Reminder: Staff invited to welcome back event on Wednesday, August 28

Back to School spelled out in Scrabble tiles as part of welcome back staff messageThe district will hold its annual welcome back event for staff on Wednesday, August 28 at Olympia High School.

The welcome back event for certificated instructional staff and all nurses, TOSAs and other certificated staff begins with muffins and coffee served at 8 a.m. At 8:30 a.m., Superintendent Patrick Murphy will welcome staff, followed by a brief update about benefits from Amy McGuire, payroll and benefits specialist. Murphy will then introduce Jeff Utecht, an educational technology expert and author in Seattle, who will present about respecting students and their culture. Utecht’s work focuses on helping schools and educators use technology in an authentic, healthy and purposeful way to transform teaching and customize learning for students. This presentation will last until about 10 a.m., at which time staff will proceed to their school sites.

A similar welcome back event will be held that afternoon for transportation staff, food services staff, custodial and maintenance staff, office professionals, unrepresented classified staff and paraeducators. This event begins with light snacks at 12:30 p.m. followed by a 1 p.m. kick-off by Superintendent Murphy, a brief benefits presentation and then a presentation by Jeff Utecht.

Note: Staff who attend one of these sessions, whose official contract days do not overlap with August 28, will need to either fill out a time slip for the presentation or input time into TrueTime, using their regular time-keeping system for their group. Attendance is optional but encouraged. As this is optional, contract minimums are not in effect. We encourage staff who are on contract on this day to flex their day around this 12:30-2:30 p.m. time frame. Those who are not able to flex their day may work additional hours with prior supervisor approval.

Please be aware that Olympia High School will have several construction projects in process at the same time as this welcome back event. Due to construction, parking  is limited. Please consider carpooling with your colleagues. Also, please watch for any signs that direct staff where to park or enter the building. The high school is located at 1302 North St. S.E., Olympia.

New employees: Department of Retirement Systems offers free webinars to help with plan choice

Open notebook with words "My Plan" at the top and person preparing to write with a penThe following message for new employees is from the Department of Retirement Systems’ Education & Outreach team:

If you are a new school district employee hired for the first time into a SERS or TRS eligible position, you have an important decision to make about your retirement. If you haven’t made your plan decision yet, we invite you to attend a live Plan Choice webinar (see Plan Choice webinar schedule for link to join).

If you decide to attend a webinar, we recommend that you join about 10-15 minutes early to check sound and connection.  Please review how to join a DRS Webinar for tips on accessing the webinar, audio, and sending questions.  Also, please be aware that the audio comes through your computer so you’ll need speakers or a headset.

If you are unable to attend a webinar, you can watch the online Plan Choice video at a time that’s more convenient for you.  You can also visit the Plan Choice page of the DRS website at

Workshops offered for staff to learn how to make accessible content to post online

Workshop sign

This year the Communications Department will offer a wealth of training opportunities focused on creating accessible content. Learn how to incorporate accessibility into your document workflow and efficiently create accessible content to post online.

In addition to topic specific workshops, the Communications and Community Relations Department is also excited to offer a new open workshop on accessibility. Do you have questions about creating accessible flyers, or do you have a unique document workflow? Attendees are invited to bring these and other questions to discuss and brainstorm.

More information and links for registration can be found in the Fall 2019 PD Catalog, or at the links below:

Beyond workshops, the Olympia School District’s Accessibility Specialist, Robert Hardy (6105), wants to help you! Please reach out with any accessibility questions, or to schedule a time to meet one-on-one.  Have a great year!

OSDEF accepting Teaching and Learning Grant Requests for 2019-20 school year

OSDEF Logo with image of stick figures of an adult and children and the name of the Foundation beneathThe Olympia School District Education Foundation (OSDEF) is accepting Teaching & Learning Grant Requests for the 2019-20 school year. Please note there are two new grant categories:

  1. Thanks to Browsers Bookshop, first-year teachers who want to establish a classroom library are eligible for a limited number of Browsers Back to School Build a Library Grants (up to $250 per grant request; one grant request per teacher).
  2. The OSDEF is launching a new program this fall to help ensure that all OSD students can advocate for the social, physical and mental wellness of themselves and others; the OSDEF Board created a Mental Health Initiative Grant as part of the new program.

Another exciting change: With the exception of the Browsers grant, grant requests in all categories — Building Student Character, Closing the Opportunity Gap, Creativity & the Arts, Innovative Teaching & Learning, Meet a Need and Mental Health Initiative — may now be made in the amount of up to $1,500.

