break may be more eagerly welcomed than any in recent memory. I am hopeful that the stress of 2021 might be softened for all of us by time with family and loved ones in the next few weeks.

December is a time of holiday traditions for many families. For mine, Christmas has always been one of the highlights of the year. It still conjures up early childhood memories of excitement and wonder. My parents always tried to teach me and my siblings that while presents were nice, it was always better “to give than to receive.” I’ve thought of that age-old wisdom quite a bit these last few weeks, especially as I've visited schools and talked with students and staff.

There’s an old American Proverb that says “Education is a gift that none can take away.” It is that sentiment, I believe, that inspires our staff to dedicate their professional lives to our students. It is that faith that drives our parents and families to seek out the best ways to support their children in their schooling. We know, empirically and intuitively, that if our children are educated well, they are so much more likely to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. And, in the end, that is what we all want for our children.

So it was with that thinking in my head that I recently visited one particular set of kindergarten classrooms. This just happened to be at LP Brown Elementary, but it could have been at any school, at any level in our district. In this case, the assignment the students were working on was related to the gingerbread man story; where the baked gingerbread man comes to life and is chased by the baker and others and eventually is eaten by the fox while trying to cross a river. The kindergartners had to cut out squares with different scenes from the story on them, put them in chronological order, glue them to a story board and color the pictures. Lots of learning targets were evident: learning cause and effect; chronological thinking, prediction, practicing motor skills, etc.

That might sound like a pretty basic lesson for young learners and perhaps not all that exciting. That would be wrong. What I saw and heard in those classrooms was wonderful and dare I say, magical. I observed our youngest learners enthusiastically recalling the story, applying what they had learned from their teacher and talking to one another to think through how those squares should be ordered. I heard laughter and puzzlement. I saw a teacher gently and lovingly suggest a new more effective way to hold scissors that could help a little girl who was struggling. And then I saw her beam with pride and satisfaction as she cut that paper so much better with her new found skill. I had 5- and 6-year-olds tell me how silly I was for suggesting that one square depicting a scene on the timeline might go in a different place in the sequence because it was quite obvious to them that the gingerbread man could not come to life and run away until AFTER he was baked in the oven. I saw some children painstakingly and carefully apply the glue stick to position and attach the squares just so, while others rushed that process a bit, because they could not wait to start coloring. And oh what colors did they use. Purples and greens and blues, some carefully within the lines and others courageously crossing them because it just looked more beautiful to them. It was magnificent to behold and not an experience that could have been had remotely.

There is another famous quote attributed to Sir Francis Bacon but others have said it in different ways and that is that “knowledge is power.” By learning and acquiring knowledge we overcome worry and fear of the unknown. We gain confidence in our own agency and ability to control our future and destiny. It can bring us peace of mind from  those things that make us anxious.

Whatever your family traditions or cultural observances, more than anything else this winter break, I wish peace for all of us.

Happy Holidays!


Patrick Murphy

November 23, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)

Emailed to all OSD employees, families and Friends of the OSD


Hello Olympia School District Families,


Ever since I reached adulthood, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for a variety of reasons. Unlike some others, you can always count on the fact it will fall on a Thursday, and for most people, it results in a four-day weekend. For me, it has always been a time of three of my favorite “F’s”: family, food and football. For our family, it marks the beginning of the holiday season, so it has been a time of hope and optimism about what might come.


Family traditions are a part of who we are, and they change and take shape over time. Some of our families who are Native American, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian have traditions that have developed over thousands of years.


As a child, at school, I was taught a narrative that was presented as the traditional “Thanksgiving” story, in which some of the earliest European colonists arrived in North America and were challenged by their new environment. Desperate and hungry, they were assisted by friendly Native Americans, had a great feast together, and that was about all I remember learning.


Of course, since then, I have learned much more about the impact of European colonization, especially on the indigenous peoples of this continent. There are links at the bottom of this message with additional resources, and I invite you to explore them.


For too long in our society and in our schools we have disproportionately shared history from a single perspective. The story of our Native American students and families needs to be told. All students deserve to know it. We should not be afraid of our Nation's full, unfiltered history. By telling our stories, everyone’s stories, we give ourselves capacity to grow in our understanding and empathy.


