The North Middlesex Regional School District continues to be one of the largest regional districts in New England, with an educational staff of approximately 600 and a budget for the 1999-2000 school year of $30.3 million. Student enrollment in the district dropped for the first time in many years, from 4,916 in October 1998 to 4,845 in October 1999, although with new housing starts continuing in all three towns, this is not expected to be a continuing trend.

As of the April town elections, the School Committee was reorganized due to changes made in the district agreement, with the total number of members now being nine. Three members will be elected at large every three years to represent all three towns, the first three district-wide reps having been elected this year from a slate of five candidates. In addition, three representatives will be elected during the intervening two years from Pepperell, two from Townsend, and one from Ashby. At it's annual reorganization meeting, Ashby representative Karl Bernhardt was elected Chairman of the School Committee, with Patricia Thorpe of Pepperell elected Vice-Chair.

The District has continued or completed work on several major initiatives begun in the last few years. The School Committee hired a consultant to guide the district through a strategic planning process that included wide-ranging representation from parents, teachers, the administration, and our three member communities. This has resulted in a five-year strategic plan that gives the district overall direction for the beginning of the new millennium and provides a comprehensive framework to coordinate new and existing initiatives and programs. The Committee and administration will update this plan annually and use it as a guide in developing programs and budget priorities.

The District continues to maintain a student/teacher ratio of 25 to I or less in our classrooms, and comprehensive programs continue to integrate special needs students as much and as effectively as possible into our regular classes. The full-day kindergarten program has proven very successful and was expanded this year at the Peter Fitzpatrick School. A very successful community outreach program to help new parents give their infants a good start for future educational success is growing at the Spaulding Memorial School in Townsend.

The Pepperell Building Committee determined that a new middle school for 800 sixth through eighth grade students is the best solution to meet Pepperell's school space needs for the next ten to fifteen years. They hired The Design Partnership of Cambridge as the architect to design the new building and guide the project through the approval process and construction. The project will be submitted to the state in time for fiscal 2001 approval for state reimbursement at the rate of 73%. Once approved by Pepperell voters later this spring, construction is expected to begin before the end of 2000 on a portion of the former Glow property adjacent to Varnum Brook Middle School.

Capital projects completed by the district this year included: a $2.5 million project to replace the roof and gym windows at the high school, as well as upgrade the ventilation system; expansion and repaving of the high school parking lot; creation of a new field and renovation of the baseball field at the high school; replacement of the oil tank at Ashby Elementary School; building of a storage garage at Spaulding Memorial School; upgrade of the portable classrooms at Peter Fitzpatrick School for use until the new middle school is completed; purchase of computers, hardware, and software to fulfill year four of the district's five-year technology plan. With the high school roof repaired, further building improvements will be undertaken during the next two budget cycles.

The staff and administration of the district continue to work diligently to implement the mandates of the 1994 Massachusetts Educational Reform Act. Curriculum committees met throughout the year to insure that our current curriculum matches the updated state Curriculum Frameworks and appropriately prepares our students for the MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) tests administered each year to fourth, eighth, and tenth grade students. This year's present freshman class (Class of 2003) will be the first class for whom passing the tenth grade tests will be one requirement for graduation from high school. At all grade levels, our students have met or exceeded average state performance levels on these tests. The staff is implementing comprehensive remedial programs, including a Summer Academy, to address the needs of students who have failed these tests and are at risk academically.

The district has completed implementation of year four of its five-year technology plan, and that plan was recently revised for the next five-year period. All schools have met or are very close to meeting the goal of having and using at least one computer in every classroom; and with completion of network installation at Peter Fitzpatrick School this year, all schools will be networked together and will have internet access. With most necessary hardware purchased and installed, the focus of goals for the future is shifting from equipment and installation to development of software and more comprehensive staff training to effectively use technology as a classroom tool.

In the wake of escalating incidents of violence in schools nationwide, and serious incidents of threats over the internet at Hawthorne Brook Middle School, the district has carefully reviewed its safety policies and procedures in all schools. Stricter measures are being enforced to control access to our buildings, and guidance and teaching staff are receiving training to enable them to better identify potential problems. District administration and staff have developed a formal "Emergency Response Protocol" to ensure that all safety issues will be promptly and consistently addressed in the best possible way.

Our towns have much to be proud of in the accomplishments of our staff and students. Many of our staff members have won awards and special recognitions over the last year, including a first year teacher, Michelle Gandee, receiving the prestigious Sallie Mae Award, a national award given to only one teacher per state for outstanding first year teaching. Approximately 80% of our high school graduates go on to two-year or four-year colleges. Our students continue to excel at the state and regional levels in our band, drama, and art programs as well as in several academic competitions; and one of our high school Odyssey of the Mind (OM) teams won the outstanding honor of first place at the OM World Finals last May.

The present School Committee and administration are proud and honored to serve our communities and welcome your response and input as we pursue and achieve our long range goals.

Respectfully submitted,

Diane B. Karr

Secretary, North Middlesex Regional School District School Committee