Spotlight on Success

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June 19, 2018


Superintendent's Message


Hello Olympia School District families,Patrick Murphy Headshot

It is hard to believe that we are reaching the end of the 2017-18 school year. As I complete my first year in the district, I want to again express my appreciation to all of the families, staff and community members for your warm welcome this year, but more importantly, for your unwavering support to our students in the Olympia School District. As expectations have increased and technology continues to “flatten the earth,” the impressive Class of 2018 leaves us equipped with perhaps a stronger academic foundation and deeper understanding of the world than any group that has proceeded them. A tradition I’ve discovered this year in Olympia is that our seniors make a point of visiting their former elementary schools in their caps and gowns to thank their former teachers and staff. What a wonderful ritual to recognize the collective effort of our community to launch our graduates to their next stage of life. And speaking of elementary schools, this year’s kindergartners will be the Class of 2030. I can’t help but wonder what they will be achieving and creating when they walk across the stage 12 years from now.

Related to that future wondering, you may recall from previous messages that we have a five-year Strategic Plan that expires this school year. As such, we have been engaging our community in a vigorous and healthy process and conversation through surveys and a recently completed Educational Summit to help flesh out the long-term strategic direction for our district based on shared values and agreed upon student outcomes.

We had thousands of responses to our budget and pre-Summit surveys that helped inform the two-day Educational Summit. More than 130 people filled the banquet room at the Hotel RL in Olympia at the end of May. In addition to 40 students, who were the largest represented group in the room, there were family members, teachers, principals, custodians, bus drivers, other support staff, and community members from many backgrounds. Our school board set goals last summer to focus this year on four major themes: equity, early learning, mental health, and closing opportunity and achievement gaps. While Olympia is a very high performing school district by most traditional metrics, we know that there are troublesome gaps that consistently impact certain demographic groups of students in our system — students of color, students receiving special services and students impacted by poverty. We also know that stress and anxiety is overwhelming many of our students and families and impacting the ability to learn. We know the incredible importance of preschool and of a solid foundation in the early years of learning, and yet too many of our students, especially those in poverty, are underserved in this area.

Because of this, the Summit invite list was intentionally weighted to bring people together that had experience, expertise and ideas related to these key focus areas. There were two days of fruitful and powerful conversations which produced much information for the board to consider. This summer the board will use this data and other information in the drafting of student outcomes to drive the measures for determining school district performance and the creation of the new Strategic Plan. While there were dozens of ideas and areas of focus that came out of the summit, participants narrowed key focus areas to the following:

  • Assuring Foundational Skills/Lifelong Learning
  • Addressing Bias and Inclusion
  • Focusing on Safety
  • Producing Global Navigators
  • Maximizing Choices/Pathways
  • Ensuring a Strong Sense of Self-Worth

To learn more about the Educational Summit, including details related to these big ideas, results of a pre-Summit survey, photos from the event and other relevant data, visit a new Strategic Planning webpage on the school district website. The school board will have an opportunity to expand upon its own takeaways from the Summit at an upcoming study session on July 2 and at its summer board retreat in mid-July. It is during the retreat that the board is expected to create a draft of student outcomes to drive the goals of our new Strategic Plan. The community will have a chance to review these student outcomes and submit additional input this fall, but the board appreciates input at any time. Stay tuned for more information.

Thank you all, once again, for a great 2017-18 school year. I wish you and your family a restful, joyful and relaxing summer break.



Students help rebuild homes and connect hearts in New Orleans

It was a late August morning, shortly after dawn, when their lives were forever changed.

Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast of the United States just after 6 a.m. on August 29, OHS students build houses in New Orleans2005 packing sustained winds of up to 140 miles per hour. When the storm surge arrived several hours later, it overwhelmed many of the city’s levees and drainage canals. Levee breaches and collapsed floodwalls created violent currents and catastrophic flooding that washed away many homes and stranded residents on the rooftops of others.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama fled their homes for refuge before the hurricane made landfall, and others who stayed behind retreated to local emergency shelters in hard-hit areas like New Orleans. They formed long lines for a meal and a cot to lay their head on at places like the Louisiana Superdome.

Though about half of the city lies above sea level, its average elevation is about six feet below sea level and is completely surrounded by water. Hurricane Katrina showed no mercy, plunging nearly 80 percent of the city under some level of water. Some of the worst flooding in New Orleans occurred in low-lying places like St. Bernard Parish and the Ninth Ward, where many of the evacuees lost all but the belongings they carried with them to higher ground.

