January is School Board Recognition Month

Child's hands stacking colored blocks

Every January school districts across the state and nation honor their board of directors during School Board Recognition Month.

The Olympia School District will recognize its school board near the start of the meeting on Thursday, January 14. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. The link to the online meeting will be posted on the district website.

During the program, Superintendent Patrick Murphy will read a proclamation by Gov. Jay Inslee designating January as School Board Recognition Month in Washington State. This marks the 26th year of the annual observance initiated by the National School Boards Association in 1995.

The proclamation reads in part that school directors “are directly accountable to the citizens in their districts and regions, serving as a vital link between members of the community and their schools.”

The one-page proclamation also states that directors “play a crucial role in promoting student learning and achievement by creating a vision, establishing policies and budgets, and setting clear standards of accountability for all involved.” 

Read Gov. Inslee’s full proclamation

Winter break schedule

Decorative graphic of blue background with snowflakes that says Olympia School District Winter Break December 12-January 1

All Olympia School District schools will be closed for Winter Break from Monday, December 21 through Friday, January 1. Schools will reopen on Monday, January 4, 2021.

During Winter Break, staff working in the Knox 111 Administrative Center and other support buildings may be reached via email or phone December 21 and 22, and again from December 28-30. All support buildings will resume service on Monday, January 4.

School board elects officers in annual reorganization

Every year in December, the Olympia School Board elects officers for the coming year during its annual reorganization.

Board President Scott Clifthorne mug shot
Newly elected Olympia School Board President Scott Clifthorne

At its December 10 meeting, the board elected Scott Clifthorne as this year’s board president and Maria Flores as vice president.

Board members are also appointed annually to serve as liaisons with various community groups and state agencies. Directors will continue with their same appointed positions from this past year:

  • Leslie Huff, board representative to the Olympia School District Education Foundation.
  • Hilary Seidel, board representative to the Thurston Regional Planning Council.
  • Justin McKaughan, board representative to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
  • Maria Flores, legislative representative to the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA). Flores will serve the second year of a two-year term as Legislative Representative.

Congratulations OSD Classified School Employees of the Year

OSD Classified School Employee of the Year Nadine Owen

Congratulations to Marshall Middle School Paraeducator Nadine Owen and OSD Child Nutrition Services Supervisor Paul Flock for being named this year’s Classified School Employees of the Year. The annual award recognizes employees who consistently demonstrate outstanding work performance, professional leadership and collaboration.

Both Owen and Flock learned of their recognitions last week during surprise announcements accompanied by applause from their colleagues. Both will be recognized at the next Board of Directors meeting at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 10 on Zoom. The Zoom meeting link will be posted on the district website.

Owen has been a paraeducator at Marshall for the past five years, and Flock has been the supervisor in Child Nutrition Services for 31 years. Both were selected for this honor following a nomination process that included many outstanding submissions from throughout the district.

Paul Flock holds a flower bouquet and is joined by Superintendent Patrick Murphy and Board President Hilary Seidel
OSD Classified School Employee of the Year Paul Flock (center) with Superintendent Patrick Murphy and Board President Hilary Seidel.

Don’t forget to complete staff survey by 8 p.m. tonight, Dec. 4

graphs and paper

If you haven’t done so already, we want to remind and encourage all employees districtwide to complete a survey to share their thoughts about the effectiveness of the current remote learning model. We also ask that you answer questions that relate to general topics such as school/work climate, and cultural awareness and action. Survey responses will be anonymous. Data gathered will be used to inform planning going forward during the Pandemic response and gather baseline data to use as we strive to improve all workplaces in Olympia.

The deadline to complete this staff survey is 8 p.m. tonight, Friday, December 4.

  • Certificated staff onlyClick to take the survey
  • All other OSD employeesClick to take the survey (Note: For employees who work in support buildings, when you see questions that reference “school,” please answer as they relate to your support building site).

Newly updated webpage features expanded youth and family resources

Child Nutrition Services worker brings grab-and-go meal to a waiting car in a school parking lot as part of the meal distribution program. Worker also gives a treat to a dog in the front seat of the car.

