McGrath to Retire After 41 Years in Peabody Schools
South School Principal Maryellen McGrath says being a teacher was a lifelong ambition -- a dream that started when she was a little girl growing up in Peabody.
Maryellen McGrath joked that she was 12 when she first decided to become a teacher in her hometown. The length of her career in Peabody would almost bear that out.
McGrath, 62, has spent 41 years in the city's elementary schools and will finally be retiring on Jan. 31.
"This was a very difficult decision for me. I was eligible for full retirement six years ago, but I was able to fulfill one of my personal goals of becoming a principal," McGrath wrote in a letter Nov. 2 notifying Superintendent Joe Mastrocola of her plans.
"Each year I have considered retirement, but I have found it impossible to leave the dedicated consummate educators, the wonderful staff, and my love for the students here at the South Memorial School," she wrote.
McGrath graduated from Salem State, began teaching and eventually got her master's degree at Lesley College and then further certification at Cambridge College. Six years ago she was the assistant principal at the Center School and eligible to retire, but just didn't feel ready.
"As luck would have it, I wound up getting a principal's position at what I say is the best school in Peabody," she said.
McGrath, who grew up in the downtown and now lives in West Peabody, said it was her "lifelong ambition to be a teacher." In fact, she "loved getting up every morning and coming to school."
She said she was fortunate in her career to "work with some wonderful people, wonderful children and wonderful parents."
In addition to her education career, McGrath and her family own a restaurant up in North Conway, N.H. and she works a second job as a travel agent.
School Committee members praised McGrath Tuesday night as a "wonderful," "kind," "devoted" and "talented" administrator and leader at the South and in her previous roles as a teacher.
"You've made Peabody a better place, said Ed Charest. "I was sad that we had you for so short a time as an administrator because you're so good at it."
McGrath noted that over the years she was fortunate to watch her students grow up and see their children pass through her classrooms as well. Some School Committee members also had long histories with McGrath -- Charest as a parent at the Center School, Dave McGeney as a longtime board member and Tom Rossignoll as a student.
"We go back even to the Brown School, where I was a student," said Rossignoll with a smile. He said her "dedication and devotion" to the city and its students was "impeccable."
McGeney said "luck" had nothing to do with McGrath's promotion six years ago. "It was your talents as an administrator," he said.
"Education is rapidly becoming about numbers and statistics, but you remind us it's about people," McGeney said.
Mastrocola likewise said he was sorry to see McGrath go, praising her as a top educator. He said he would be setting up a transitional leadership plan with McGrath and report back to the committee within the next two to three weeks.
McGrath says she's retiring mid-year due to the quirks of the state's retirement system.