After nearly 13 years of rebuilding efforts, many people who fled areas pummeled by Katrina have returned home and are making great strides at returning to life as they knew it in cities steeped in history and pride. Communities reduced to rubble have been replaced with homes and neighborhoods filled with children playing in yards and attending local schools.

Yet even with all of the progress, signs of destruction, such as concrete steps that once led to a family’s home but now stand oddly alone on a vacant lot, are reminders there is still work to do.

The rebuilding effort continues today by volunteer organizations and individuals from throughout the country who are donating their time to make homes in the Gulf Coast habitable again.

Olympia High School students are among those who have responded to the calls for help.

Helping to bring people home

For each of the past four years, about 30 Olympia High School students have spent their weeklong OHS Students build houses in New Orleansspring break helping to rebuild and repair homes in New Orleans.

The annual trips are coordinated by Shirts Across America, one of many non-profit organizations across the country working to restore areas still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. The Seattle-based group partners with national organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and with groups based in New Orleans, like the St. Bernard Project.

Shirts Across America Founder and Executive Director Randy Novak said it is the passion and generosity of people like Olympia High School students that are making a difference in the success of the rebuilding work. Since its founding in 2008, Shirts Across America has sent more than 2,700 volunteers to New Orleans and Mississippi and worked on more than 150 homes or projects in the Gulf Coast region.

“Young adults today want to be part of the solution and know they are making a difference,” Novak said.

Students and adult chaperones, including parents and high school staff, pay approximately $1,300 each to cover the cost of airfare, lodging and meals for the week; however, scholarships and fundraising opportunities make the trip possible for any student with a desire to serve.

Students reflect on giving back

During their first visit to New Orleans in 2015, the Olympia High School group was made up largely of OHS Students donating their time to Habitat for Humanitystudents in the Students Together Advocating Non-Violence and Diversity (STAND) campus club. The student group has been especially active over the years on issues related to social justice. As word about the project has spread, so has participation from throughout the school.

Graduating senior Alice Tammetta went to New Orleans all four years of high school and called it “life-changing.” She and her classmates learned a variety of homebuilding and repair skills including caulking, sawing, painting and drywall mudding, as well as how to install insulation.

“I remember getting covered in mudding, which was crusted over by the end of the day in my hair and fingernails,” Tammetta said. Mudding involves spreading a paste with a spatula into cracks or flaws in a wall, which are then sanded and smoothed.

During tours of the city, Tammetta said the reality and gravity of the hurricane destruction hit home. She recalled seeing blue posts in the lower Ninth Ward that marked the water levels during the 2005 storm surge. In some places, water levels exceeded 25 feet above sea level.

“I would do anything to help these people,” the teen said. “They are completely innocent in this situation. They had their homes taken away from them. It’s unimaginable. They are so resilient and grateful, and that makes me even happier knowing I am helping them.”

While on job sites, and often in conversations with neighbors, students heard heart-wrenching stories about how some residents fell victim to scammers who billed themselves as contractors, only to take the homeowner’s money and disappear without completing any repairs.

Sarah Gindy, who graduated in June, spent three of her high school spring breaks in New Orleans. One of those years, she was assigned as a Core Team Student Leader. On the trips, students are broken up into teams of five to seven people. Each team has a Core Team Student Leader, an Adult Team Lead, and three to four student volunteers. Student leaders plan events, recruit other students to go on the trip, plan community service opportunities and develop leadership skills.

“My first year we helped rebuild a house that was destroyed,” Gindy said. “The contractor that a woman had paid had taken the money and run. It was a single mother of two children, one in college and one an infant. She was in a really tough situation, and it felt good to help get her back on her feet.”

Asked about the most memorable moments of the two trips he has taken to New Orleans, graduating senior Imani Mabwa-Childress paused for a moment, searched for an answer and said, “there is so much.” He shared how on one visit he helped prepare food for boxed lunches to serve to students in the public school system. On another visit, he recalled helping with a house rebuild by cutting siding and installing a new roof. “It’s cool to see how much progress was made on a house to help someone out with their troubles after the hurricane,” he said.

Experiencing New Orleans history and culture

After a long day at the work sites, Shirts Across America makes sure time is set aside for students and their chaperones to experience the history and richness of the New Orleans culture.

There are opportunities to eat traditional New Orleans food such as Po-Boys (overstuffed sandwiches OHS Students celebrate completion of the house they builtserved on French bread), jambalaya, crawfish, and beignets; listen and dance to authentic jazz music; attend a Sunday church service; visit the French Quarter; and tour a former sugar plantation.

