Triton School Committee – What’s It All About?

For many people, the idea of the “school committee” is somewhat elusive. You know it’s there. You think it’s important. But other than that, you don’t know much about it.  In fact, not only is it important, but there are ways and reasons that you can and perhaps should get involved.

The Triton Regional School District School Committee is made up of nine members; Three community members from each town who are elected for a three year term on a rotating basis. The individuals who make up the School Committee are parents and community members, like you and me. They may or may not have children in the system, but they understand the importance of a strong school system in helping to elevate the towns in which they live.

The School Committee has three main functions: to determine policies and practices for the school district; to hire the superintendent; and to create and approve the budget.  Every member also serves on a subcommittee which includes Finance, Policy & Advocacy, and Personnel and Negotiations.

In 2020, two of Triton’s longest-term School Committee members are considering retiring. Dina Sullivan and Deb Choate have been on the Triton School Committee for 15 and 16 years respectively and have both been a tremendous asset to the district. While they leave behind enormous shoes to fill, they are both passionate about the importance of the job and hope others will step up to take on the role.

“Being on the school committee is one of the most important things we can do for our communities,” said Deb Choate. “The children in our schools will one day be running our communities. Giving them a quality education is what will allow them to successfully do that.” Ms. Choate goes on to describe her time on the School Committee as a very rewarding position, and one that she will miss if she does indeed step down.

Unquestionably, advocating for the students and staff of Triton is at the heart of what the School Committee does. “My work and decisions made while a member of the School Committee have always placed the needs of the students as the priority. I am proud of the time spent working on behalf of the staff and students of Triton,” Dina Sullivan explains.  “It has been an honor and privilege to serve on the Committee, but it is time for me to ‘graduate’ and move on to the next chapter in my life.”

For those interested in exploring the role of School Committee member, nomination papers are available from the town clerk in your town and require a minimum number of signatures from the candidate’s town of residence. Elections are May 12th and voters from all three district member towns vote for school committee members from all three towns. One person is elected from each member town for a term of three years. Should you have questions about the process or would like more information about the responsibilities of the school committee, please feel free to reach out to Dina, Deb or any other school committee member.  Their contact information can be found on the website:

Dina Sullivan

Dina Sullivan

Deb Choate

Deborah Choate


Salisbury Representative Needed

Salisbury Community Members,

The Triton Regional School Committee is responsible for appointing our towns’ representatives to the Whittier Regional Vocational Technical School Committee. We were recently notified that the Salisbury seat is up for appointment due to a resignation, and effective as soon as a replacement can be appointed. The seat would be for the balance of the 3 year term, which expires in March 31, 2022, and the candidates must be a registered voter in the Town of Salisbury.

More information about the Whittier Regional Vocational Technical School Committee, including the upcoming meeting schedule, can be found at

If you are interested in applying for this seat, please submit a short letter of interest by mail to Triton Regional School Committee, 112 Elm Street, Byfield, MA 01922 or by email to [email protected] by October 31, 2019.

The Triton Regional School Committee will discuss and vote on the appointments at its meeting on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 at 7:00 PM.


Nerissa Wallen
Triton Regional School Committee

FY18 Budget – Important Information

As you are aware, we have our public hearing on the FY18 budget scheduled for tomorrow evening. As we continue to work with our member towns to navigate these challenging financial times, I wanted to provide this presentation that was shared with the School Committee on February 15th. Since that time, it has been repeated with our town and state officials via our District Communications Committee on February 16th, and then again last night directly with the Rowley Board of Selectmen at their invitation.

The purpose of the presentation is to answer the question being repeatedly asked; “Why does educating a population that has decreased over time continue to cost more each year?” It is a valid question that we need to all understand the answer to. Like many rural communities, Triton has seen positive trends with less students electing to Choice their children to other districts, but we still see decreasing enrollments year after year. This trend is more common in communities like ours as families are tending to ‘age in place’ within our towns rather than selling their homes to younger families with school aged children. This is not a phenomenon unique to Triton, but it is a factor that has a significant impact on our district, so it is one we must understand. Enrollment combined with the failure of the state’s funding formula (Chapter 70) to reflect accurate spending levels has placed an incredible burden on our member communities; a burden that is quickly reaching a crisis point.

