Culmination Report

Initial Plan

Upon being hired in the spring of 2017, I created an entry plan to better understand the needs of the Olympia School District and to help ensure a transparent, mindful, and collaborative transition. That plan consisted of three phases with three distinct purposes:


  • Phase 1: Pre-Entry
    (April to June 2017)
    Build a baseline understanding
  • Phase 2: Introductions
    (July to August 2017)
    Stakeholder Outreach and Meetings
  • Phase 3: Listening and Learning
    (September – December 2017)
    Student, staff, family intercommunication

Each phase was intended to engage stakeholders through a purposeful interactive structure that would allow me to gather information, reflect, and use what was learned to help shape the future strategic direction of the district. Some work spilled into the timeline of the next subsequent phase.

By the Numbers

The listing of activities and meetings below does not indicate a culmination of interactive communication or feedback loops with any groups or individuals listed. I intend to have ongoing communication and interaction. Rather this inventory is meant to give context to the findings in this report and who informed those findings.


Phase 1


  • Visited all schools in June and met with all principals (except Madison Elementary--met with him in August)
  • Met with all board members
  • Attended Executive Advisory Board, Regional Meeting and New Superintendents Meeting 6/16
  • Met twice with Supt. Cvitanich, visited schools with him as well
  • Had informal introductions to cabinet in June – Cabinet meetings begun in earnest on 7/6.
  • Met with parent and staff leaders who support alternative education programs, 7/28
  • Visited Power Scholars 8/8
  • Attended district coaches meeting 8/10
  • Met with OEA President Adam Brickell 8/15
  • Attended JMS Staff Retreat 8/22
  • New and returning staff welcomes including certificated and classified on - 8/2, 8/8, 8/15, 8/16, 8/22, 8/25, 8/28, 8/29, 8/31
  • Met with OSDEF President Jennifer Ziegler 8/21
  • Participated in Tech Levy committee meetings, 9/5, 9/12, 9/19, 9/26
  • Visited schools for back-to-school events
  • Rode the school bus with driver Jason Gainey on the first day 9/6
  • Visited every school in district the first three days 9/6, 9/7, 9/8
  • Attended Teacher of the Year Ceremony in Seattle 9/11
  • Attended workshop for superintendents and business managers at ESD 113 9/13
  • Attended WASA Region 113 Superintendents Meeting – 9/27


Phase 2


  • Attended July 17 Downtown Rotary Meeting with former Supts. Dr. Al Cohen and Bill Lahmann
  • Meeting with Olympia City Manager Steve Hall on 7/6
  • Meeting with Parks, Arts and Rec Manager Paul Simmons 7/27
  • Met with NTPS Supt. Dr. Deb Clemens on 7/11.
  • Met with Tumwater Supt John Bash on 7/27 and have ongoing meetings with him as my WASA appointed mentor
  • Met with Mel Smith (OEA-AAA) 7/19, Julie Voorhees (OTPAA) 7/20, Mimi Sprague (OEAPA) 8/1,
  • Continued the practice of weekly meetings with Adam Brickell (OEA)
  • Met with Local Public Managers from Thurston County, Shelton, DuPont, Yelm, Olympia 7/21
  • Met with US Congressman Denny Heck 7/21
  • Met with Judy Kilmendorf of Little Red Schoolhouse 7/17; visited their Distribution Day on 8/17 in NTPS.
  • Met with Wade Arnold and toured GRuB 8/2
  • Met with our state legislators Sen. Sam Hunt, Rep. Dolan, Rep. Doglio 8/7
  • Met with Olympia Police Chief Roberts 8/8
  • Attended Athletics Coaches Fall meeting 8/10
  • Inducted into Downtown Olympia Rotary on 8/21
  • Visited Sarah Weiss of WSAC Washington Student Achievement Council and College Bound Program 8/23
  • Met Karen Keller, Alan Burke - Retired Teachers Association 8/28
  • Met with Parent and Pierce College Dean - Dr. Sachi Horback 9/8
  • Lunch with Former Sec. of State - Ralph Munro 9/9
  • Met with John Simmons, CEO of Nisqually Tribe 9/13
  • Met many South Sound leaders and candidates at event sponsored by Panorama City 9/13
  • Met with Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby 9/14
  • Attended Thurston County Supts. & New Market Ad Council 9/15
  • TCTV (Thurston County Television) for Superintendents’ Roundtable 9/15
  • Met with Boys & Girls Club Director - Katya Miltimore 9/19
  • Attended and spoke at Olympia Kiwanis 9/25
  • Attended and spoke at Lions Club 9/26
  • Met with Intercity Transit Leadership 9/27
  • FARM event, 10/3 (Washington First Lady - Trudi Inslee)
  • Met with Bill Fishburn of Hispanic Roundtable 10/4
  • Visited Hispanic Youth Summit in Grays Harbor 10/6
  • Met with Dr. Thelma Jackson Equity Team Facilitator and UPS Staff 10/11
  • Met with Bob Butts of Thurston County United Way 10/11
  • Met with YMCA Leadership 10/12
  • Meeting with Jim Larsen, Morningside 10/17
  • Met with Tim Stokes – President South Puget Sound Community College 10/19
  • Met with Jon Tunheim, Thurston County Prosecutor 10/30
  • Met with David Schaffert executive of Thurston County Chamber of Commerce 10/31
  • Met with George Bridges – President of Evergreen State College 11/29
  • Follow up Meeting with Mayor Selby & City Manager Steve Hall 12/4


