AFNORTH MS/HS (formerly AFCENT Intl. HS) History

Opened: 1967

The original name of AFNORTH Middle/High School was AFCENT International High School. The AFCENT International School was opened as the result of the relocation of HQ AFCENT from Fontainebleau, France to Brunssum, Netherlands. Brunssum is located in the heart of Northwest Europe in an area often referred to as the “balcony of Europe” or “land without frontiers” because of its easy access to several countries. The original school opened its doors to the students of the AFCENT Military Community in September 1967. The school was organized and constructed within six months. The original staff consisted of 115 people (full and parttime for the elementary and high school). There were about fifty personnel for the administrative and operational staff. All teachers were fully qualified through their educational system. The total number of students at AFCENT International School was approximately 1,500 students with fifty percent from the United States, fifteen percent from the United Kingdom, twenty-five percent from Germany, and ten percent from Canada.

All entitled students could attend classes in any section of the school, provided that there was space available. There is strong emphasis in the learning of languages, including a "partner language" program (English and German) at all levels. Students not involved in international classes or courses were encouraged to participate in a variety of student activities and cultural programs involving the students of the four national sections. The German section offered Grundschule, Hauptschule, and Gymnasium courses. Students could complete requirements for the Abitur at the school.

The first yearbook for the high school was the Brunssum Burner and was published in 1968. This yearbook was a paperback yearbook saying, “Hello to windmills, ‘frite’ stands, bike paths and tulip fields”. The first school mascot was the Viking. The school had a dormitory and for the 1969-70 school year there were almost five hundred students enrolled in grades seven through twelve. By the 1971-72 school year, the mascot was the Lion, and the school colors were red and green.

In the ’71 yearbook, AFCENT was described as “not too large to get lost in and not too small that you get picked on all the time – You have room to be yourself”. Organizations at the school in the seventies included the yearbook, school newspaper, a Rocket Club, National Honor Society, Library, and Student Council. Clubs that were added in the seventies included the A-V Club, Lettermen’s Club, an International Student Council, and Girls’ Athletic Association.

The first school band had ten members and the chorus had eighty members. The school band continually improved and by the 1977-78 school year, the band performed for Queen Julianne of the Netherlands for her birthday ceremonies on TV in their first official uniforms. The first drama production was Scrooge in 1973. The drama club presented Wizard in 1979 after three years with no school productions. By the 1973-74 school year AFCENT students were participating annually in the Benelux Arts Festival. During the 1976-77 school year, students participated in an annual Mediterranean Cruise for the first time.

An AFCENT Council was formed to promote international relations. Community projects at the school included Project Reach and the annual Charity Fair. The students also began participating in the Model NATO and Model United Nations programs.

The initial sports programs at the school included varsity and junior varsity football and basketball for boys and wrestling. In 1970, the wrestling team won the Western Regional Championship. Cross country and soccer were added to the sports offerings for the 1972-73 and 1973-74 school years. The AFCENT football team won first place in the Gold Division in 1974. By the 1976-77 school year the high school had a full complement of girls’ sports including gymnastics, coed cross country, volleyball, and basketball.

Administrators in the seventies included Mr. Emil Mika, Mr. Charles Sims, Mr. James Van Dierendonck, Dr. Joseph Brooks, and Mr. Robert Tryon. The school enrollment went from a high of over 480 students for the 1969-70 school year to between 275 to 360 students for the other years in the decade.

The school had a dorm from 1967 until 1978. The dorm students had their own activities as well as participating in schoolwide programs and even published their own bi-monthly newspaper. For the 1977-78 school year there was a dorm exchange between AFCENT and London Central. When the dormitory closed the school enrollment dropped to less than 300 students.

In the eighties the high school enrollment ranged from 340 to 460 students. Mr. John Love was the school director for several years. For the 1987-88 school year the administrators were Dr. Frank Morgan and Dr. Richard Darst. The school included the middle school concepts for grades seven and eight for the 1986-87 school year and Ms. Petra Lopez was the principal for the middle school. The middle school students were divided into houses in order to fully implement a middle school program. The middle and high school began producing separate yearbooks even though they were still one school.

The wrestling team was the Small Schools European Champions for the 1987-88 school year and the football team was the Benenor Champions. The next school year the wrestling team won the European Championship for the fourth time. A swim team and golf team were added to the athletic offerings.

