TORKELSON'S SALARY -- $137,937
BENEFITS -- $30,704
TOTAL -- $168,641
CONTRACT -- $98,000
Increased to $113,500 for 2017-18







Friday, December 15, 2017


A  Grievous Mistake?
A SIMPLE APOLOGY WOULD BE NICE, BUT NOT ENOUGH
A respected Mercer citizen’s reputation may have been damaged by a misquote and the distortion of his well-intended proposal.  The baseless accusation has appeared in “Letters” columns in three local newspapers and was read at a Mercer School Board meeting by an errant board president.
We are referring, of course, to a Mercer student’s letter which misquoted Rick Duley for what he said at the October School District annual meeting.  The misquote was that he called Mercer students “pathetic.”
Read the following transcript from a recording of what Rick actually said and you be the judge:
“I’m going to ask  you folks (the school board) to pledge that you’ll do everything, come hell or high water, in order to get the ACT scores in this district up, because at this point in time they are pathetic, and basically, these kids couldn’t get into college with these scores.”
Note that Rick said nothing about the students being pathetic.  He said the ACT scores were pathetic and they are.  Mercer’s ACT composite score of 16.6 placed the school at the very bottom of the list of the 21 northern Wisconsin schools.  And Mercer’s DPI School Report Card score of 61.9 – “meets few expectation” -- placed it again at the bottom of that list. (See MSF 9/29/17 Mercer ACT Scores Plummet, 10/8/17 More Bad News, 11/21/17 Mercer 2016-17 DPI Report Card Score.)
School Board President Deanna Pierpont compounded the letter’s error by reading the “pathetic” accusation at the November School Board meeting, certainly knowing that the “pathetic” charge was wrong.  But then not reading it would not have served her purpose or the purpose of Administrator Erik Torkelson.
Irrespective of the above transcript, the whole matter could be cleared up if Torkelson would allow the video of the meeting to be posted on the school’s website, as has been done in the past.  But Torkelson made a unilateral decision, without school board approval, not to show the video.  He also mandated that video recordings would not be made of future school board meetings.
The ability to misuse the “pathetic” statement was probably a deciding factor for not allowing the public to see the video.  But another motivation could have been to prevent the public from seeing and hearing one school board member shout obscenities and another charge at Rick Duley in a threatening manner, only to be stopped by a deputy sheriff.
Fortunately, digital audio recordings of the bizarre events were made by several people.  Eventually the video will probably be ordered to be made public and then these scenes may go viral on YouTube.

Sunday, December 10, 2017


School Board Election
WANTED: A CONSCIENTIOUS CITIZEN TO HELP CLEAN UP THE SCHOOL BOARD MESS

Mercer residents have an opportunity to take back control of the dysfunctional school board, stop wasteful spending and begin providing the students with the education they deserve.  That opportunity relies on someone stepping forward to run for a school board seat.
One position on the board is up for election this coming spring.  While that seems like a long way off, potential candidates have a short time frame in which to submit a declaration of candidacy.  They need to obtain the necessary form and submit it to the school between now and December 20 or on the Tuesday after January 1.
The school board seat is now held by Kelly Kohegyi, who should not be re-elected.   As the mother-in-law of Administrator Erik Torkelson, there exists the constant potential for a conflict of interest.  Add to that the black eye Mercer received when news of Kohegyi showing the sexually explicit movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” to young Mercer school girls went viral nationwide on the internet and in the print and broadcast media.  Even ministers deplored the act from their pulpits and negative Facebook postings abounded.
With Kohegyi off of the board, Torkelson would be left with just two die-hard supporters – Deanna Pierpont and his realtor Micki Pierce-Holmstrom.  Until now Christa Reinert, who was elected to the board by 452 Mercer voters last year, has alone been fighting against mismanagement and misspending   For her efforts, she has been harassed and denied school information to which she, as a school board member and as our elected representative, is entitled to by law.
Christa needs help – another school board member who will join her in the fight for transparency and honesty.
Several potential candidates have indicated reluctance to join the dysfunctional school board for fear they would suffer the same humiliating fate as Christa.  However, by joining Christa the margin of control could possibly be shifted with board member Noel Brandt being the “wild card”.  Until now Brandt has blindly supported Torkelson.  But could some recent damaging developments – Mercer being the lowest of all 21 northern Wisconsin schools with its with ACT and DPI School Report Card scores, and Torkelson taking home $168,641 in compensation when his contract only provided for a salary of $98,000 – cause Brandt to reflect on his election campaign pledge which was to be “committed to maintaining the school as a viable learning facility…that properly prepares our students for the future. Maintaining a tight budget and providing the clarity that people are asking for is… paramount to our school’s survival.“?
Kohegyi MUST be removed from the school board.  So it’s important that a conscientious citizen step forward and obtain the necessary candidacy form before time runs out.





