Dr. J. Michael McGrath

I would like to adjourn the meeting in memory of John Michael McGrath, a longtime member of the Santa Clarita community, and a respected leader in the education field, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 83.

McGrath was the longest-serving superintendent of the Newhall School District, serving as the leader of the district for 25 years – from 1972 to 1997.

He is the namesake of McGrath Elementary School, just off of Deputy Jake Drive in Newhall, which opened in 2003.

McGrath dedicated his professional life to education, specifically to students and families in Newhall.

He was born on March 31, 1937, to parents Kenneth and Ruth in Auburn, New York.

The McGrath family relocated to California by 1952, and in 1959, his mother was hired as a kindergarten teacher at Newhall School.

McGrath was studying political science at Georgetown University at the time and was the first member of the McGrath family to go to college.

When he came home to visit in 1961, he took a job as a substitute teacher in Newhall.

From that moment on, he knew that being an educator is what he wanted to do.

He eventually was hired as a 6th grade teacher at Newhall Elementary before being named Vice Principal for Newhall District schools in 1964.

That same year, he married the love of his life, Dorothy, and the couple became some of the first residents of Old Orchard I, and never left.

McGrath continued his studies at the former Valley State College – now CSUN – before earning his doctorate from USC.

About a month later, he was named superintendent for the Newhall School District.

McGrath oversaw tremendous growth in the district during his tenure and opened three schools, which resulted in more than double the enrollment numbers by the time he retired in 1997.

Under his guidance, two district schools earned National Blue Ribbon awards, and five were named California Distinguished Schools.

McGrath was also committed to ensuring the district set the standard for what it is able to offer students.

He opened a never-before-seen central kitchen for Newhall schools that raised the bar for other districts in the region.

He also worked closely with community leaders and parents to help restore the treasured Newhall Family Theatre, which reopened to the public in 2018 after more than four decades.

We are thankful for Dr. McGrath’s leadership, support and guidance, which helped shape the City of Santa Clarita and laid the groundwork to provide students in our community with the resources and high-quality education they deserve.

We are deeply saddened by Dr. McGrath’s passing and our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.

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