Paris Can Wait! An Interview With Dr. Judy Fish!
Be creative. Make connections. Live with integrity. These are the words imprinted on the business card and heart of Judy Fish. After retiring as superintendent of the Saugus Union School District, Judy has had much to keep her busy over the past six years as she continues to live out her mantra with every responsibility she takes on. “Life is not just about having fun, she said, “Life is about a sense of purpose and feeling that you are giving and involved in making a difference.”
Although Judy lives in Ventura, she doesn’t let distance keep her from the Santa Clarita community she’s grown to love. As Board Chair for the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, she oversees the quality of the facilities to help further healthcare developments. This is accomplished through several committees in which board members audit and evaluate enhancements, plan strategically, account for operating budgets, and improve patient care on behalf of the hospital. Judy has served as a volunteer on the board for 11 years and has already witnessed dramatic growth. She is even more excited for the opportunity to learn from mentors who led before her and take part in the positive-moving direction of this organization.
With such important work still to be done with the hospital, Judy has had to cut back on her frequent trips to Paris where she keeps an apartment and many dear friends. After retiring, she set out to achieve her life-long dream of traveling to a country in Europe for the next year and a half to immerse herself in the culture and explore the city. She decided on Paris once taking a French class in high school and has continued with lessons in the language. Now, Judy visits every two to three months and has spent quite a bit of time in the archives researching moral leadership in education and the role of the school system during World War II in France. Judy has always had an interest in ethical issues, seeing as her Ph.D. dissertation topic focused on teacher’s responses to mandated school testing and the pressure it creates amongst students. “Learning is a lifetime event and what I have been learning has just been so fascinating,” Judy said.
Her interest in education sparked at the age of 19 when Judy first became an elementary teacher in Canada and later came to California to teach reading and music. She completed her doctoral work at UCLA in policy studies and administration in education and spent 23 years with the Palmdale School District. Finally she made her way to the Saugus Union School District as superintendent and although the next 11 years presented its challenges, the rewards were far greater. During her term, the Saugus School Board worked as a unified team undergoing seven modernization projects and building three new elementary schools—Tesoro de Valle, Bridgeport, and West Creek Academy. “A year before I retired we opened up West Creek Academy with an emphasis in music and that was a wonderful feeling, as if I came full-circle in giving the music back to instill valuing the arts as part of a child’s education,” Judy said.
Music has always been a passion for Judy, so much so that she had always assumed she would become a conductor. Unfortunately, she was discouraged early on by her high school conductor who told her that women could not go into that field. Judy looks back on that now and thinks “well, then ‘I’ll be the first!” but as a kid, there were really no women role models to look up to. Judy continued to play her obo and later picked up her first string instrument, the cello, and has not put it down since. She’s proud to say she plays with the Topanga Symphony, an orchestra of such accepting and encouraging people. “You dream it, you can do it. Or you can try to do it,” she said. With support from her three grown daughters and five grandchildren, Judy is truly living the dream and making her mark.