School board approves technology and safety levy proposal

Two students work on portable computers similar to those that would be purchased as part of proposed technology and safety levy measureThe Olympia School Board has unanimously agreed to place a technology and safety replacement levy proposal before voters in February to help pay for increased student access to technology, as well as safety projects districtwide.

The board passed a resolution in October to include the technology and safety levy renewal on the February 13, 2018 Special Election ballot.

“This levy proposal reflects a continuation of our efforts to make technology accessible to all students and prepare them for success now and into the future as they move on to college and careers and become global digital citizens,” said Board Vice President Frank Wilson. “This is about equity and increasing access, while also moving us forward in the area of safety.”

The proposed levy is not a new tax. The measure on the February 2018 ballot would replace a four-year technology and safety levy approved by voters in 2014. The levy would raise an estimated $35.4 million over four years (2019-2022).

The total proposed tax rate for school levies in 2019-2022 would remain the same as or be lower than the total tax rate for 2017 school levies.

Among other things, the replacement levy would fund new and continued technology and safety initiatives including:

  • Expanding the number of computers to a one-to-one model (one computer for every student) in grades 3-12, and one computer for every two students in kindergarten through grade 2. “The initiative supports a ‘blended learning’ classroom environment, where there is a balance between the time that students work on computers and the time they receive direct instruction from teachers,” said Marc Elliott, chief information officer with the school district’s Technology department.
  • Purchasing enough computers for middle and high schools so each student can be assigned a portable device to take home daily.
  • Continuing to update student and staff computers and other devices, including developing a cycle for replacing devices as needed.
  • Expanding internet access at home. Money is budgeted to provide internet support through means such as mobile Wi-Fi “hotspots,” which are essentially compact, portable wireless access points providing internet access to mobile devices like a laptop for students from low-income families. Typical Wi-Fi hotspot venues include cafes, libraries, airports and hotels; however, the mobile technology is also possible to support students at home.
  • Expanding assistive technology devices for students with special needs, including voice-recognition software and speech to text/text to speech, and providing associated staff training. Some technology tools, for example, allow students to activate single/multiple spoken word strings via touch screen to communicate. Others would allow students with learning disabilities access to academic curricula in an adapted fashion, maximizing participation in education settings and activities, said Ken Turcotte, executive director of student support.
  • Installing up-to-date classroom display systems, document cameras, and video conferencing systems.
  • Upgrading infrastructure, such as wireless, switches, and network security.
  • Developing more digital online curriculum, thus reducing the number of books a student carries to and from school.
  • Providing support and training for teachers and other staff as they integrate new technology into classrooms.
  • Purchasing technological components of curriculum to support related subjects such as computer coding, robotics and digital citizenship. Plans are to expand computer coding, traditionally offered in grades 7-12, to grades 4-6. Digital citizenship lessons teach students about how to use technology in a safe, responsible, and healthy way.
  • Installing a new paging and intercom system in schools throughout the district. This would ensure that students and staff are notified of an emergency more quickly and effectively.
  • Updating from analog to digital radios on school buses to improve connectivity, including in far-reaching areas of the district with little to no reception. “Digital radios are critical to our ability to have constant contact with every bus, regardless of where the bus is inside the district or outside of the district,” said Jennifer Priddy, assistant superintendent of finance and operations.
  • Adding an identification card system on school buses that records when students get on and off a bus; and marks each transaction by Global Positioning System (GPS).
  • Updating classroom audio (microphone systems) in elementary schools.

The board voted on the replacement levy after reviewing a proposal from the district’s Technology Levy Advisory Committee and more than 1,000 survey responses from students, educators, parents and other community members who answered questions about technology and safety needs.

Elementary students board school bus at the end of the dayThe committee, made up of district staff, parents, students and community members, met in September and October to examine technology and safety needs and costs before submitting its proposal for consideration.

The voter-approved 2014 technology and safety levy pays for more than half of the technology expenses in the Olympia School District (52%) and more than a third of safety-related costs (36%).

Despite news reports at the end of the 2017 Legislative session that the state will fully fund basic education beginning in 2019, analysis of the new funding indicates that about one third of the district’s technology and safety expenses will be state funded under the new system, Priddy said.

