Brussels ES/HS (formerly Brussels American School) History

Opened: 1967

The school, which was constructed in 1967, is located on an attractive 17-acre campus and has a separate elementary school building. The school is located in the greenbelt surrounding Brussels in the quaint town of Sterrebeek, a Flemish speaking commune. According to the 1971 yearbook, “When construction began in a former Belgian apple orchard in the summer of 1967, no one really believed that the American school would open that fall…”. The school officially opened October 15, 1967. As a result of the late opening, students had to attend Saturday classes for several months. The school grounds were still covered in mud, planks were used as passage over drainage ditches, and the pounding of hammers was the background sound for the classes. Even with these difficulties, Brussels American School received its certification from the North Central Accreditation Association.

The students credited the efforts of the first principal, Gordon Gartner, for the success of the first year. The school had a full sports schedule—football, basketball, track, tennis, and soccer—that year. Activities included a school newspaper, a drama club, and National Honor Society.

The first yearbook, Les Brigands, was published for the 1968-69 school year. Mr. Carl F. Gamberoni was the principal for the elementary part of the school. There were sixteen high school teachers and twelve elementary teachers. The total school population was about 500 students with just over 230 students in the high school. The school had its first Homecoming Court. The drama club produced three one-act plays. School clubs included the French Club, Lettermen’s Club, Bridge Club, and a Literary Magazine Club. The newspaper was the Blade, and the school mascot was the Brigand. The school colors were blue and white.

In the seventies, the high school enrollment ranged from 210 students for the 1971-72 school year to 270 pupils the next school year. Most years the high school had about 225 students. The elementary enrollment was about 220 students each year. Brussels is one of the few DoDDS schools where there are more students in the high school than in the elementary school. The school began as a grade one to twelve school, and kindergarten was added for the 1973-74 school year. The 1973 graduating class had five students who attended Brussels since it opened in 1967, and the 1976 yearbook was dedicated to eleven teachers who had been at the school since it began.

Brussels participated in all DoDDS sports and even had a rugby team for the 1971-72 school year. The school had its first girls’ basketball team, the Purple Panthers, for the 1972-73 school year. A full schedule of women’s sports was in place for the 1975-76 school year which included girls’ basketball, volleyball, and softball with coed teams for track and tennis.

Administrators for Brussels American School in the 1970s included Anthony Reddy, Joseph Jirik, Olan Knight, David Twohy, Dr. Raymond Walsh, Thomas Cavanaugh, and Thomas Wilson.

Several special interest clubs were available for students during the seventies. These included a Boys’ Chef’s Club, Photo Club, Medical Arts Club, VAT (Visual, Art, Travel) Club, and a War Games Club. The high school and elementary school participated in the various opportunities for travel. The fifth grade attended a ski school in Fiesch, Switzerland. High school students attended Project Reach in England, picked grapes in France, and attended sports events in several European countries. During the mid-seventies, the school newspaper was published by individuals or small groups of journalism students and the name changed frequently. By the 1978-79 school year, the newspaper returned as a school publication, The Blade. During the 1975-76 school year, Model United Nations and Model NATO programs were instituted.

For the 1980-81 school year there were 400 pupils in grades K–12. There were twenty-nine classrooms in the two school buildings. An additional building housed the administrative offices, the high school library, the industrial arts room, the art room, and a teachers’ lounge. The grounds included tennis courts, baseball and football fields, and facilities for track and field events. There was also an adventure playground for use by the elementary students. In addition to the classroom teachers, the school had the services of two full-time administrators and a counselor. Other staff included a health educator, reading specialist, art teacher, two physical education teachers, and a teacher for learning disabilities.

In the fall of 1980, the Brussels football team were Benelux Champions. They finished the decade with a winning season after eight years of losing seasons. The school also added a Powder Puff football game between the senior and junior girls as part of the homecoming festivities. The Lettermen’s Club was now the Varsity Club and recognized male and female athletes. A gymnastics team was added for the 1982-83 sports season and for the second year the school had a NATO swim team, the Blue Dolphins. The team included students from five NATO countries and had their championships at the Olympic swimming pool in Munich. The ladies’ basketball team won their first European Championship during the 1989-90 school year.