On the Whitney Plantation, students gain a unique perspective on the lives of Louisiana’s enslaved people on an 1830s sugar plantation through museum exhibits, memorial artwork, restored buildings and hundreds of first-person slave narratives.

“You learn about slavery in class, but it’s a whole different experience when you go there — it was really moving,” said Olivia Senna. The teen will be an Olympia High School senior this fall and is already planning to return next Spring.

Graduating senior Emi Grant added, “The Whitney Plantation is a really insightful experience, and really hard. It focuses on children who were enslaved. It takes the words in history books right off the page.”

Cam Coleman, a former site supervisor with the St. Bernard Project and longtime New Orleans resident, knows the value of the students’ volunteerism. He grew up in New Orleans and was 12 years old when Hurricane Katrina ravaged his city. His mother brought the family to Texas, where they lived for close to a year before moving back to their rebuilt home.

“I had the opportunity to go home after the flood waters had receded, and it was completely devastating,” he said. “When I went inside our home, I saw that the water had lifted the fridge and it was laying horizontally on our counter. I touched the TV and it crumbled … the water had destroyed my home and my city.”

Coleman eventually became a site supervisor with the St. Bernard Project non-profit as a way to give back to his community. He helped teach volunteers, including Olympia High School students, how to use tools safely — a job that later landed him a job with a power tool company in California.

“I would like to commend everyone, especially those from Olympia High School, for putting in their hands to help the city,” he said.

Forever changed

Olympia High School Principal Matt Grant, who has chaperoned three of the four trips to New Orleans, said there is a noticeable change among many students after they return from the experience.

“I have seen students who want to take more action in their own community and get more involved with social justice issues. They also become more interested in thinking about race and class issues that are occurring today. I see students who want to make a difference in their community as a result.”

Olympia High Class of 2016 graduate Amber Crabb, among several who helped organize the school’s inaugural trip to New Orleans in 2015, was so moved by her experiences that she decided to spend her first year of college at Loyola University in Louisiana. “After I went on two trips there, I really fell in love with the city,” she said. “I loved the volunteer work and wanted to continue to be a part of that.”

Crabb continued to help build houses during her first year of college. She moved back to Washington last year after changing her major to environmental policy and being accepted at Western Washington University. She has continued to volunteer in the community, focusing on environmental restoration efforts.

“I am so proud of the people I worked with at Oly in getting the whole thing off the ground,” she said. “There is so much drive and ambition among Olympia High School students.”

Just like the New Orleans residents whose lives were forever changed on that late August day in 2005, so too has the volunteer rebuilding work changed the lives of Olympia High School students who have helped bring them home.


Olympia School Board approves Pride Month resolution

The Olympia School Board unanimously agreed on June 11 to declare June 2018 as Pride Month.OSD School Board

In the two-page resolution, the school board declares its support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ+) students, families and staff.

The resolution also contains historical milestones in LGBTQ+ history, mentions current statistical information, and concludes by encouraging support for LGBTQ+ in our schools.

View the two-page resolution in full


Madison Battle of the Books features award-winning titles

Each year the school division of the Washington Library Association accepts nominations for books toMadison ES Battle of the Books receive The Sasquatch Award and The Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Award. All students in Washington are encouraged to read the books and then vote for their favorite.

While many elementary schools in the district are encouraged to read the books and participate in the statewide voting process, Mary Pong, teacher-librarian at Madison Elementary, took this a step further and organized Battle of the Books events using the award-nominated books.

Pong created questions from the books and held three different Battle of the Books events; one day for grades 4 and 5, and two different days for grades K-3. Each team was divided into smaller groups, in which students used a white board to write the answer and then hold it up when a question was asked. This creative teacher-librarian noted the excitement building leading up to the contest.

Parent volunteers who helped with scoring and timing enjoyed seeing the students’ enthusiasm as they collaborated to decide on the best answer for their group. Pong said to her surprise, even more students checked out the books after the contest because of the newly spurred interest.

Thank you, Mary Pong, for finding creative ways to engage students and facilitating a love of reading.


2018 Annual Report available online and in schools
Reeves MS Students

We are pleased to share our Annual Report, featuring highlights of the past year from throughout the Olympia School District.

In this report, you will read about student and staff achievements, goals set by the Olympia School Board, school bond construction updates, and how we are using the resources our community has entrusted to us to support student achievement.