   

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


ANOTHER “PATHETIC” SCHOOL BOARD MEETING

 The November Mercer School Board meeting was “pathetic” for what
Mercer youths update school banner
didn’t happen as well as for what did happen.
The “didn’t happen” included what many people had showed up for, and that was an explanation of how Mercer received a Department of Public Instruction School Report Card  score of 61.9 – “Meets Few Expectations”.  The score put Mercer at the bottom of the list of all area schools and in the bottom 20 of all of the state’s 422 school districts.  (See MSF 11/21/17 “Mercer 2016-17 DPI Report Card Score”)
Last year, when the score was better, Administrator Erik Torkelson spent much of the board meeting time gloating over the score with an elaborate slide presentation.  But this year, not a mention of the DPI School Report score, which many of those in attendance had come to hear.
The same held true earlier in the year when Torkelson and his school board cronies totally ignored what is probably the most important rating  a school can receive – the ACT test results.  They ignored those results because Mercer, with a composite score of 16.6 and with 87.5% of those tested as not proficient in English, reading, writing, math and science, was well below the average of all state schools and at the bottom of the list of all area schools and even below Milwaukee inner-city schools .  (See MSF 10/8/17 “More Bad -- Really Bad – ACT News”)
What “did happen” at the November meeting was a presentation by Torkelson of a Community Service Fund 80 $203,000 budget.  What was “pathetic” about it was that the legally required steps for developing and approving the Fund 80 budget had been ignored.  The DPI and state statutes require that the School Board must approve the budget and then a public hearing must be held.  Neither ever happened.
The Fund 80 budget, as in the past, includes many of the mostly questionable community services, which will be discussed in another blog.
Ignoring the law and DPI rules seems to be normal procedure.  For instance, early on Tuesday, November 28, a notice was sent to School Board members that a special meeting would be held at 10 a.m. that day for the purpose of setting the December meeting date.  State law requires that such notice must be given a minimum of 24 hours before a meeting, except for emergency situations, and that a public notice must also be posted.  In Mercer’s case, the notice is routinely posted in the Iron County Miner and at the bank or town hall.  It couldn’t have been in the Miner because the paper won’t be published until Thursday, and it’s doubtful that it was posted at the bank or town hall.
Finally, at the November School Board meeting, was the reading by School Board President Deanna Pierpont of a letter supposedly written by a Mercer student.  The letter, which also appeared in the “Letters of the Editor” section of the Lakeland Times, falsely accused Mercer resident Rick Duley of calling Mercer students “pathetic”.
Mr. Duley said nothing of kind.  In fact, here’s what he said as was accurately quoted in the Iron County Miner:
“ACT results are recognized by practically all educators as a true measure of how well a school does in educating their students.” He then asked the Mercer School Board to “pledge that you’ll do everything, come hell or high water, to get the ACT scores in this district up, because they are pathetic at this time, and basically, these kids couldn’t get into college with these scores.”
Mr. Duley was actually trying to help the Mercer students and, as his statement proves, he was certainly not criticizing them.
Did the writer(s) of the letter mistakenly or purposely misrepresent Mr. Duley’s intent?  You be the judge.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


NEWS FLASH!!!

Mercer 2016-17 DPI Report Card Score – 61.9 Meets Few Expectations

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction just announced the School Report Card scores for the 2016-17 school year.  The Mercer score puts the school in the bottom 20 of all of the state’s 422 school districts.