Do you know of families, students or colleagues looking for information about support groups, crisis lines, help with meals or bills, social and emotional wellness, or tips for taming toddler temper tantrums? You can find all that and much more at our newly updated Resources for Youth and Families webpage.   

The webpage provides one-stop-shopping for almost any community or district resource that a student, family, staff or community member might need. Information is grouped by topic: Community Resources, Parenting Resources and Supports, District Resources for New Families, and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).

“In order to prepare students for career, college and citizenship, schools need to establish partnerships with families and the community,” said Kris Norelius, district social emotional learning program specialist. “The hope is that easy access to relevant resources will streamline the process of finding solutions and help students and families feel supported.”

The webpage is designed to be comprehensive enough so a staff member can offer a parenting resource to a struggling family, a community member can gain an understanding of social-emotional learning, a parent can find mental health support for their child or a family can find out how to get help with a utility bill.

“There are many resources out there but it is often overwhelming finding what we need,” Norelius said. “Families often don’t know where to start. Teachers are sometimes in the position of offering support to families. We wanted to provide enough information in one place so people can access help on their own if they choose to do so. If they need support in the process, district social workers and school counselors are here to help.”

Making Peace with Uncertainty

Close up of feet walking in the rain

The article below, written by Avanti High School Counselor Heather Kazda, is adapted for teachers from a message she wrote for parents in a recent Avanti High School newsletter. Thank you, Heather, for agreeing to share this article with all employees in Here’s the Scoop.

This morning during an individual appointment with a student over Zoom, he exclaimed, “I’m using ALL of my coping skills and IT’S NOT WORKING!” It was a poignant moment and we laughed together, but the truth of it is stark — the ways we have managed our lives and emotions may not work as well in this time we have entered. There is no coping strategy, no mindfulness practice, that can keep us from these truths: our world has changed drastically, we have lost much, the future is uncertain. As I write this, our COVID numbers are climbing and another shutdown order has been enacted. We are being asked to weather another wave of uncertainty that takes us further from knowing when or even if we will be able to return to hybrid or in-person learning this year. We must sit with not knowing and the difficult emotions that ensue.

How do we support ourselves and our children in this loss of certainty and predictability? First and foremost, we do it together, not alone. We must get fiercely committed to connecting how we can. We strengthen the bonds and the bounds of compassion and unconditional love in our own households. We call, Zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp and do whatever is possible to see and be present with those we love and those who need us.  We reach out to those struggling more than ourselves and notice that doing so makes our hearts feel more alive. We stand outside in the rain and cold to talk to a neighbor or a friend because those moments of connection help keep us grounded in our community and humanity.

Many of us feel more distracted, scattered and deeply exhausted than ever before. Neuroscience tells us that screens increase depression and irritability and limit our capacity to focus and connect. Yet, there is no escaping screens in this era. I have been working with students to be aware of their bodies and their surroundings even as they are Zooming or completing assignments. It is important to toggle back and forth between the two environments in which we are living (physical and virtual). Noticing the breath, leaning away from the screen and into our back body, and turning our head slowly and gently from side-to-side to orient to our environment are all practices that can help bring us back to the present. It is wise to practice at least one of these strategies for every twenty minutes of screen time as well as to look away from the screen to reduce eye strain.

Other lovely ways to regulate: get up and dance to one song (with gusto), run outside when the sun breaks through, skip up and down the street on a five-minute break,  do 10 push ups as a sensory break (wall or floor), sing a favorite song while walking around the house in between Zoom sessions, take a weekly family yoga class or a nightly after dinner walk. We must deliberately clear time for and invite joy, because it may not appear as naturally as it once did. A quote from Dr. Stuart Brown, who has studied the purpose of play extensively: “The opposite of play is not work — it’s depression.” These words (source unknown) have also been inspiring me, “It is through joy that one resists.” 

