James Edward McHugh, Jr.

September 4, 1957 - February 18, 2023

by Katie Hale (she/her)

Jim McHugh, beloved Petaluma High School math teacher, passed away on Feb. 18, 2023 after battling cancer for 14 years. McHugh worked in the Petaluma City School district for 36 years, teaching math at Kenilworth Junior High School for 11 years and at PHS for 25 years. 

Despite undergoing chemotherapy during his years of teaching, McHugh continued to give his best to his students. He was passionate about providing students with a quality education which was displayed through his many contributions to the school and community. 

Leading the math department at PHS, McHugh was a mentor for the staff. He pioneered the introduction of CPM math— the math program that most math courses use— and ran Site Council, the group of parents, students and administrators who develop and monitor a school's improvement plan, for many years.

McHugh was born and raised in Oakland, California. He spent his entire academic journey attending Catholic schools up until college. After graduating from Bishop O'Dowd High School, where he played football, he pursued a degree in Civil Engineering at UC Berkeley. Later, he obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education and a Minor in Mathematics from CSU Chico. In his late twenties, he decided to return to school and obtained his teaching credentials from Sonoma State University.

After recently retiring from PHS in June 2022, McHugh remained a model figure for his own children and a large community of students, inspiring them with his passion for education. Undeterred from battling cancer for over a decade, McHugh kept a strong and determined spirit. He never allowed his health struggles to interfere with his teaching, fatherhood or personal pursuits. In his free time, McHugh enjoyed traveling to Maui, spending summers at his family cabin in Buck’s Lake and attending his children's sports events. He also cherished spending time with his two grandchildren and hosting friends and family at his backyard tiki bar, where he loved listening to Jimmy Buffett music and sharing his gift of storytelling. 

McHugh is survived by his wife Kathleen and their children: Danielle (Pono) Ordonez, Cameron McHugh, Sr. and Markie McHugh, along with two grandchildren: Kauamaikalani Ordonez and Cameron McHugh, Jr..