Here's how Mercer compares to other area schools:

Mellen              78.3 Exceeds Expectations
Hurley               74.0 Exceeds Expectations
Butternut         71.0 Meets Expectations
Park Falls          70.9 Meets Expectations
Lakeland UHS  66.7 Meets Expectations
Ashland             65.1 Meets Expectations
MERCER            61.9 Meets Few Expectations
 
 
 

A Conveniently Unavailable Meeting Video

“VULGARITY, PERSONAL ATTACKS” MAR SCHOOL BOARD MEETING
The Iron County Miner aptly reported the October 30 Mercer School Board meeting as one that was “rocked by arguments, personal attacks, vulgarity and the removal of one school board member after a violent outburst”.   Sounds like the script for an evening TV mini-series.  But it actually happened.
Adding to the items of disbelief was the mocking of the ACT testing system as of “no value” to the students by Administrator Erik Torkelson.   It’s no small wonder why Torkelson would try to downplay the importance of the ACT, which educators everywhere recognize as “the true measure of how well a school does in educating its students.”    
Since Torkelson came to Mercer the school’s ACT has been on a slippery downward slide to where, with a 16.6 composite score, it sits at the bottom of all area schools -- seven of them – and far below the state average of 20.0 and even below some Milwaukee inner-city schools.  Of those taking the test, 87.5% are not proficient in English, reading, writing, math and science.
Normally you would be able to view the unbelievable October School Board meeting scenes on the school’s website.  Probably realizing that the video would be a huge embarrassment for a few School Board members and the administration, “These meeting videos are not available,” read the brief note on the website. There wasn’t even an attempt to use the lame excuse, “Due to technical difficulties, this meeting video cannot be viewed”, – which was used in the past when there also were scenes someone didn’t want the public to see. 
The “technical difficulties” excuse could not be used this time because many people at the October 30 meetings saw that camera’s recording light was on, as well as a person was attending to it.  However, the video is a public record and, by state law, must be preserved and made available to any citizen who requests it.  Several people, including the Miner’s Ernie Moore, did make digital recordings of the proceedings.
And what would you see in the video?  The Miner set the stage by explaining that Mercer resident Rick Duley was discussing the importance of the ACT – in a calm and polite manner, we might add.  He was in the process of asking the School Board to “pledge that you’ll do everything to get the ACT scores in this district up”.  Sounds like a reasonable request.  But for some unexplainable reason, and almost like it had been planned, his comment unleased a “firestorm” – the Miner’s description.
At that point, according to the Miner, Board member Micki Pierce-Holstrom  shouted out, “We have kids in this (expletive) school right now, and we care a lot.”
“Her outburst was followed by Brandt (Board member Noel Brandt) shouting at the resident, “You sit down, now!”, after which Brandt rose to confront the resident face to face, saying, “I don’t give a (expletive) about you or your (expletive) report.  You come in here disrespecting our children…”, according to the Miner.  A sheriff’s deputy then stepped in between Brandt and Duley.  
If we ever get a chance to view the video, we would actually see Brandt do more than just rising to confront Duley.  And in no way was Duley “disrespecting” the children.  He was merely trying to help them by getting the Board to pledge that they would work to assure that the students receive a better education.
If we didn’t know better, it would almost seem like the entire bizarre outburst was scripted and rehearsed -- like in a TV mini-series.