Several new school activities were added during the eighties. These included the first Leadership Conference (1985-86), Computer Club (1985-86), drill team (1987-88), Brain Bowl, and Math Counts (1989-90). Students continued to participate in school activities in other countries and field trips to local venues. In February 1987, the French Club spearheaded a clothing drive for a local orphanage.

The school enrollment decreased during the 1980’s. The high enrollment was 361 students in the 1980-81 school year and just under 300 students by the 1989-90 school year. For the 1989-90 school year, Brussels was the smallest high school in DoDDS Europe. The school administrators included principals Barbara Ferg-Carter and Dr. Jennifer Beckwith and deputy/vice principals Mr. Kimberly Spence, Ms. Lucia Tyler, and Mr. William Ryall. On the twentieth anniversary of the school in 1987, there were eight teachers who had been on the staff since the school’s opening.

The 1990-91 school year was the first year of the middle school concept at Brussels. That same year the 2nd Annual Odyssey of the Mind Tournament was held at the school. World events brought on the activities of Operation “Shoe Box”, where care packages were made for military members involved in Desert Storm, and Operation “Dinner Plate” where military members who were guarding the Brussels’ facilities were invited to local homes for a meal and friendship. Operation “Dinner Plate” was conceived by a high school senior. Even with the heighten security, middle school students were able to attend a snow school in Switzerland.

Several new activities were added for students in the nineties. These included the Green Acres Club which dealt with environmental issues and the School Beautification Committee. Middle school students participated in the European Spelling Bee and the National Geography Bee. The elementary school started a Jump Rope Club and had a wrestling team. A chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) was started for the 1998-99 school year.

The first year of the nineties was a banner year for school sports. The football team won the conference, the volleyball team placed second in the conference, the tennis team had a winning season, the wrestling team took second place in the conference, the boys’ basketball team were conference champions, and the girls’ basketball team won the European Championship. Quite an accomplishment for a small school. Women’s soccer was added to the athletic schedule during the 1993-94 school year. A new elementary playground was completed for the 1992-93 school year.

The school enrollment for the nineties averaged 300 students. Dennis McGuane became the principal for the 1992-93 school year, followed by Hal Haggard (1996-97) and Dr. Benjamin Briggs (1997-98). The deputy principal during most of the nineties was Dr. Roger Macray. On the thirtieth anniversary of the school, there were still five of the original teachers on the staff.

During the first decade of the new millennium, the school enrollment remained at 300. The diverse student body represented as many as twenty-two different countries. Golf was added as a sport in the 2000-01 school year. Twelve BAS students were part of the community band which was formed in the late nineties and played at school and community functions. Drama remained a student activity for the high school and elementary students. Ms. Debbie Berry became the principal for the 2002-03 school year, and Ms. Cheryl Aeillo became the new assistant principal for the 2004-05 school year. The first multi-age elementary class was formed during the 2005-06 school year. The class had seventeen students in grades one, two, and three.

Brussels American School (BAS) is currently a kindergarten through twelfth grade school with 289 students. There is a teaching staff of thirty-three teachers. Support positions include an Information Specialist, Reading Support, Educational Technologist, English as a Second Language, Gifted Education, and a Counselor. A PSCD (Preschool for Children with Disabilities) is offered.

The elementary grades have one self-contained classroom at each grade level. Elementary students receive weekly instruction in physical education, host nation (French and Dutch), art, music, library science, computer science, and enrichment.

The school offers a variety of Advanced Placement courses for the high school students, such as Calculus, French, Statistics, World History, Language, Literature, Chemistry, and Physics.

The administrators for the 2021-22 school were Collette Tate and Steve Smith.


Information from DoDDS School Information Guides, school yearbooks, and websites

Share This: