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Who's in Charge at Mountain View Schools?

Original post made by Tea Partyer, Old Mountain View, on Feb 10, 2010

Today I find out that the principal of my child's school, Castro, is in Africa on vacation. Is this what we are paying these administrators for with our valuable tax dollars? Why can't they take vacations during the several weeks they have off throughout the rest of the year? Are they being paid to be behind their desk during school hours? I am concerned that there is no one in charge in the event of an earthquake or something. I'd like some more accountability and am interested in what others think. When will this type of behavior end, whereby public employees take the public and their tax revenue for granted?

Comments (25)

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Posted by me
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 10, 2010 at 6:56 pm

I guess you've never heard of the position "vice-principal" ? Not everyone has to be at your beck and call every single second of the day, and that includes public employee's

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Posted by parent
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 10, 2010 at 7:14 pm

FYI there are no vice-principals at the elementary schools and I do expect for principals and teachers for that matter to be on duty during the school year. Unless your sick, go on vacation during vacation.

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Posted by Frances
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 10, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Are you serious? Teachers and educators don't deserve to use their vacation time? I am sure the principal left a plan on place for her absence. Just ask at the school office.

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Posted by Long Time MVWSD Teacher
a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2010 at 2:18 am


Vacation times for teachers and principals are respectively during the summer or during the December, February or Spring breaks. Teachers work 187 days and principals 215, I believe, so there is plenty of break and vacation time to take advantage of and during times when instructional days will not be impacted.

Teachers are not allowed, nor expect, to use their vacation time during the school year, one because it disrupts the curriculum and teaching process and, two, because it is costly for the school district to hire substitutes. As far as I know the same policy applies to principals. The only exceptions to not showing up to work are illness, requiring a doctor's note after three days, or bereavement leave which can not exceed 5 days. We are also allowed two "personal necessity" days, but what is deemed personal and necessary is decided on in a very arbitrary manner by the district office and never granted for a vacation. On that point, the district office is highly suspect of any employee who attempts to tack on sick days coming right before or after a break as a way of extending it just a little more. Rightfully so, I believe, since we are paid to perform our professional duties when children are present, not when they are on breaks.

Important points and distinctions are made by Tea Partyer in starting this thread. We in education are expected to place high priority on the days in which children are present for instruction. And the district administration has always placed a premium on the role and importance of the principal and leadership at the school sites. So yes, there is a double-standard and hypocrisy in allowing a principal to leave the country and miss instructional days.

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Posted by Parent Too
a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2010 at 7:45 am

The ethical thing to do would be to work when you are supposed to work and vacation when you are supposed to vacation. This sounds like gaming the system to take advantage of lower off-season airfare.

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Posted by David
a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2010 at 2:36 pm

There may be a logical explanation. The District should respond. The Voice should contact the District and ask for a response.

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Posted by Annoyed at Fellow Parents
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 11, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Considering that there is a one week vacation next week for MVWSD, I don't find it all that surprising that the Principal tacked her vacation on to it, many families in the district are doing the exact same thing as we speak. Disneyland, here they come!

When elementary school Principal's are gone, there is a teacher who steps in as "Principal in Charge". This teacher has been chosen by the Principal, his/her peers and District Office and is trained as the on-site administrator. For a teacher, this role is an opportunity for them to gain valuable on-site experience as an administrator. Many of MVWSD's current Principal's wore the hat as "Principal in Charge" when they were teachers.

Everyone is entitled to a break - in every industry - and it isn't fair to cast dispersions on a Principal for taking a vacation. The Castro principal has a long-standing commitment to this district, the students, and it is self-righteous for you to be overly dramatic over such a small occurrence.

In regard to an emergency without the Principal on location, there could very well be an earthquake when the Principal is at a meeting at the District Office, or at another site, or at lunch, etc. In that event, the "Principal in Charge" would be the site administrator and has been trained for that event. Why don't you make some inquiries at your site before you start pointing fingers.

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Posted by Businesswoman
a resident of Willowgate
on Feb 11, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Dear Annoyed:

I think you miss the point. We have principals to be principals during the school year, not to go on vacation during the school year. Principals, and teachers as pointed out above, do not work a full year. Their time off is considered vacation time, and there is plenty of it. And as you point out everyone is entitled to a break, and those breaks have been pretty well defined, i.e, those days when instruction is not going on.

Compare it to project management cycles at a business. There are obvious times when you do not ask or go on vacation. To do so is professional suicide.

But back to the point. We are paying tax dollars to have principals doing their job during the school year, not to be on vacation. If we don't need principals in their positions when close to 400 kids are present, then let's save the taxpayer some money and not have principals or at the very least cut back their work years. Apparently they are not required as much as we have been led to believe.

As far as a teacher taking over for the principal when they are off on vacation, the question that begs to be asked is how is that teacher's instructional day affected and what is the impact on student learning? And how does the absence of a principal effect overall discipline at a school site considering that is the principal's primary job during instructional days so as to avoid unnecessary distraction for teachers school wide? Not having a principal present at their job all sounds like a big distraction from the number one job of education: effective and quality teaching. It also smacks of public employees taking advantage of the public trust.

And in terms of parents irresponsibly pulling their kids out of class to go to Disneyland as you put it, the school district loses money for these unexcused absences and it creates an increased workload on teachers.

It sure is discouraging to know how many people don't take such actions seriously. The cumulative effective of principals, teachers, and students taking off school/work days for vacations can add up to significant distractions from meeting the challenging goals of public education, all in a strained environment for school revenue.

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Posted by Reality Slap
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 11, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Good lord what a sniveler. Get a tissue and deal with life.
You should consider yourself lucky this is what you get to be angry about.

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Posted by Businesswoman
a resident of Willowgate
on Feb 11, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Reality Slap:

I suppose responsibility, ethics, and common sense are terms you take lightly. Let me paint a a different picture for you.

-The school newsletter this week makes no mention of the principal's absence or who is in charge.

-There are 400+ plus students on the site and no dedicated leadership in sight.

-Castro is by and large an open campus that requires active administration in terms of safety issues. The neighborhood is low-income, dense, with transients all around and traffic congested.

-And in case you didn't know, there was a medical emergency at Castro school today.

Laugh it off all you want. It's good to know there are plenty of easy targets out there to be taken advantage of and duped into thinking they are getting something they are not and are content with mediocrity and not being taken seriously. I'm not one of them. I expect those appointed with responsibilities in public positions to live up to them, particularly when children are involved.

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Posted by Dad
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 11, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Who's in charge? No one.

We've got a disgraced superintendent who has clipped his own wings in denying he ever had a conflict of interest due to his inappropriate relationship with another principal. And he no doubt approved this principal's vacation plans since he's pretty much clueless as to what real leadership and responsibility is to begin with.

Anyone who has ever been really in charge of anything knows darn well that you don't pack up and leave the country on vacation when you've got a job to do. Do the job you've been paid to do, and when it's done take your vacation.

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Posted by amom
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 12, 2010 at 12:04 am

Why didn't you ask at school to get an answer rather than posting to Town Square? You would find out that it's hardly a "vacation". The principal is incredibly dedicated to the kids and families at Castro.

If you do not trust the judgment of the professionals at the school, there are many other school choices in town.

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Posted by Frustrated Teacher
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2010 at 7:04 am

Oh please. I am just so sick of the nonsense in this school district. It's common knowledge it's a vacation. There are only two options to leave your job at the schools during the school year, personal illness and bereavement.

This is all about wink, wink, nod, nod privileges and perks for administrators. Teachers would never be allowed to do this. And, in case you didn't know, the school district has to fork out money to cover for the principal's absence. That's right, money. Let's see, where do you think that money comes from? Hmm. Considering teachers haven't gotten a raise in more than 4 years, yet administrators have it all amounts to more spin and lies coming out of the district office. You try passing off such a trip through the district office for a teacher or staff member and you'll get a flat out no. Choose between your job or your vacation. For some reason there is a huge double-standard. The only difference between teachers and principals is job duties and responsibilities which is compensated by pay.