Friday, November 10, 2017


Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting
an establishment of religion, or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof, or abridging the
freedom of speech, or of the press, or the
right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the Government for a
redress of grievances.
On this Veterans’ Day we need to remember that many Americans have fought and died to protect our Constitution and this First Amendment.  But could Freedom of Speech be in jeopardy in our small north woods community of Mercer?
It would seem that way based upon an ill-advised action taken by the Mercer School Board at its October meeting.  The board – three of four members present – were directed by Administrator Erik Torkelson to give him approval “to pursue legal action related to libelous, slanderous and defamatory material.”
Torkelson is claiming libel in an email which was sent to about 15 Mercer citizens.  The original email was signed by “Dick Kemplin for the Mercer Concerned Citizens.”   But the real target of Torkelson’s so-called libel action is School Board Member Christa Reinert, who allegedly passed the email on to a handful of her friends.  Christa has relentlessly and tirelessly been trying to restore transparency to school issues, and has been rebuked at every attempt.
Torkelson is taking issue with the email referring to Mercer as a “failing school.”  Of course, this is a perfectly legal comment, and the facts behind the “failing school” opinion are based upon the school’s ACT test results.  With a 16.6 ACT composite score Mercer is far below the state average of 20.0 for all of the state’s 424 school districts, and below all other area schools and even some Milwaukee inner-city schools  Of those tested in Mercer 87.5% are NOT proficient in ELA (combined scores for English, reading and writing), math and science.  (See MSF 10/8/17 “More Bad…News”)
It’s doubtful that Torkelson will take issue with some other facts in that email, such as that he took home $168,641 in pay and benefits when his contract provided for only $98,000 in salary and about $15,000 in benefits.  Or, that $169,743, or 75%, of the $213,000 of Fund 80 money went to Torkelson and a few staff members.  This information is from the school’s own records.
A prominent attorney reviewed the email and offered this opinion:
Such a lawsuit “would clearly violate free speech and the democratic process, and the idea that citizens cannot engage in opinionated, political speech without being foolishly sued by the district.  Both the unlawful rule and the current march toward a threatened lawsuit evidence a failure to understand the core principles of a democratic government and freedom of speech.  Political speech is the most protected of all, and it is virtually impossible to prevail in a case where the plaintiff is merely taking issue with opinions.”
Mercer residents have expressed concern about what a lawsuit would cost them.  They recall the faked hacking fiasco which resulted in Torkelson and School District being ordered to pay a fine and legal costs of more than $5,000, and an additional unknown amount paid for the school’s failed defense.  But then it won’t be Torkelson’s tax money that will be wasted because he doesn’t live or pay taxes in the Mercer School District.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


The Circus Has Come to Town
NO, IT WAS ACTUALLY THE MERCER SCHOOL DISTRICT’S BUDGET HEARING, ANNUAL MEETING AND MONTHLY BOARD MEETING
“It would be comical if it wasn’t that it was supposed to be a serious matter,” one Mercer resident lamented.
He was referring to what he had just experienced as probably the most bizarre display of abuse of power, ignorance of the law and bullying of taxpayers during the Mercer School District’s October 30 budget hearing, annual meeting and monthly board meeting.
“Amateurish and unprofessional,” was another comment. 
In the center ring was the monthly school board meeting where one board member shouted obscenities and another board member menacingly charged at a speaking Mercer taxpayer and had to be led away by a deputy sheriff. 
But the real center ring performance, which is likely to give Mercer another BIG black eye,  was the school board’s approval of Mercer School District Erik Torkelson’s misguided demand to pursue legal action for what would be a clear violation of everyone’s First Amendment right to free speech.  He has taken offense at the school being labeled as “failing”, and wants the school district to pursue a certain-to-lose libel lawsuit.  
Many people recall the “black eye” Mercer received when it got extensive negative publicity which went viral nationally – even internationally.  The publicity resulted from the showing of the sexually explicit movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” to young school girls in the back seat of school board member Kelly Kohegyi’s car.  Kohegyi, who is Torkelson’s mother-in-law, in spite of that incident, is still on the school board.  She is up for reelection this coming spring.
But the real purpose of Torkelson’s ill-conceived and illegal libel lawsuit is to get his nemesis, Christa Reinert, off of the school board.  Since she was elected by 452 Mercer citizens, Christa has relentlessly tried to clean up the school district mess and restore transparency.  And Torkelson has relentlessly tried to get rid of her.
So much went on during the three-ring Mercer school board circus that it will have to be reported in subsequent blogs.  Or, you may be reading and hearing about it from the international print and broadcast news media.  Because trying to suppress free speech is BIG news.
Although the Mercer school board circus came to town without the elephants, tightrope walkers or lions and tigers, it did come with some clowns.