Which brings me back to Thanksgiving and the first “F”, family. Like many I suspect, I spend most days preoccupied with my own personal challenges and issues. But at Thanksgiving, I find myself listening and immersed in the stories and perspectives of siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws and new significant others courageously entering the fold. Sure, those conversations can be contentious at times, but I often end up, if only temporarily, losing myself in the shared experiences of others and leave with a better awareness of who they are and ultimately who I am. I think that is how we grow and become the better manifestation of ourselves that we long to be.


I hope you all can enjoy the gift of family, friends or self-reflection during Native American Heritage Month and over this Thanksgiving weekend.



Patrick Murphy



October 29, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


It is getting darker earlier each evening and the clocks will soon be “falling back.” The blustery winds are taking their toll on the beautiful fall foliage, filling our streets with a carpet of brilliant orange, yellow and red leaves. Normally, this is the time of year when our students, staff and families start to get into the groove of the school year. But alas, as we have said many times before, this has been anything but, a “normal” school year.


There is cautiously good news on the horizon that was shared by Thurston County health officials this week. The weekly rate of positive COVID cases continues to trend down and is below 200 cases per week for the first time in a long time. And while hospital capacity is always a concern, that too, is trending in the right direction with more available beds in ICUs and space in general, than in the recent past. On top of that, elementary age children will be eligible for the vaccine very soon with doses arriving in Washington state reportedly next week. We have recently been able to implement a “Test to Stay” protocol  in our schools that allows students who are close contacts, but not symptomatic, to stay in school thanks to the hard work of our nurses and health care teams. There are lots of things on the health front that give us hope moving forward.


While we are grateful that we are able to provide full-time in-person learning for all families seeking that, along with an online option through our virtual academy that is getting fully staffed after a major surge in enrollment to start the year, this has been a difficult and tiring first couple of months of school for staff, students and families. I’ve heard universally that while there is much gratitude to have students back in-person; people, in general, are seeing fatigue and exhaustion that does not normally surface until much later in the school year.


There are lots of reasons for that. Perhaps it is fear that another variant will set us back, or that cold and flu season is upon us and has the dark cloud of COVID making it more concerning. Maybe the mitigation measures of masking and distancing are taking their toll after so many months and we are longing for unrestrained communication and connection. It could be the staffing shortages that are stretching our team like never before. Or, possibly a worse scenario, some may have had serious medical circumstances in their family or may have lost loved ones related to the virus. Whatever the reason, we knew that our recovery from the pandemic would not be a flick of a light switch, but rather a gradual turning of a dial.


We knew that meeting the social, emotional and mental health needs of our students and staff were going to be critical this year before there could be any progress in academics. That is why we invested in more support like health staff, social workers and family liaisons. We will be hosting another community webinar from 6-7 p.m. on November 3 to give an update on that part of our recovery plan and to take questions from the community. Look for a separate announcement in this newsletter about how to join us on Zoom for the student well-being webinar.


Research shows us that there are peaks and troughs when recovering from disasters. Our Department of Health has done an analysis on this volatility and turbulence and how it impacts our mental health. We will eventually get back to a new sense of normal, of stability, and of calm, but we are not there yet. We are going to be in this a while longer. It might not seem like it at the moment, but just as the falling leaves of autumn will eventually be replaced by the buds of spring, so, too, I believe, together, we will weather these challenges and come out of this stronger and better as a school district and learning community. In the meantime, know that none of us are alone in our stress. I encourage all of us to continue to invest in our own physical and mental well-being and that of our loved ones. Thanks, as always, to our families and staff for your support and uncompromising compassion.



Patrick Murphy



September 29, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


As we end the first month of the 2021-22 school year, I am grateful to all of our students, staff and families for their continued hard work, resilience, flexibility and patience. The start of school this year, like so many things these past 18 months, was unprecedented in so many ways. Thankfully, we have our students back in school, in-person, five days a week full time. This was only possible due to the amazing work of our teachers, paraeducators, principals, nurses, office professionals, custodians, food service workers, bus drivers, mechanics and so many others. They ensured that safety measures were in place, buildings were cleaned and equipped, buses were inspected and ready to go, schedules were created and adjusted, and classrooms were ready to invite our students back. Our students and families have supported our safety measures like our universal masking requirements, washing hands more frequently, and staying home when sick; and that has made a big difference.