And finally, if a district employee has relatives who decide to move to Africa, it's really not the problem of the community and district to bind together and make sacrifices so the principal can make regular visits. Choose between your job and your professional like but don't go making it everyone else problem and expense.

And yes there is a huge moral problem in Mountain View schools if any one ever noticed.

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Posted by Player
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 12, 2010 at 11:56 am

When the cat's away the mice will play, just ask Susie.

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Posted by former Castro mom
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 12, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I think that Judy Crates is one of the most dedicated professionals that our district has ever known. Castro school is very lucky to have her. I happen to know that she works many hours, over and above the call of duty. I find her responsible, devoted, and compassionate. I feel that she would not leave the area unless she had a darn good reason. I can not begrudge her if she had to take a vacation now because of circumstances beyond her control. I know I had a sister in law who was living in Australia for a while, and if I wanted to see her, I needed to go when she was there. It might be that kind of situation.

While I realize that there has been a great deal of bad press given to the superintendent, I find him still working hard. He comes to alot of PTA meetings, and he is supportive of parents who volunteer in the community, and he knows us by name. This is something that never happened with our previous supers, so I applaud him for this.

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Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Hilarious. This reminds me of MV city hall, rehiring those irreplaceable three who returned to work the very next day after so-called retirement to take advantage of the $100+ per hour wages.

Yes, yes, I know, there is always a perfectly good reason for state employees to get paid more than they deserve or to take off on a vacation when they are supposed to be working. The number of good reasons and purity of thought in city government and public education is just so staggeringly impressive any way, particularly when it comes to spending the public's money. On top of it all, in this case, we are talking about a school full of children with no one in charge of running it, despite the fact that they are getting paid for it and not required to work a full year to begin with. Problem is, I'm tired of this nonsense, and become more so every April 15th.

"Castro school is very lucky to have her. I happen to know that she works many hours, over and above the call of duty." "I feel that she would not leave the area unless she had a darn good reason."

Typical thinking, as if Castro school or the district at large has no other qualified and hard-working people. The rest are all idiots apparently and would never have a darn good reason to tack on a few extra days to their winter break let alone know the meaning of hard work and long hours. (On that point, any one find it odd that this absence is taking full advantage of the winter break that starts tomorrow--sounds like this was planned all along.) Only a few elite (i.e., the same group of old guard administrators robbing the till) are granted exceptions to leave their positions during the school year. Teachers and staff (read, second-class citizens) would obviously never experience trying circumstances whereby they would be required special circumstances to take leave of their responsibilities. They have no lives. They don't qualify for raises or special treatment. Hec, the entire population of Mountain View should just roll over and say, we all pale in comparison when it comes to working hard and pulling long hours. We don't deserve vacations, we just pay tax dollars for others to take them for us.

Bottom line, these are public positions whereby policy and not favoritism should dictate who is able to leave their position. You can't have it both ways in public systems. It's called corruption if you do. The superintendent ought to know. He's still trying to have it both ways. Good luck. Someone handle him another shovel. Some one said it above. Just do the job you've been paid to do. Don't abuse the system. And don't pretend you don't know when you are. Just like those three city employees, the circumstance certainly suggest a working over of the system.

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Posted by Kelsey Mesher
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Feb 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Kelsey Mesher is a registered user.

We asked the district about this issue. Here is the response from Stephanie Totter, assistant superintendent, who is in charge of personnel matters, as relayed by Kathi Lilga, executive assistant to the superintendent:

"Judy Crates is taking a Personal Necessity/Family Medical leave in accordance with the requirements of Education Code due to a family member's illness. She is not on vacation."

For more information on board policies regarding leaves of absence, visit: Web Link .

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Posted by Teacher
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm


Ms. Totter actually divulged information regarding "a personnel issue!" That has got to be a first. Where there's smoke, there's fire!

This district office version differs from the version put out by the principal. Everyone at Castro knows why the principal goes to Africa, or Spain or Wisconsin. Clearly there is a different standard applied for principals for what is deemed personal and medical necessity. What a joke. This is not the first time this principal has taken advantage of such leave. It's almost as if she is part of a frequent flier program. A teacher would never be granted leave of this sort and on a regular basis. Go ahead and ask Ms. Totter for the statistics on such repetitive leave for teachers. This is separate and unequal treatment.