Below are the presentation slides in PDF format for review.  For those wanting a more detailed explanation and presentation, you can watch the full video of the presentation I made to the School Committee in the On Demand UStream section on our website at the link below.

If you have any questions or comments on the process to date, I would be happy to speak with you further. You will also find the Tentative Budget as approved on the next tab over from the presentation at the link above.

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Budget & Stadium Update

Dear Parents and Guardians:

This message provides information of next year’s budget and the redevelopment of the stadium

As compared with the Tentative Budget the principal features of the FY17 Final Budget which was approved by the School Committee yesterday evening are as follows.

General Operating Expenses are reduced by $198,736. The Final Budget represents a 1.71% increase over this year.

Town Assessments are reduced:

Newbury from -2.16% to -3.03%

Rowley from 6.54% to 5.57%

Salisbury from 5.02% to 4.08%

It should be noted that the wide variations in FY17 town assessments are attributable to changes in town student enrollments, state moves to bring its financial contribution to all districts to 17.5%, and Department of Revenue assessments of each town’s ability to pay for schools based on average incomes and property values.

A number of savings have been identified:

Medical Insurance:

  • down by $113,067

Special Education:

  • a graduating student reduces costs by $41,099
  • a reduced requirement for nursing support saves $20,000
  • a reduced teaching requirement at the middle school is expected to result in a transfer to the high school, saving $91,952 including health insurance

Early Retirement Incentive:

  • three colleagues with over 25 years of service in the district applied, with a net saving of $29,962

I should acknowledge the constructive spirit in which the Associations, as members of the Public Employees Committee, helped to drive down health insurance costs.

Increased Revenue Assumptions

The budget assumes that the state will increase:

(a) The Governor’s proposed $20 per student in Chapter 70 aid to $30 per student, and

(b) Regional transport reimbursement from a proposed 65% to 70% of eligible costs

Other Adjustments

  • Instead of retaining 1 elementary Math Specialist with a district-wide role, 1.5 f.t.e. Math Specialist positions will be retained to provide support for each  elementary school
  • Instead of vacating all the elementary IT Specialists positions, 1 district wide position will be established
  • Instead of reducing Middle School world languages from 4 to 2 teaching positions, thus changing the program from a Core subject to an elective, 3 world language teachers will offer French and Spanish as a core subject in Grades 7 and 8

The Stadium

As required by statute the School Committee approved the award of separate contracts for: (a) the refurbishment of the stadium field, track lighting and seating, and (b) provision of an amenities building (restrooms, concession facility,ticket sales, and a team room).

The stadium element of the redevelopment includes a sub-surface pad, which will improve the safety of the playing surface. It does not include a press box and the elevator required to provide access for the disabled. That will have to come later.

It is expected that the work will begin in mid-April.


Christopher Farmer

Triton Viking

Revised Nondiscrimination Policy

The School Committee’s policy on Nondiscrimination has been amended to include gender identity as required by MGL Ch 76, S5. Please see below or visit the permanent link here.

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Public Hearings – Next Year’s Budget and Surveys of Students

Dear Parents and Guardians:

The School Committee will hold two Public Hearings during its meeting in the high school library on Wednesday, February 24, 2016.

I.   An opportunity for interested parties to comment on a draft policy (below) on the approval and administration of third party surveys of students. The policy has been developed in response to concerns expressed about a student survey administered in the fall.

II. The Committee will hold the annual mandatory hearing on the Tentative FY17 Operating Budget, which may be accessed on line at:

Pages 1 through 4, and 10 through 13 of the budget document provide the context for the budget proposals and summarize the details.

Expenditure increases of $1,478,257 to maintain services and meet contractual and mandatory obligations, coupled with a reduction in anticipated revenues are offset by $631,579 in cuts, all but $20,000 of which are personnel reductions.