Read 2018 OSD Annual Report


Twin Star donation eliminates elementary lunch debt

Twin Star Credit Union CEO Jeff Kennedy received applause and words of thanks after presenting a $15,520 check to the Olympia School District (OSD) at the May 21 board meeting. The donation, made on behalf of the Twin Star Community Foundation, eliminates all current accumulated lunch debt at elementary schools in the district.

Kennedy explained that a recent food shaming incident in the Seattle area greatly impacted the OSD Superintendent Patrick Murphy accepts a check from TwinStar Credit Unionmembers of the Foundation. He said a student tried to get a hot lunch, but because there was an outstanding balance on his account, the school cafeteria staff took his food away from him and gave him a cold cheese sandwich.

Prior to hearing about the incident, the Foundation focused on awarding college and continuing education scholarships and funding its classroom cash program for teachers.

Kennedy explained to the board that this year the Foundation decided to change its mission from strictly scholarships to really look at how they could impact the community. As a group, they believe that well-fed children have well-fed minds.

“Children in elementary school particularly shouldn’t have to be worrying about where their next meal is coming from or actually go to school hungry because we think that impacts their learning,” said Kennedy.

In the OSD, kitchen staff serve meals “whether students have lunch funds or not because children need healthy meals to learn,” said Child Nutrition Services Supervisor Paul Flock. Flock added, “We're touched by the generous giving that has helped pay for these school meals so the debt doesn't follow the student through the years; it's amazing to see this outpouring of generosity that makes a positive difference in our community."

Thank you Twin Star Community Foundation. This generous gift will help the most vulnerable of our students here in the Olympia School District.

Capital High Marketing students host annual trade show

Where can you sample organic Kombucha, local-made goat cheese and wood-fired pizza all while Capital HS Students pose by their booth at Trade Showlearning more about local businesses and revving up a Harley Davidson? Capital High School’s Annual Trade Show, of course!

The Trade Show, held each May, is hosted by Capital’s Marketing program. Under the direction of IB Marketing Teacher Brenda Grabski, Introduction to Marketing students partner with local businesses to create a promotional plan resulting in a trade show booth and presentations. Students in the upper level Advanced Marketing class organize the event and mentor and support Introduction to Marketing students as they work on their projects and plans.Capital HS Students pose in front of booth at Trade Show

This year students represented more than 35 businesses as fellow students, school staff, friends and family members visited their booths. Students set up and manned interactive booths, offered product samples, handed out promotional materials, and energetically described the services or products their represented business provides.

The trade show is a real-world activity in which students develop relationships with local businesses while applying concepts they learned in class. During the several month project, students develop professional communication, planning and presentation skills — all designed to help prepare students for the “real world.”


CIELO Education Director receives Community Leadership Award

Charo Garcia de Portaro, Director of Education with Centro Integral Educativo Latino de Olympia (CIELO), has been recognized with this year’s Washington Association of School Administrators Community Leadership Award for her outstanding contributions to education.

Olympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy shared a few words about Portaro and Charo Garcia de Portaro shakes hands with Superintendent Murphypresented her with a certificate during an awards ceremony on May 23. Other regional award winners also received certificates and praise during “An Evening of Celebration” at the Capital Region Educational Service District 113 administrative office in Tumwater.

In his remarks, Murphy thanked Portaro and CIELO for being a key partner in education with the Olympia School District. “CIELO connects with new families to help them enroll and navigate our school system and offers parent education workshops and classes, preschool activities, and one-on-one K-12 homework tutoring,” Murphy said. The organization offers adult classes such as English, preparing for a General Education Diploma (GED) exam, sewing and computer skills.

CIELO has also partnered with OSD the past three years to host “Hispanic Night,” featuring district Charo Garcia de Portaro of CIELOand community resources. Additionally, Portaro and CIELO Bilingual Educational Assistant Kindra Galan served this year on the school district’s Educational Summit Planning Committee. They were among more than 130 students, educators, families and community members that attended a two-day Educational Summit in May 2018.

“Her can-do attitude is infectious, and we appreciate her passion for helping students and families succeed,” Murphy said.

Throughout its history, the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA) has been involved in honoring and recognizing outstanding educational administrators and those individuals in other professions who have made extraordinary contributions to K–12 education.

The WASA Community Leadership Award is presented annually to a community member or group in recognition of their outstanding contributions to education. Specific criteria include:

  • Benefit to students
  • Leadership
  • Motivation
  • Success
  • Cooperation/coordination with local district
  • Recognition by others
  • History of service

Congratulations, Charo, and thank you for all that you do for the Olympia School District!