The estimated levy rate depends on the final dollar amount of assessed value of property within the school district. Based on information to date from the county assessor’s office, the projected levy rate for the proposed measure is $.87 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for collection in 2019 and 2020, $.85 cents per $1,000 in 2021, and $.89 cents per $1,000 in 2022.

With the technology and safety levy of $.87 per $1,000 of assessed value projected in 2019, the owner of a $250,000 home would pay about $18 a month, or $217 a year.

The proposed technology and safety levy tax and newly-enacted state schools’ tax, combined with the voter-approved Olympia School District school construction bonds and maintenance and operations levy, would keep tax rates constant. The total projected tax rate over the four years would be between $5.25 and $5.26 per $1,000 of assessed valuation — one cent less or equal to the $5.26 tax rate in 2017.

A new state education property tax enacted by the Legislature in 2017 to begin in 2018 will bump up the total district tax in 2018 for one year, and then the total tax will drop in 2019. This increase and then decrease is unrelated to this proposed technology and safety replacement levy, which would not start collection until 2019.

Olympia voters approved technology levies in 1994, 2000, 2006, 2010 and 2014. State law requires a simple majority (50 percent plus one) for passage of a school levy.

November 20 reception to honor outgoing school board members

Olympia School District board of directors during November meeting discussionEmployees and the community are invited to a reception on Monday, November 20 to recognize three outgoing Olympia School District Board of Directors.

The reception will be held from 6-6:30 p.m., just prior to the start of the regular school board meeting at the Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA), 2400 15h Ave. S.E., Olympia. Hors d’oeuvres will be served.

The district will recognize the service of: Mark Campeau, who has served on the board since 2008; Justin Montermini, who has been a board member since 2011; and Eileen Thomson, who has been on the board since 2008.

The three outgoing board members will also be honored during the regular board meeting.

United Way annual giving campaign extended through November 30

Live United message on United Way logoOlympia School District’s annual United Way giving campaign, which started on November 1, has been extended through Thursday, November 30.

New this year is the ability to donate online; therefore, the district has not sent paper pledge forms to schools.  Please note there is an option on the online pledge form to check whether you would like your donation to be “ongoing” and continue past this school year. If you only intend to donate for this school year, make sure you “uncheck” the box.

In commemoration of the 25th year of Day of Caring in Thurston County, the United Way is running a special “25 for 12” campaign. Anyone who donates $25 or more a month for 12 months will receive a “Live United” T-shirt with the Olympia School District logo.

United Way is a national organization that provides a multitude of services to thousands of people right here in the Olympia community, including many of the students and families served by the school district.

Donations through the United Way support a variety of organizations, including the Thurston County Food Bank, Community Youth Services, TOGETHER, Pizza Klatch, CEILO, the Reading Buddy Program, Behavioral Health Resources and the Olympia School District Education Foundation.

Additional details about the United Way of Thurston County can be found on their
website and in this video. This year’s campaign timeline is concurrent with other local school district campaigns.

If you have any questions or need more information, please feel free to contact Kim
Doherty in the Communications and Community Relations Department at or (360) 596-6108.

All online pledge forms need to be completed no later than Thursday, November 30.

View the online pledge form

Congratulations Classified School Employees of the Year!

CSEY Michell Orwig with Superintendent Patrick Murphy, Garfield Principal Brendon Chertok, and OSD Board President Eileen ThomsonThe announcements came as a surprise, and each one was filled with emotion ranging from tears and cheers, to standing ovations and hugs.

The Olympia School District recently announced this year’s Classified School Employees of the Year.

Congratulations to:

  • Michell Orwig (top photo), paraeducator at Garfield Elementary School. She has worked as a paraeducator at Garfield Elementary since 2005.
  • Carolyn Poage (center photo), head custodian at Olympia High School. She has worked in the Olympia School District since 2003. In those 14 years, she has been a substitute custodian, a swing custodian, and a Head Custodian.
  • Marilyn Dye (bottom photo), delivery driver with Child Nutrition Services. She has worked for the Olympia School District since 1990, when she was hired as a bus driver. In the 2008-09 school year, she held some temporary positions as custodial, grounds (warehouse distribution) and mail delivery in between her bus driving. In 2009, she became the food service delivery driver and has held that role ever since.