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Posted by Castro Parent
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 12, 2010 at 4:11 pm

The timing of the trip seems well suited to an "unplanned" Personal Necessity/Family Medical issue. As we all know, such issues always occur quite conveniently right before a school break. I believe the medical condition is known as "vacationitis".

That said, I'd like to know how much these repeated trips are costing the school district.

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Posted by Don Frances
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Feb 12, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Don Frances is a registered user.

And I'd like to know how many of you will continue to make these baseless accusations, hurled from the comfort of your own anonymity, if you had to log in to make them. I'm betting considerably fewer.

We'll find out, as I've made this comment thread registered-only. Those interested in registering need only click on the link at the bottom of this page.

For you parents, teachers or "observers" burning to know where and why the principal went, you might consider asking her when she gets back.

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Posted by Martha
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 12, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Martha is a registered user.

So, here's a thought. It could really be a Family Medical issue and neither the principal nor the district thought it was anyone's business to explain the details. But no, let's all assume the worst.

I believe when Dr. Crates was taking trips to Wisconsin regularly a few years back it was because her elderly mother was having serious health issues and Dr. Crates was the one responsible for her. When it appeared that the situation was going to continue and impact her job, Judy resigned as Graham principal and went to half-time work in the district office. I think she has demonstrated ethical behavior in this type of situation, so my guess -- emphasis on "guess" which is what we are ALL doing -- is that she needed to go to Africa for family reasons. Perhaps she needed to spend more than a week there and for that reason requested the leave now so one week of it would be school break, lessening the impact on the district.

Possible? I know a lot of you will say it's not, because according to you no one in this district ever acts with integrity except our poor teachers who never get raises (except for step-and-column increases, of course, which go on no matter what), but since none of us knows Judy Crates' personal business, no one knows why she is there and why she went now.

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Posted by donnelle
a resident of Willowgate
on Feb 12, 2010 at 5:26 pm

donnelle is a registered user.

I think the bewilderment is that many of us know the reasons behind the constant travel abroad and many of us are just a little upset that permission is always granted. This was planned out well in advanced and is being covered up now by the district office.

Throughout the rest of the year Ms. Totter loves to accuse teachers of not really being sick when in fact they are, and will seldom approve a personal necessity day, particularly when they but up against or follow a holiday or break. She seems to enjoy holding a veto power over Ed Code which she now marches out. God forbid we try to stretch out an extra day off to handle our own Personal Necessity/Family Medical issues.

I think as employees we are better positioned to know what the truth is. But this all started about a parent questioning who is in charge of the school. Well, a teacher is while the principal is off in Africa!

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Posted by MV Resident, LASD
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 12, 2010 at 6:53 pm

MV Resident, LASD is a registered user.

This one action needs to be evaluated in context. Namely, how long has this person been the Principal at Castro School and during that time:
1.) how many overtime hours has this person contributed to the school?
2.) how many times has this person come in to work over scheduled holidays and vacation weeks?
3.) how many times has this person taken vacation during teaching days?

If this is a one time occurrence, from someone whose contributions exceed her contracted requirements, she should be treated as a professional who needed to make a trip at an inopportune time of year.

If this is a regular occurrence, the policy/her behavior should be investigated and appropriate actions taken.

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Posted by Ellie
a resident of Willowgate
on Feb 12, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Ellie is a registered user.

-MV Resident LASD, thanks for the great points, free of slant. I --will add that overtime and weekend, holiday and vacation work is not tracked.

-Don, there has never been any mystery regarding where and why the principal went to Africa, nor baseless accusations. If you had sent your reported to Castro School she would have discovered quite easily what many already know. She went to Africa to visit her pregnant daughter. How do we know? Because she told many of us teachers, parents and so on that was why she was going. This was never meant to be a secret. Her daughter is not ill, she is pregnant which is a normal condition. Again, that information was put out to everyone at Castro who wanted to know or bothered to listen. The district office decides how they want to couch it.

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Posted by Mo
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Mo is a registered user.

You can all relax now, since the principal is back from her extended vacation.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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