Olympia High School literary magazine showcases creativity

The fifth installment of the Olympia High School (OHS) Literary Magazine, Petrichor, delights readers with the creative talent and artistic vision of more than 150 works of student writing and art.

Creative Writing teacher Carolyn Gilman initiated the publication five years ago to celebrate and Olympia High School book releasepublish works written by her classes. Since then, the annual project has grown into a literary magazine club with more than 40 members. The club reads submissions, decides what to publish, pairs writing with artwork and arranges them for publication in the annual magazine.

An Olympia School District Education Foundation (OSDEF) creative projects grant and a generous donation from Gorham Printing helps defray printing costs. The club also raises funds by selling the magazines at the annual OHS Bearzaar and at Artswalk in downtown Olympia.

This year more than 500 works of writing and art were submitted for consideration. Art teacher Josh Everson promoted submissions for the project, specifically black and white pieces, among his art classes. The cover art and title were selected through popular vote in a student contest. Lucian Vogel, long-time member of the club and a “prolific writer” according to Gilman, suggested this year’s title. Petrichor is defined as “a distinctive scent, usually described as earthy, pleasant or sweet, produced by rainfall on a very dry ground.”

On June 1, club members gathered for “book release party” where each student received a copy of Petrichor while enjoying pizza and reflecting on the final product. Copies of Petrichor are available for $10 each in the high school ASB office.


SKIPP & Summer Lunch Program

Olympia Parks and Recreation will facilitate the USDA Free lunch program this summer at both City of Olympia logoGarfield and Madison elementary schools. Lunches are free for children 18 and under. Lunches will be served from noon to 12:30 p.m. from June 25 – August 17 (except July 4).

Garfield will be a hot lunch site, while Madison will be a cold sack lunch site. No registration is necessary.

Every day following lunch, kids 6-12 are invited to participate in the Summer Kids in Parks Program (SKIPP). This is a supervised, drop-in playground program. For additional information, view the Olympia Parks and Recreation SKIPP and Summer Lunch Program webpage.


Student representatives take seats on Olympia School Board

The Olympia School District Board of Directors welcomed two new student representatives to the school board during a swearing-in ceremony at the start of the June 11 regular board meeting.

Grant Erickson, a junior at Capital High School, and Anna McClatchey, a sophomore at the Olympia OSD Board of DirectorsRegional Learning Academy (ORLA), will serve as student representatives to the board through the end of May 2019.

The school board revised its policy last fall to allow for two student representatives to serve on the board each year rather than one. The representatives will alternate between the district’s four high schools (Capital and ORLA students serving one year, followed by Olympia and Avanti students the next).

Student representatives serve in advisory capacity at school board meetings and do not vote. They are welcome and encouraged to comment about policies, procedures and decisions.


Summer School begins June 25Summer School logo

Summer School registration is now available. Classes begin on Monday, June 25 and run through July 25 except for July 4, which is a holiday. School will be in session Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until noon and is for high school students only. For more information and registration forms, please visit the Summer School webpage.


Summer Activities!

Looking for summer camp, community activities and sports programming for kids this summer? Our OSD Fliers page may have just what you’re looking for. Read more on the OSD Fliers page.


Upcoming OSD Events



June 20:  Last Day of School (Half Day)
June 25:  Board Meeting - Knox Administrative Center (6:30 p.m.)
June 25:  Summer School Begins


July 4:  Independence Day Holidays
July 16:  Board Meeting - Knox Administrative Center (6:30 p.m.)
July 25:  Last Day of Summer School



August 20:  Board Meeting - Knox Administrative Center (6:30 p.m.)


September 3:  Labor Day Holiday
September 5:  First Day of School (1-12)
September 10:  First Day of School (Preschool & Kindergarten)



The Olympia School District will provide equal educational opportunity and treatment for all students in all aspects of the academic and activities program without discrimination based on race, religion, creed, color, national origin, age, honorably-discharged veteran or military status, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, marital status, the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. The district will provide equal access to school facilities to the Boy Scouts of America and all other designated youth groups listed in Title 36 of the United States Code as a patriotic society. District programs will be free from sexual harassment. Auxiliary aids and services will be provided upon request to individuals with disabilities.

The following people have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies, reports of alleged sexual harassment, concerns about compliance, and/or grievance procedures: 

All four individuals may also be contacted at 1113 Legion Way S.E., Olympia, WA, 98501.