At this stage implied changes to town assessments are as follows:


Newbury         -$193,313        -2.16%
Rowley            +$569,651      +6.54%
Salisbury         +$507,359     +5.02%

Average                                     +3.18%

The above variations are due to the way that the state’s regional school district funding formula works, changes in enrollment, and an element of the Governor’s budget proposals.

The School Committee looks forward to receiving your input on these matters.

Christopher Farmer

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Update on Next Year’s Budget

Dear Parents and Guardians:

The School Committee meets this evening to start shaping next year’s budget.

When the implications of the Governor’s budget proposals are added to the mix, the cost of rolling forward current contracts and services (a level service budget) would require cuts of approximately $1.7m to reduce the increase in assessments to the towns to about 3%.

The 3% is an illustration. The Committee could set a higher or lower percentage target.

This evening’s meeting will be about reviewing potential cuts in spending. Next Wednesday the Committee will vote a Tentative Budget for consideration at the Public Hearing scheduled for February 24th. The Final Budget will be voted on March 9th.

Given this schedule, this evening’s meeting will be formative.

Issues which will be considered include, but may not be limited to:

  • confirmation of savings (virtually all non-personnel) already identified
  • health insurance (the Committee has already set a 0% increase in premiums as the target)
  • elementary schools – class sizes, math specialists positions and technology programming
  • middle school – world languages programing

Further updates will be provided as the process moves forward.

If you have questions, please do not hesitate to raise them.


Christopher Farmer


FY17 Budget Process Begins Tonight, January 11, 2016

The School Committee will hold three meetings this week starting at 6:00pm in the high school library to hear FY17 budget proposals associated with school and district program improvement plans. Plans and budget proposals will be presented to the Committee by building principals and various program managers. Meetings will be live streamed and recorded, and will be available at

  • MondayElementary Schools
  • TuesdayAthletics, Middle, and High Schools
  • WednesdayDistrict wide programs (for example special education and technology)

The Committee is scheduled to hold a workshop to review the proposals at 8:00 am on Saturday, January 23rd. Following that workshop, discussion and deliberation on February 3rd and February 10th will lead to a Tentative Budget approval on Wednesday, February 10th. Further discussion will occur before a final vote on March 9th, including a Public Hearing onFebruary 24th.

If you have questions about the budget or budget process, please contact Assistant Supertintendent Brian Forget at [email protected].

Appointment Of Superintendent Of Schools

At its meeting on November 10, 2015 the School Committee received advice on the appointment process from Glenn Koocher, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committee.

A recording of the meeting may be viewed at:

Formal interviews of applicants for the position of Superintendent of Schools will take place during the afternoon and evening of Wednesday, December 2, 2015.

During the afternoon applicants will meet separately with two panels – one composed of faculty representatives, the second composed of a parent/guardian representative nominated by each School Council, school Parent Teacher Association, and the Special Education Parent Advisory Council. Chairs of Boards of Selectmen will be invited to nominate a town official to join the parent panel.

Interviews with the parent/town representatives will be open to the community as observers. As required by statute, interviews with the School Committee will also be open to the public.

Details of the interview schedule will be published on or after November 25.

Appointment of Superintendent of Schools

On Tuesday evening the School Committee held a special meeting to receive advice from the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees on the process for appointing Superintendent Farmer’s successor. The committee was advised that in circumstances in which the committee and the community are pleased with the direction in which the district has been moving, it is now common for a district to look for a suitable appointment from within the district in the interest of continuity before deciding that it is necessary to conduct a wider traditional search. During discussion the committee noted that several districts are already in the middle of searches, and that the pool of top flight candidates is small.

After considering the advice and the alternatives, the committee voted unanimously to start the appointment process with an internal search, with the intention of casting the net wider if no suitable internal candidate emerges. The committee also made clear its intention to involve staff and community members in a multiple interview process which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, December 2, 2015.

Deborah Choate
The Triton Regional School Committee