'Keep moving forward'

Passionate principal Judy Crates bids farewell to Castro, school district

After serving as principal of three schools in the Mountain View Whisman district, Judy Crates has announced she plans to retire this summer, at the end of her fifth year leading Castro Elementary.

Crates, who began her career in education 41 years ago, has worked for the district for 16 years, and said she plans to use her retirement to spend more time with her family and to travel.

Parents and colleagues from the district spoke highly of Crates -- calling her a passionate educator, dedicated to continuous improvement.

"We're extremely grateful for Dr. Judy Crates' many years of service to the school district," MVWSD Superintendent Craig Goldman said, calling Crates both a "colleague and a friend," and saying that seeing her go is "bittersweet."

It's a sentiment shared by Crates, who said that she always wanted to teach at Castro from the moment she began working for the district. A fluent Spanish speaker with a lifelong interest in Hispanic culture, Crates said she wanted to be involved with the school's dual immersion program -- where students take classes taught in both Spanish and English.

A different breed

Crates said she is proud of what she has accomplished at Castro. When she came to Castro in 2008, the school's base Academic Performance Index score was 769. She leaves Castro having raised its API to 852 -- well above the statewide performance target of 800.

"She's had such an incredible impact on Castro," said Dara Tynefield, a Castro parent and six-year volunteer with the school's Dual Immersion program. "What she's achieved in the five years I've known her is nothing short of miraculous. It's hard to see her go."

Tynefield said she realized Crates was different just a few months into the principal's first year at Castro.

When Crates took over Castro, one of her first orders of business was to eliminate unnecessary activities, Tynefield recalled. The students had to make up ground in test performance, and that meant, as far as Crates was concerned, that the kindergartners would not be taking their regularly scheduled trip to the pumpkin patch. Crates called the fall field trip "ridiculous" and cut it without apology.

"That was a little intense," Tynefield said, remembering her reaction at the time.

But before too many parents could call out the new principal for being cruel to Castro's youngest students, Crates ordered a truckload of pumpkins to fill the school parking lot and let the kindergartners choose their own orange gourd without ever leaving the campus -- so long as they conducted a few measurements first. Thus, Crates ensured her students would take home a little bit of science and math knowledge along with some seasonal cheer.

It was the "best pumpkin patch ever," Tynefield said. With gestures like the parking lot pumpkin patch -- and the various costumes, like the gorilla and chicken suits the principal would wear to get her students pumped up about reading -- Crates set her self apart from the pack, and earned the adulation of the students and the respect of parents and teachers, Tynefield said. "The proof is in the API scores."

Born to teach

Crates was born and raised in Kenosha, Wis. -- a Lake Michigan town between Milwaukee and Chicago. The first in her family to graduate from college, Crates began her career in education teaching Spanish. She bounced around the East Coast and Midwest, before moving to the Bay Area in 1980 after her husband took a job at Stanford.

After settling down in Silicon Valley, Crates began working in Redwood City. From 1982 to 1995 she took on a variety of positions -- including serving as Garfield Charter School's founding director and vice principal at Kennedy Middle School.

In 1997 she took the job of principal at Bubb Elementary, where she worked for four years before moving on to serve as principal of Graham Middle School for another four years. After that, she took a position in the MVWSD central office, before making the move to Castro.

Along the way Crates had two children -- a son and a daughter. Her son died at age 22. Her daughter, who is now 37, has two young children of her own.

An eye to the future

"Judy Crates is basically an icon at Castro," said Christine Roper, president of the Castro PTA, pointing to Crates' management of both the Dual Immersion and traditional track programs. According to Roper, Crates is essentially overseeing two schools under one roof. "For the last five years she's done an incredible job on her own managing both those programs."

Though it will be hard for Crates to say goodby to the school and the program she has loved so much, she insists that she doesn't think of it as "leaving."

"I'm not leaving anything," she said. "I'm going to something."

Namely, she plans to visit her grandchildren and daughter, along with her daughter's husband, who will be coming up to see her this summer. She also plans to travel -- likely to Barcelona, where her daughter's family resides. "I have something different that I want to do with my time, while I'm still able to be the energetic, optimistic grandma for my grandchildren."

Crates said she wants the Castro community to know that she has loved the time she has had at the school -- "I can't think of a better place to end my career" -- and that she has high hopes for what the future will bring. Castro, she said, is going to "keep moving forward."


Like this comment
Posted by randy albin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm

finding a job in education these days is difficult. finding any kind of employment can be a challenge. then there are these hi-tech gazillionaires floating around these days. best wishes to this administrator. it's good that patch reports on all of this

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 4, 2013 at 2:08 pm

As usual, thanks for giving so much credit to the teaching staff. Clearly they've never been able to accomplish much on their own.

Like this comment
Posted by CuestaParkMom
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm

One small correction: Judy Crates served at Bubb for 5 years, beginning in 1996. I know because my oldest son was in first grade at the time, and was in the group that had Dr. Crates as principal for 5 years at Bubb, then 3 years at Graham. Dr. Crates's energy and caring were inspiring to me, and I appreciate all she has done at the many schools where she has served.

Like this comment
Posted by Dr.Ron Crates
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2013 at 8:56 am

Judy, is an outstanding school principal. She has been a major asset in Mountain
View as well as Redwood City School District. I wish her well and joy.

Like this comment
Posted by Rene
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Thanks for the unbiased perspective Ron. It really does speak volumes.

Like this comment
Posted by Interested Observer
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Dear Parent - of course, credit goes to the instructional staff, too. But, c'mon, this story is a tribute to Judy Crates!! A school needs a great leader in order to be great and that is Judy. She is an outstanding principal and a visionary, inspirational, instructional leader!! She will be greatly missed by all who worked with her over the years!! It's a great loss to the MVWSD and she will be hard to replace. I wish Judy all the best and many, many happy years ahead!!

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 10, 2013 at 9:51 am

the comment by "Dr. Ron Crates" is obviously from someone else and the Voice should delete it.

Judy Crates was a fabulous principal and will be missed by the many students, parents, and district staff who were fortunate to work with her.

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