But while he is relaxed and smiling, he knows he has some pretty big shoes to fill.
He is replacing recently retired Principal Patty Holubec.
“I cannot replace Mrs. Holubec,” said Crittenden, who comes from Mildred Independent School District near Corsicana where he served as junior high principal. “All I can do is replace the principal. “All I can do is replace the principal.
“She is a legend from what I am being told.”
While this could be intimidating to some, Crittenden is confident he will make his mark and improve the school.
“I have never seen that as an obstacle,” he said. “I see that as fuel to push me further.”
Crittenden’s career as a coach is impressive.
He had a district title and two straight playoff appearances during his time. But in 2007, he gave up coaching to become a full-time junior high principal at Mildred.
“The main thing I can say about Justin what he is going to bring is a great energy to the position,” Belmarez said. “He has fresh ideas.
“His instincts are all in the right place.”
Having experience as both a coach and an administrator will be a benefit to both the school and the students.
“He knows the athletic side, the extracurricular side and the academic side,” Belmarez said. “All that together makes me think he is going to be a fine fit for this school district community.
“He has that and he also has a wide variance in his own kids so he knows kids and he knows today’s kids how their minds work and what makes them tick.”
Crittenden and his wife, Jennifer, have five children – Paige who attends Texas A&M in Corpus Christi, Reagan, a senior, Ian, 7th grade, Ronan, 6th grade, and Anna, 4th grade.
Taking the job
The decision to come to Skidmore-Tynan was an easy decision to make although it was quick.
He wasn’t looking for a job at the time – he just stumbled into this one thanks to a friend’s call.
“A friend called and said there was a really good job opening,” he said. “I didn’t have a resume or anything.”
Crittenden drafted a quick letter and work history and fired it off to Superintendent Dr. Brett Belmarez.
“We talked on the phone for quite a while,” said Crittenden. “We seemed to have a good rapport.”
Then, after interviewing in person, he was offered the job.
“We decided to make the move and haven’t looked back,” he said. “My kids are excited because they get to live near the beach.
“They are typical coach and teacher kids. Home is where we are.”
Tweaking the school
Crittenden isn’t expecting any big changes within the school.
“Right now we are just getting our feet wet,” he said.
He wants to take sometime to see what is working and what could use some tweaking.
A native of Oklahoma, his accent becomes a bit stronger when he speaks sometimes.
“Don’t tear down a fence until you have seen what is in the pasture,” he recalls of an old cowboy saying.
Thoughts and expressions like these come second nature to him.
My family is all cattlemen and cowboys,” he said. “I am the black sheep of the family.”
While he is educated, the first in his family to receive a college degree, he comes from a long line of cowboys.
“It was a given I would go to college,” he said. “Even though (my parents) didn’t go to college, that was their bug push – ‘You are going to college.’”
And he is taking that lesson to the students of S-TISD.
“That is going to be our big push here,” he said. “They are going to college and they are going to get a degree.”
He knows the alternative and it is a hard life.
Being a cowboy he said, “is a good life. But when a cowboy retires their is no health insurance and no benefits.
“You have to be tough to make that kind of living.”
Choosing rural life
A father of five with four still in school and one in college, Critteneden said that he prefers raising his family in small, rural districts like Skidmore-Tynan.
One child, Reagan, will even be at the high school with her father – something that would seem like a nightmare to most children but is becoming commonplace for his youngsters.
“They have to rise above the other students,” he said. There is no special treatment.
On summer break
Skidmore-Tynan is quiet now.
Neither his children nor any of the other students are on campus.
It’s summer vacation.
With this being his first full week on his own, he has yet to organize his office.
He doesn’t even have his nameplate yet on the door.
“My stuff is still packed at home,” he said. “The family moves down in July. That is when I will bring everything down.”
Until that time, his office will likely remain sparse but for a couple of computers and a few piles of paperwork.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.