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Singing Saugus' praises

School district celebrates its centennial

Posted: October 26, 2008 7:26 p.m.
Updated: December 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Plum Canyon Elementary School students sing of Plum Canyon's pride at the Saugus Union School District's 100-year anniversary celebration Sunday.

When Harry McGruder was in eighth grade, he ran track, played baseball and danced the fox trot to the sounds of Frank Sinatra at the school dances.

It was 1940 at Saugus School and McGruder was one of only 185 students at the school, he said. He had only eight classmates in his eighth grade class.

"It was a wonderful school," he said. "It was the best time I ever had."

He spent his free time picking potatoes on his parents' 110-acre farm in Bouquet Canyon and later helped organize square dances.

McGruder and other former students, teachers and administrators recalled their time at the Saugus Union School District schools at the district's centennial anniversary celebration at Bridgeport Park in Valencia Sunday.

About 3,000 attended the event that featured booths representing the districts past and present schools.

The first Saugus school opened in 1908 thanks to three families that each pitched in $100 to cover the cost of construction for the tiny wooden schoolhouse.

The district now has 15 pre-schools and elementary schools with 11,000 students and more than 500 teachers.

Lois Carwile taught fourth grade at Saugus School in 1950 when there were just 250 students and one teacher per grade, she said. She beamed with pride at the progress of the district.

"I've kept track of the schools. They don't mess around," she said. "They really teach. They put the students first and a lot of districts don't."

Students and parents at Sunday's celebration seemed to agree.

"Plum Canyon is the best elementary school in the world," said Andrew Garcia, a sixth grader and student body president at Plum Canyon Elementary School. "Next year, as I enter middle school, many things will change. Leaving Plum Canyon I will also be leaving memories. The cool thing about memories is that you can pass them on from sibling to sibling and friend to friend."

John Stulman, who has two kids at Charles Helmers Elementary School, said the education is "complete and thorough."

"We moved out here from the South Bay area for housing reasons and the diamond in the rough is the school district," he said.

A booth representing the district's alumni featured albums of black and white photos documenting the district's history.

District Superintendent Judy Fish said it took a full year to prepare for the anniversary celebration.

"We have captured our history in a big way," she said. "One hundred years from now, (the memorabilia) will be antique."

She said the district's teachers will use the old photos and newspaper clippings as part of the local history curriculum for third graders.

Fish said the school board has always been forward-thinking and will continue to be.

"We've had schools when we had the students," she said. "And we build on the success of the past."

"Over the next 100 years, we will continue the Saugus culture of community and excellence in education," said Rose Diaz, a member of the Saugus board. "And ensure academic and personal


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