One more difference this year: To ensure there is no bias in the grant evaluation process, all identifying information (e.g., teacher name and school) will be removed from grant requests before they are reviewed by the OSDEF Board.

Grants must be received by the last Monday of each month to be reviewed before and considered at the Board’s next meeting (e.g., a grant would need to be submitted by 5 p.m. on Monday, August 26 to be eligible for consideration at the September 10 board meeting, or on Monday, September 30 for consideration at the October board meeting).

As always, grant requests are reviewed on a first come, first served basis. Once the grants funds are exhausted, the OSDEF will close the grant application process for the school year. Get those grant requests in early. The OSDEF looks forward to reviewing yours soon!

Kudos to our new Everyday Heroes; be sure to send in the name of your own hero!

Everyday Heroes Logo with the words: Celebrating OSD EmployeesEveryday Heroes is a regular feature in this staff blog. Remember to submit names of employees districtwide who have done something deserving of encouragement and praise. Give a shout out to one of your colleagues at your school or support building and watch for it to appear in an upcoming Everyday Heroes blog post.

Here are our newest honorees:

Everyday Heroes
Katie Anderson, Mary Gibbons and Tiki Prohim, OSD Business Office

Wanted to say a huge thank-you to Mary Gibbons, Katie Anderson and Tiki Prohim in the Business Office for answering my multitude of questions last year. Being in my first year at Communications was definitely a major download of info, and I really appreciated all of the help as I navigated the business side of my department. You guys are great! I think everyday heroes are those who do the small things (as well as the bigger stuff) day-in and day-out that make some of the biggest differences. So, thank you all!
Submitted by Arielle Allard, Communications Assistant, Communications and Community Relations Department

How to nominate an Everyday Hero

  • Email the Communications and Community Relations Department ( a few sentences, and no more than 200 words, about why the person deserves recognition. It’s easiest to write as if speaking directly to the colleague, such as “Thank you for helping with…” or “I really appreciated when you…”
  • Write “Everyday Heroes” in the subject heading of the email.
  • Include your first and last name as the person submitting the comments.
  • Include the first and last name of the OSD employee you are recognizing.
  • Include the job title and work location (school or department) of the person you are recognizing.

All submissions will be posted in this blog on a weekly basis and archived each week.

Welcome OSDEF Executive Director Katy Johansson

Katy Johansson headshotThe Olympia School District Education Foundation (OSDEF) announced earlier this summer the selection of Olympia native Katy Johansson as its first executive director. Johansson, a product of the Olympia School District and a Capital High School alumna, brings her passion for area schools and experience in K-12 education to the position.

As a former math intervention paraeducator at Hansen Elementary, Johansson says she has seen the power of the Foundation at work in her own school.

“I am excited to lead and promote an organization for which I have so much esteem,” Johansson said. “I’ve persuaded teachers on several occasions to apply for a Teaching and Learning grant to purchase books or classroom supplies that Hansen’s PTO could not finance. Last fall, I observed the Principal’s Emergency Fund in action when I accompanied my principal on a grocery shopping trip for a Hansen family in need.”

Johansson continued, “I’ve heard stories from former Hansen students who, once they move across the street to Marshall (Middle School), are improving in and liking math — thanks to the Foundation’s Middle School Math Tutoring program. And I’ve led fifth graders on their first-ever hike at Cispus, also funded by OSDEF. I truly believe the OSDEF’s programs are enriching and, in many cases, transforming students’ lives.”

Johansson serves on the Capital City Marathon Association board, the Capital High School Foundation and is a Hansen Elementary parent volunteer.

“We could not be more thrilled to have Katy on board as our first executive director,” said incoming OSDEF Board President Kelsey Christensen-Abel. “Katy brings a unique mix of local roots, first-hand experience in Olympia K-12 classrooms and, most importantly, her enthusiasm for our organization and where we are headed. Her understanding of our school district, along with its teachers and leaders, is a tremendous asset as we look to expand the Foundation’s programs.”

Johansson concluded her employment as a paraeducator with the school district in June and began her new position with the Foundation on July 1. Since being hired, Johansson has been busy along with OSDEF Board members preparing for the annual Principal’s Emergency Fund (PEF) breakfast. The event, open to all OSD employees, is scheduled at 7 a.m. on Thursday, September 26 at the Hotel RL Olympia. The breakfast raises money for the PEF, which provides every OSD principal the resources to help meet urgent basic needs of low-income students and their families. Employees planning to attend should RSVP to