I was able to ride the bus to school on our first day (on a new grant-acquired electric bus with no carbon footprint) and, along with our amazing driver, greeted elementary students on board the bus, all excited for their first day of school. Over the first few days of school, I saw students happily reconnecting with friends or making new ones, after some had not been in school for more than a year. I watched teachers and staff make extra efforts to make that first week special and give time and acknowledgment to the trauma we have all experienced as a community over these last several months. Our Virtual Academy of Olympia, which had a large surge of enrollment just prior to the start of school, is overcoming those challenges and is up and running and serving families seeking full-time remote learning.


The Olympia School District has always championed the belief that our students cannot perform at their best if they are not healthy, both physically and mentally. Thanks to the infusion of resources from federal and state grants related to COVID relief, we have more support and staff in place this year than ever before to support our students and families. More social workers, family liaisons, and staff from the TOGETHER! organization are in our schools helping families in crisis and supporting staff in that work. For more information, please visit our Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan if you have not already done so.


School might not look exactly like it did prior to the pandemic, yet, but kids are in school, and for that I am so appreciative to all of you.



Patrick Murphy



August 27, 2021 (Spotlight on Success)


Hello Olympia School District Families,


After experiencing the warmest days in recorded history in Olympia the last couple of months, it is particularly reassuring this year to feel the slight hints of chill in the late August breezes reminding us that fall is not far away. Autumn also brings all of the promise, hopes and dreams that accompany every first day of school.


Because of the trauma we have all experienced the last year-and-a-half due to the pandemic, and the enduring stresses that the latest variant is placing upon us, it is perhaps inevitable that our excitement is understandably tempered.


Our collective response to the adversity we have faced and continue to face has been admirable and inspiring. Students, families and staff members have all wrestled with uncertainty and fear and persevered. We have more obstacles to overcome, but we have learned much that we will apply to this school year that will help us “get back to better.”


For the first time in nearly 18 months, our health officials have given us revised guidance that allows us, beginning September 8, to offer full-time, every day, in-person learning for those families that seek it. That is a huge step. School closures, as we have all learned, had their own health impacts on our youth, both physically and mentally, and being able to be back in person, safely, on a regular schedule is most welcomed news. We know families have circumstances unique to them. For those who prefer to remain in a full-time remote learning program, we offer the new Virtual Academy of Olympia based out of the Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA).


We have taken the additional resources that came from federal and state emergency relief funds and created an Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan that gives our students and families access to new social-emotional supports like increased social workers and family liaisons. We have a new partnership with TOGETHER! that has a history in Thurston County of helping families and schools advance the health and well-being of young people. We have increased staffing in our schools and are implementing instructional coaches to help our staff identify student needs and apply the highest leveraged practices to address delays in learning.


We continue to partner with our local health officials to make sure we are implementing and updating our safety and mitigation strategies in our response to COVID. The details of those efforts are found in our Pandemic Safety Response Plan. We know that by masking, physically distancing, staying home when sick and practicing good hand-washing hygiene, we dramatically decrease the likelihood of spread. We know that vaccinated individuals have much greater protection against severe illness from COVID and we have hosted vaccination clinics and continue to encourage all who are eligible to get vaccinated. By order of the governor, all staff are required to be fully vaccinated, or provide a valid religious or medical exemption, by October 18, 2021. We will continue to push out information to our community about vaccination opportunities.


Yes, we all were hoping that COVID would be further in the rearview mirror at this point, but the delta variant has prevented that. But we, too, have adapted and are smarter in our efforts to combat the virus and its effects as we approach the first day of school. I am grateful that we have new staff and resources to better support our students and families. I am thankful to all of our staff for their unflinching commitment to our students. And I thank all of our parents and community for your determination, patience and support as we launch the 2021-22 school year.


We look forward to welcoming students on the first day of school and partnering with you in the year ahead.



Patrick Murphy