, Newburyport, MA

February 4, 2013

Triton merger report in the works

Study group to present findings next month

By Michelle Pelletier Marshall

---- — BYFIELD — Triton Regional District’s 16-member Secondary School Merger Committee is preparing next month to present its findings on the feasibility of merging the district’s middle and high schools.

Cheryl Williams, the outside facilitator from WestEd hired by the district to lead the committee, said last week the group is gathering the summaries and recommendations from members’ research topics relating to the merger and would put together a first draft report for presentation to the Triton Regional School Committee in March.

“This group has come together in a cohesive way for effective and professional discussion and the report will reflect the diversity of the stakeholders involved,” Williams said.

Formed in January 2012, the Secondary School Merger Committee was charged with reviewing a proposal by Superintendent Christopher Farmer that outlined the merger of the district’s middle and high schools into a single, coherent unit by September 2013.

In addition, the committee was charged with assessing whether such a merger would be expected to improve the continuity of the curriculum, teaching and learning, and student support across grades 7 through 12; identifying key issues that would need to be addressed if a merger went forward and reporting on any significant changes in expenditures related to provisions for grades 7 through 12 that may result from the merger.

Williams said teams of members have researched eight major topics surrounding the potential merger. They are:


The ideal school

Culture and organization of a school

The personalization of a school

Conditions for success

Continuity of curriculum, teaching and learning

Continuity of student support


The research has involved studying numerous student achievement and demographic data and creating an electronic survey for 16 New England schools that have merged to learn their reasons for initiating the union. The committee has also analyzed various published works on the topic, including “Learning Declines Linked to Moving to Middle School,” “The Impact of Alternative Grade Configurations on Student Outcomes through Middle and High School,” “Nine Characteristics of High-Performing Schools” and “Grade-Level Configurations and the Connection to Transitions.”

The merger committee is tentatively expected to report on the results of its research at the March 13 School Committee meeting.

The committee includes Erik Champy and Karen Christian, Triton High School guidance counselors; Tim Connell and Heather Douglas, Triton Middle School social studies teachers; Triton High junior Michaela Dunn; Maureen Heffernan, Triton Middle School parent and former Newbury PTA leader; Newbury Selectman David Mountain; Les Murray, retired Amesbury High School principal; Johnson Nguyen, Triton High math teacher; Carla Panciera, Rowley, parent and English teacher at Ipswich High School; Joanne Perreault, Triton High and Middle School parent; Rowley Selectman Joe Perry, a former junior and high school teacher; Heidi Riccio, Salisbury parent and director of technical and vocational education at Greater Lawrence Regional Vocational Technical High School; Brad Smith, Triton Middle School science teacher and building representative; Tom Strickler, Newbury parent and vice president of First Financial Trust; and Nancy Tsakirgis, Triton Middle School social worker who formerly worked at the high school.

For more about the potential merger, including the original plan, charge initiatives and group research information, visit