The eighties also celebrated the international aspect of the schools with “Dutch Week”, a five-day cultural, historical, social, and visual-media presentation for the entire school. The newspaper was named Lion Tales after many previous titles.

In the nineties, the middle school had its own sports program including tennis, cross country, basketball, swimming, and international games. A variety of organizations such as Drama, Careers, and Model Building were available to students. Middle school students also participated in district and regional programs like Math Counts, Brain Bowl, National Spelling Bee, and National Geography Bee.

During the 1991-92 school year construction started on a new facility. The new building was officially opened October 8, 1993. The cost of the new school was over forty-three million Dutch Guilders. The new school was opened for the twenty-fifth year of the school.

Administrators in the nineties included principals Frank Morgan and Kay Galloway and assistant/vice principals Joe Cardone, Kimball Spence, and Bill Ryskamp. The school had approximately forty-five faculty and staff. Enrollment in the high school ranged from a high of about 400 students to a low of 240 students for the 1998-99 school year.

New activities and organizations during the nineties included an exchange program with students in Czechoslovakia, an African-American study group, the first Spanish Club, Model International Parliament, Peer Mediators, Creative Connections, and a school recycling program. The music program now had a Show Choir, Advanced Concert Band, Pep Band, and a Jazz Band. Some music students were also inducted into the Tri-M Music Honor Society. The very active Art Club had visits from professional artists and displayed student work in several venues including the yearbooks. The yearbooks included German classes along with the American students. New sports at the school included baseball, softball, and boys’ and girls’ soccer. The swim team was the ORCAS International Swim Team. The football team won the European Small Schools Championship in the fall of 1994 with an average of forty-seven points per game. For the 1994-95 school year, Air Force JROTC and CWE were added to the curriculum.

In the 1999-2000 school year, the Multicultural Student Association was formed. The school was renamed AFNORTH International School for the 2000-01 school year. During the first decade of the new millennium, the school administrators included Douglas Carlson, Connie Ennix, Mrs. Forbis, Dr. Eldridge Groomes, Ms. Mantel, and Dr. Ellen Minette. The high school enrollment for the decade was from 250 to 275 ninth through twelfth grade students and about 150 seventh and eighth graders.

Students continued to participate in district and regional programs. The tennis team and cheerleaders took first and second place in the European Championships for the 2002-03 school year. During the 2005-06 school year the football team was the Division III North Champs. Students from AFNORTH participated in their first Robotics Competition in 2006-07. The 2009-10 yearbook contained both the middle school and the high school. There were no longer separate yearbooks for the middle and high school students.

During the next decade, new school administrators were Dr. Doris Brodie, assistant principal; Dr. Gloria Hajat, principal; Mary Zimmerman-Bayer, principal; and Todd Church, assistant principal. The school held an annual Terry Fox run and raised over 5,000 Euros for cancer research in 2017. In the fall of 2015, the school did not have enough students for a football team. The school principals of AFNORTH and Brussels American School decided to combine the two school teams so both schools could compete. The team was the BruNorth SeaLions. The combined team wore the AFNORTH uniforms for home games and the Brussels school colors for away games. Parents and students welcomed the creative solution to provide for the sport.

The school enrollment for grades seven through twelve was over 420 for the 2009-10 school year and dropped to just over 300 students by the 2013-14 school year. In 2014-15 the sixth grade was added to the school, and the enrollment was still under 350 students. By the fall of 2018, the football team played six-man football in order to have a team.

Currently, students in grades 9–12 are offered a challenging and well-rounded educational program. There are Advanced Placement classes in English 12, U.S History, Biology, Computer Programming, Calculus, Physics, and German. Distance learning is also available as an option for courses that are not currently being offered. Foreign language options include German, French, and Spanish. In addition to the core subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies, there are subjects such as Drama, Art, Humanities, Choral and Instrumental Music, Electronics, Industrial Technology, Business, Journalism, Yearbook Production, and Cooperative Work Experience and activities such as student government, athletics, and the government simulations (The Hague Model United Nations, Model International Parliament, Model NATO, Harvard Model Congress Europe) that enrich the curriculum. Academic study trips, athletic competitions, and grade-level trips take the students to places such as Belgium, England, France, Germany, Scotland, Italy, and Spain.

For the 2021-22 school year, Alice Berard is the principal and David (Todd) Church is the assistant principal. There are currently approximately 370 students in grades six through twelve.


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

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