Phase 3


Visited each school and classroom (unless substitute or planning time)

  • Roosevelt 9/18
  • CHS / JMS 9/19
  • Transition / Madison 9/22
  • Garfield 9/25
  • Reeves 9/29
  • Lincoln, Pioneer 10/2
  • OHS 10/3 &
  • ORLA 10/9
  • Boston Harbor 10/9
  • McKenny, Centennial 10/16
  • Marshall, Hansen 10/17
  • WMS 10/20
  • McLane, Avanti 10/23
  • OHS 11/30
  • LP Brown 12/8


Parent Leaders Group 9/26

  • Special Education PTO 10/18 and 11/15
  • Pioneer 10/19
  • Boston Harbor 11/8
  • Garfield 11/13
  • Lincoln Staff, Roosevelt, Centennial 11/14
  • Lincoln Parents 11/28
  • McLane 11/30
  • Hansen 12/5
  • Madison, McKenny 12/12
  • WMS 1/3
  • MMS 1/9


Back to School/Curriculum nights:

  • McKenny 9/14
  • Centennial, Reeves 9/19
  • Madison, LP Brown 9/20
  • McLane, CHS, BHES, GES 9/21
  • Marshall, Pioneer 9/26
  • OHS 9/27
  • ORLA, RES, WMS 9/28
  • Lincoln Harvest Festival 9/29
  • ORLA Montessori 10/5
  • Project Search Reception 10/24



  • Met with Charo Portero and leadership team (Centro Integral Educativo Para Latin@s En Olympia) 11/8


Re-convening of District Equity Committee 11/1



While there was a wide variety of perspectives and opinions shared by each individual and group with whom I had the opportunity to meet, there were some themes that surfaced. Those themes were: 1) Student Achievement 2) The Whole Child 3) Parent/Community Partnership 4) Independence vs. Interdependence 5) Equity

Student Achievement

Almost without exception, no matter the group or individual, there was a sense of pride in the reputation of the Olympia School District as a place that produces strong academic and co-curricular outcomes. Whether it is achievement data, musical accomplishments, or athletic prowess, students, parents and staff hold high expectations and work hard to produce quality learning experiences for students that result in strong overall student performance. While schools and districts have taken on many roles and responsibilities through the years, there seems to be relatively universal agreement that our single greatest duty is to prepare our students for the world they will face in the future so they can live satisfying, healthy and productive lives. There is a belief in this community, and I strongly agree, that our schools play a critical role in that endeavor.

The Whole Child

Academic, artistic, and athletic achievement for students are the focal point of the work in our schools. However, I found that equally if not more important to this community is the idea that none of that matters if we don’t raise ethical, compassionate children who are physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. Whether it was talking to city officials, visiting classrooms, or talking to student and parent groups, many shared how it is more important than ever that we teach how to engage in discourse in a respectful and dignified way. There was a strong message that we need to give students of all ages and grades the skills they need to become caring and responsible adults. This can only happen in a safe environment where mental and emotional needs are met first, before academic needs can be met.

Parent/Community Partnership

The level of parent and community involvement in the Olympia School District is unlike anything I have seen in my 25 plus years in education. From the thousands of parent volunteers to the strong partnerships with city and area organizations, Olympia has a true advantage in that it harnesses the resources of the community to provide so much more than a school district can by itself. Staff understand that parents are our students first and most important teachers and that partnership is critical to student success. While that partnership looks different from school to school, I saw it manifested everywhere I visited. Maintaining and strengthening those partnerships came out as an obvious priority for the district.

Independence vs. Interdependence

As stated, pride in the Olympia School District was readily evident everywhere I visited. However, and not surprisingly, equally if not stronger emotion was apparent when people spoke of their individual schools. I’ve learned that autonomy is a strong part of the fabric of Olympia. People know that it is important that we work together as a community to achieve shared goals. At the same time, there is a strong desire to be original and unique and to have freedom to express one’s creativity. I found from students, to parents, to staff, to community members that no school wants to be just like another. Rather, each school wants to celebrate its distinctive culture and accomplishments. This is not surprising given that as individuals we find that conflict inevitably comes from the desire to be different while being part of a group. Struggling with how to determine where autonomy is fitting and where a more collective and collaborative commonality is needed, was a common theme.


Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there was an acknowledgment throughout my visits and meetings that student outcomes in Olympia, like in all school districts, are not equitable. Given the unique nature of our students, that does not come as a surprise. However, when demographic indicators like race, socio-economic status, and program enrollment (SPED, ELL) are predictable indicators of student outcomes, then those inequitable results are likely because of institutional barriers. In many of my visits with students, staff, and families, it was expressed that particular groups of students (students of color, students impacted by poverty, students in special education) were too often lagging behind their peers in both achievement and opportunity. Schools and the district in the past have formed committees and launched initiatives to address this ongoing reality. A need for a district plan created by all impacted stakeholders and implemented with fidelity was a need I heard in many venues, none louder than at the reconvening of the district equity committee in early November. That committee of students, staff, and community had many ideas that could and should inform an eventual district plan including community outreach and parent partnership, staff training, and culturally responsive curriculum. At the same time, they voiced their concern about possible barriers to the work that included fear of change, closed mindedness and a possible desire to protect the status quo.

Conclusions/Next Steps

Much of what I heard and the themes that arose aligned closely with the goals set by the board of directors this past summer. In particular, the board’s goal #3 states:

By June 2018, with the engagement of the local community, create a new strategic plan for the purpose of managing the future work of the district: That work will include establishing agreement among Olympia School District stakeholders around shared core beliefs and student outcomes, setting priorities, focusing resources, strengthening operations, and ensuring that all staff are working toward common goals.

The 2018-2023 strategic plan must include and embed:

  • the continued development of a District vision for equity and the organizational development required to enact the vision;
  • attention to the social/emotional aspect of student mental health;
    initial steps based on recommendations from the 2017 Early Learning Report
  • Actionable goals/objectives to close the achievement/opportunity gaps.


Listening and learning about the Olympia School District community has been powerful for my own transition as superintendent. I will be working with the school board to take what I have learned and commence on the work of Board Goal #3 beginning in January of 2018. More information will be coming out to the community about opportunities to participate and inform the creation of the new Strategic Plan for the school district.