Alumni Ask

Thank you SO much for your support, now and over the years.

Family Co-op thrives because of love from all our parents, students, community, and because of generous donations.

Please donate to our Alumni Ask Fundraiser with the button right below.

(check to the school is also completely fine and appreciated)

Letter from Our Chairperson of the Board of Directors


Who is that short gray-haired lady who keeps showing up at Annual Meetings and other Parent Meetings to share the history of Family Cooperative Preschool? That would be me, Barbara Hartrich, parent of two daughters who came to the school from 1988-1993. I discovered the school when we moved to North Andover while pregnant with our older daughter and bought the little house next to the red barn (now a beautiful home) on Osgood St. practically across the street from Edgewood Farm. It felt like fate, even then. Moreover, I was born the very same year Family Kindergarten (the school’s precursor) started – 1952.

Both my daughters loved Family Co-op and their awesome teachers Sylvia and Deedee (the practice of calling them Mrs. Stephenson and Mrs. Roberts came after they “graduated”). But I was the one for whom it became a life-long community and even a calling, gracing me with wonderful friends and colleagues.

I became Chairperson of the Board of Directors in 1993 – asked to fill in for the then-current Chair who said she was stepping aside briefly while her youngest daughter was at the school. Little did I know at the time that I would still be here – 28 years later! I’ve often said that if I couldn’t stay connected to the school by continuing to have more children, the next best thing would be to join the Board.

I have loved working with all the people I’ve met through the years – some who were parents during the first years when the school was a kindergarten and some who are the ages of my own children. What I’m realizing as I write this is that there is a long, long chain of people who have cared about our little school over its 69 years. Those Founding Parents who had a vision. The Charles/Stevens Family who supported that vision – in 1952 when we needed funds to open, in 1981 when we needed a new site after a fire burned down our location in the Old Center, and in 2002 when they enabled us to stay in perpetuity near the conservation protected Half Mile and Weir Hill properties. The outstanding Directors and Teachers – who have held steadfast to the core philosophy of child-centered, play-based learning and parent involvement despite societal pressures, and who embrace the outdoors no matter what the weather. And all the parents, hundreds of parents, who have become part of the Family Co-op community – many from the time they were children at the school, themselves.

Family Cooperative Preschool – since its very beginnings - has relied on fundraising to balance our operating budget so that, among other things, we can offer financial aid and pay off the loan we took when we purchased the school in 2002. In recent years we have turned more to current parents for fundraising. But this year, we are looking to you as well - our long chain of Family Cooperative Preschool supporters - because the need is especially great due to the COVID pandemic. The choice we faced was to close temporarily or operate at-a-loss. We chose to stay open – because the thought of young children (who are only young once) not having the opportunity to play with friends at Family Co-op, under the guidance of our extraordinary staff, was unthinkable. But even with forgivable government loans through the CARES Act, the hit to our Reserves is close to $20,000.

Your support and generosity are truly appreciated! We want to be there for all the future families so that they, too, can become links in an ever-growing chain of people who love that little yellow schoolhouse “on the farm” that we call Family Co-op.

Letter from Sylvia

Do you ever wonder how Family Cooperative Preschool got started? Well, let me tell you!

I was 4 years old in 1951 and in a playgroup with three little friends: Diane, Richard, and Peter. My parents, Bill and Miriam, and my friends’ parents, approached the town of North Andover with the idea of starting public kindergarten. We would be turning 5 in 1952. Their idea was rejected, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Why? Because then these ambitious parents established Family Kindergarten Inc. with the help of a substantial grant by a gracious benefactor – Mrs. Mary Charles, formerly Stevens, of the North Andover Stevens family.

Our kindergarten had the same cooperative and educational philosophy Family Cooperative Preschool has today. It was located in the Old North Andover Center, close to where the Youth Center is now.

I have such fond memories of being in that first class! I loved my teacher, Miss Woodworth. We each had a turn to have lunch at her house and she showed us black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons with a projector. I remember her always wearing a dress (has that ever been done since?). Some of my favorite activities were building with the big blocks (they were so heavy!), dressing up in the doll corner, having graham crackers and apple juice for snack, and playing outside. I loved it when my Mom had her turn to be the parent helper (wearing a dress of course). And I remember being sad when I didn’t have a pet for the Pet Show. My awesome Dad went out and bought me a live lobster to bring to school. It was a real hit! Guess what we had for supper that night?

In 1969 public kindergarten was mandated so Family Kindergarten became Family Cooperative Preschool. A fire damaged our building in 1981, which happened to be the same year I was hired as Teacher/Director. Once again, Mrs. Charles helped us – she provided much needed funds to renovate an adorable yellow house she owned adjacent to Edgewood Farm. And that is where we remain today.

Family Kindergarten and Family Cooperative Preschool both have special memories for me. My parents helped start Family Kindergarten. I went there as a 5 year old; my Mom taught there (1960-64). Our two children, one of my sisters, a niece and nephew – all attended Family Cooperative Preschool. And I was Teacher/Director, always with a phenomenal staff, from 1981-2013.

I find it heart-warming to know the school and its philosophy continue to thrive to this day. As a little boy said to me in 1992: “The thing I like mostly about Farm School is it makes me feel good in my heart.”

Sylvia Stephenson

Sylvia and her mother, Miriam

Deedee Roberts

Other half of the Sylvia and Deedee duo.

Standing: Mr. & Mrs. Dean Ross and William E. AndrewsSeated: Mrs. Williams E. Andrews (left) And Mrs. Tomas A Ceplikas

From left to right: Pat Constantineau, Miriam Andrews Morrell, Nancy Melvin, Allison Ceplikas, and Louise Breen

The Mitten Shadow Show

Deedee and her grandson.

Visiting the horses.

Sylvia examining leaves.

Arrival of the train! ( late 1990's)

Some Quotes from Kiddos over the years

  • 1991 Lance: “The last day of last tomorrow my brother has his birthday. That was quick, right?”

  • Unknown: “Someday I wont see you very much. I’m going to college someday.”

  • Josh @ snack table: “I know how to spill all by myself.”

  • Benji: “My dream got so scary and I couldn’t change the channels.”

  • 1994 Katherine driving up to LunchBunch: “I just can’t keep this smile off my face.”

  • 1992 Luke: “The thing I like mostly about Farm school is it makes me feel good in my heart.”

  • Sam looking at the snack: Who brought this meager offering?”

  • Andrea “ I get to quit school tomorrow (last day of school)Chris (as an alumni), looked @ doll corner: “What’s this? Is it still a modern home?”

  • Nick, looking at doll corner: “There's a feast of dolls in here!”

  • Sara: “I’m afraid of carrot cake.”

  • Unknown: “My dad said if I stayed in my room all night I could watch Home Improvement.”

  • 1991 Biff: “You have to be real brave about perspiration you know” (he was helping to bring in heavy item on a hot day)

Cynthia, Deedee, and Sylvia

And to end, a collection of class photos. Out of order and certainly not every year, but each adorable just the same.
PM 1987-1988
PM 1985-1986
PM 1986-1987
AM 1986-1987
AM 1987-1988
PM 1988-1989
PM 1997-1998
AM 2006
AM 2006
PM 2006