The to-do list is never ending; we must decide to STOP, REST and PLAY while tasks remain undone. Moving our bodies through any exercise practice that works for us has never been more important. Remembering to eat every few hours is imperative (especially for young folks who lose track of time and hunger while on screens) and a consistent sleep schedule is vital. While these practices won’t stop us from feeling worry and sadness, they will help us manage uncertainty and maintain our capacity to experience joy and connection. When the future is uncertain, the safest and wisest place to live is right NOW — here together with those we love.

In meeting the heavy presence of uncertainty, we must feel and be in touch daily with our own vitality and genius (the unique gifts we give the world), and we must help our students do the same. To help us connect with our aliveness, here are some questions we might ponder for ourselves and ask our students: When this week have you felt most alive? When today did you feel most like yourself? Looking back on this month, when were you most creative? When this week did you feel powerful or effective? We must look for and cultivate (particularly in our young people) the sparks of life, vitality, kindness and generosity that can pull us into a brighter future.

As we all work hard to educate/prepare our students for the future, it is wise to step back now and then and remember that much of our job is to help them claim and kindle what is already within. Knowing we simply cannot cover our content and curriculum in the way we once did, freedoms and new possibilities emerge, but only if we welcome them. What is most important for our students to receive from us at this moment? “When a person becomes aware of their genius and they live it and they give generously from it, they change the world,” says Michael Meade. The world our students are facing is uncertain and often frightening. How can we help them find in themselves that which will make life meaningful and worth living even under difficult conditions? What might we need to rekindle in ourselves that will help us replenish and continue to be of service in this time when we are so needed? What structures, habits or beliefs can we let go of to lighten our overwhelming load? Taking courageous leaps of faith in the way we are living and teaching may in fact be what great uncertainty is calling us to do. I look forward to hearing your stories.

Please complete staff survey by Friday, Dec. 4

Laptop computer on table with paper displaying a variety of different graphs for tracking survey results

Below is a copy of an email sent to all OSD employees on Friday, November 20

We ask that all employees please complete a district survey to share their thoughts about the effectiveness of the current remote learning model. We also ask that you answer questions that relate to general topics such as school/work climate, and cultural awareness and action. Survey responses will be anonymous. Data gathered will be used to inform planning going forward during the Pandemic response and gather baseline data to use as we strive to improve all workplaces in Olympia.

The deadline to complete this staff survey is 8 p.m. on December 4.  Families were sent a similar feedback survey.

  • Certificated staff onlyClick to take the survey
  • All other OSD employeesClick to take the survey (Note: For employees who work in support buildings, when you see questions that reference “school,” please answer as they relate to your support building site).

Shift to hybrid learning surveys sent to grades 1-12

On November 20, the district emailed families of students in grades 1-12 requesting they complete a form in Skyward Family Access indicating their preference for hybrid or full-time distance learning once the district is able to shift to a hybrid learning model. The surveys are due by Friday, December 4.

Staff interested in seeing questions and background information shared with families on the form may see the information on the staff Intranet. Be sure to log in to Google to access the staff Intranet. The forms, which are formatted sightly different in the Skyward Family Access tool but contain the same information, are posted on the Surveys webpage in the Communications department folder.

Resources for interfaith celebrations and observances

White ceramic teacup sits on railing with mountains and lake in the distance

As part of the district’s work related to the board-approved Student Outcomes, specifically Outcome 1, Indicator 1, we are providing you with some resources of various interfaith celebrations and observances.

These resources are designed to make you aware of interfaith calendar events so you can be mindful throughout the year. As a reminder, Outcome 1 states “Our Students Will: Be Compassionate and Kind.” Indicator 1 states our students will “Be aware of and appreciate one’s similarities and differences with others.”

Remember you can always return to the staff blog at any future date to access these resources. We will continue to update this list as we become aware of new free resources:

  • Key Dates – April 2020 issue of OnCall, published by the Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA). This annual calendar lists a combination of special months and weeks, as well as holidays and some interfaith celebrations.
  • OSPI website: Common Religious and U.S. Public Holiday Calendars
  • There is a free online interfaith calendar that appears to have been last updated in 2017; however, there is a link from this calendar to an A-Z list of definitions of interfaith observances. The definitions include specifics, for example, about when holy days are observed and those that include fasting. You may find these definitions helpful.