CSEY Carolyn Poage with OHS Principal Matt GrantAll three will be honored at a special recognition ceremony during the November 20, 2017 Olympia School Board meeting. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA), 2400 15th Ave. S.E., Olympia.

The award recognizes employees who consistently demonstrate outstanding work performance, professional leadership and collaboration.

In September, the Olympia School District opened nominations for Classified School Employee of the Year. The district invited staff, students, parents and community members to submit nominations.

The district received nearly 40 nominations from throughout the district. A screening committee made up of OSD employees and community members reviewed the submissions and recommended the three names to Superintendent Patrick Murphy.

Murphy, School Board President Eileen Thomson, and school leaders announced the winners and presented them with flowers during impromptu staff meetings.

Classified School Employee of the Year is an annual statewide awards program through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. It begins with local nominations from school districts throughout Washington. Those individuals have a chance of then being named a regional Classified School Employee of the Year, which allows them to advance to the state competition.

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction recognizes the regional finalists and announces the state Classified School Employee of the Year at the annual spring award ceremony at the Old Capitol Building in Olympia.

The state award winner and regional finalists are invited to several annual recognition events including the Governor’s Reception for Exceptional Educators.

CSEY Marilyn Dye with Child Nutrition Services staff and Superintendent Patrick Murphy

Annual retirement statements for 2016-17 are available online

Annual retirement statements for the 2016-17 school year are available online for Olympia School District employees.

To view your 2016-17 annual retirement statement, log in to your Online Account on the Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) website. We encourage you to review your annual statement, which shows your service credit and defined benefit contributions.

To view your annual retirement statement:

  • Go to your Online Account
  • Log in if you’re a current user ,or follow the easy sign-up instructions.

If you have questions about your Online Account or do not have access to the Internet, contact DRS at 360-664-7000 or 800-547-6657. You may also email DRS at

Safety Tip of the Week: Recycling during the holidays

Reuse Reduce Recycle message in green lettering

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about recycling during the holidays. 

During the holidays people toss away more material than at any other time of the year.

Newspapers get thicker due to robust printed advertising and numerous inserts. Mailboxes become stuffed with flyers, catalogs, offers and greeting cards. Package delivery services are busy dropping off boxes all over town. The results are more waste and more recyclables.

Ways to Reduce the Amount of Trash You Create


Cut down on the amount of non-recyclable materials you throw out to help the planet.
What’s a good way to do this?

1. Try to reduce the amount of packaging you purchase by buying products in bulk.

2. Have any paper statements that are normally mailed to you – such as bills, financial statements, newsletters, holiday catalogs etc. emailed to you instead.

  • To eliminate credit card promotional mailings, call 1-888- 567-8688 (that’s 888-5OPT- OUT) or visit
  • Remove your name from mailing lists at It can
    take up to 90 days for the flow to stop since many mailings are already in
    print or production.
  • More options to cut down on unwanted material is available here:

3. Buy products that are packaged in cardboard or paper board instead of Styrofoam.

4. Try to avoid disposable items such as paper plates, cups, and utensils.

5. When wrapping presents, opt for reusable gift bags instead of wrapping paper – or maybe even reuse wrapping paper.

Composting is another way to reduce trash

Composting is the simple step of setting aside your fruit peals and pits along with other
food waste that does not contain oils or meat and then putting it into a compost pile. This will not only create a much cleaner smelling kitchen but also produce great nutrients for your garden.


One of the most effective ways to help us to bring your own reusable bag to purchase
groceries. If you forget, insist on paper, and pack as many goods in one bag as possible, without double bagging.

Donate old toys and clothing to a thrift store before you buy more. Even if the clothes can no longer be worn, thrift stores will generally sell them to textile recyclers.

Consider gift bags or baskets or a reusable bag, all of which can be used year after year, instead of wrapping paper.

Rechargeable batteries are a gift that keeps those holiday toys and gadgets running. They greatly reduce the number of batteries thrown into the landfill.


Food for thought: Thirteen percent of landfill waste is food and an estimated 36 million tons of food waste went to U.S. landfills in 2015. This holiday season, buy only what you need, share extra food and plan to use leftovers.

Responsibly e-cycle your old technology. Many nonprofits will accept working cell phones and computers.

Visit available at Thurston County Public Works solid waste programs for more details.