Sunday, October 29, 2017


URGENT! URGENT! URGENT!
It May Be Now or Never
A CRITICAL TIME FOR THE FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN AND MERCER
Have you ever wondered why Mercer School District Administrator Erik Torkelson is obsessed with trying to get Christa Reinert off of the School Board?  Christa has relentlessly tried and repeatedly been denied --- and harassed in the process – of obtaining public school information to which she, as a school board member and as our elected representative, is entitled to by law.
A comment which Christa posted Sunday under the Mercer School Facts 10/27/17 blog “School Records, DPI Data Verify “Real” Email Messages” says it all.  Out of concern that the comment would be lost, MSF posts the following complete and sincere message from Christa:
To my supporters and skeptics, I ran on the premise of transparency, for the students, staff and the tax payers. I repeatedly am not given the information I have asked for. I asked for the composite ACT Aspire scores for the Freshman/Sophomore classes - DENIED, yet I received them last year. A detailed financial outline of Fund 80 spending (Fund 80 budget was less than $4,000 before Erik's tenure, his first year as administrator he budgeted $257,000, in 6 years exceeding $1.5 million dollars) - DENIED. I've asked for a year end 16/17 Fund 80 expenditure - DENIED, I was told it's being audited except it’s audited annually and the DPI assured me I should be able to get a copy. I've asked for an explanation of Erik's payroll totaling over $137K for 16/17 when his contract plus benefits should not exceed $116K - DENIED. In fact Erik sent me an email stating that my questioning of him is the very definition of harassment and he cannot perform his job duties in this unsafe environment. According to the DPI, I am his boss and they told me he needs to answer questions when his boss asks. And my list goes on! Historically, these people have harassed me to the extreme going back to the orchestrated Restraining order hearing (when Erik and Deanna testified against me while our children were enrolled in Mercer school), our daughter not finishing her Freshman year of school because of severe bullying she was undergoing with some coaching staff and students she was friends with for a decade of her life, the July 2016 meeting when Nancy Lundquist was encouraged to accuse me of stealing her maps during public comment(Spee Dee delivery got the address wrong), the September meeting when Ms. Kohegyi broke a federal and state law (the DPI confirmed with me she did and so did the school's own attorney) when she read the pre-written essay disclosing the transfer of our children out of this school. This is just the tip of ice berg!! To all of you parents in Mercer school district I want you to know my primary concern is for your kid's education and their future. I know most of the high school enrollment and I genuinely feel heartbroken when I see ACT scores 16.6 - all those students are smarter than this and deserve more from Mercer school. Standing up for your kids' is your right as a parent and I want to encourage you to do so before it's too late. To all of you who support me, I can't win this battle alone so please get involved.
Sincerely, Christa A. Reinert, parent, business owner, 6 parcel tax payer, 21 year community and school supporter and Mercer BOE Member.

Do attend and speak up the 5 p.m. Monday night School District budget hearing, the annual meeting, and, probably most important of all, the School Board meeting which follows, if you are dissatisfied with:
·         Our children receiving a substandard education (e.g. ACT results);

·         Being denied  public information which could show how your tax dollars are being wasted and where they are really going;

·         Allowing the administrator to take home pay and benefits of $168,641, some of it, including an $11,000 bonus, without any apparent School Board approval;

·         Accepting another punitive and unwarranted school tax increase which will cost you $63 per $100,000 more for 20 years;

·         Seeing the continued harassment, of Christa Reinert who was elected by 452 of us to restore accountability and transparency to the school.
This could be a critical time to try to change the dangerous and destructive course the school district is on.  BE THERE AT 5 P.M. MONDAY!

Friday, October 27, 2017


Fact vs. Fiction

SCHOOL RECORDS, DPI DATA VERIFY “REAL” EMAIL MESSAGES

The aphorism “Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it” is one that Mercer School Administrator Erik Torkelson might want to consider.  At the September School Board meeting he seemed to be asking for an examination of an email which he said identified Mercer as a “failing school.”

Mercer School Facts got ahold of an email which used that term, but beyond that there was no similarity to what Torkelson said were “lies, misinformation and fabrications” in the email he claims he saw.  The email MSF received, which we will call the “real email”, contained statements of fact which are documented by the Mercer School’s own records, data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and even court records. The “real email” apparently was sent to a handful of interested Mercer residents by a group concerned citizens of Mercer.  

Key issues raised in the “real email” were: Do the dismal ACT scores constitutes a “failing school”; what is Torkelson’s real take home pay package vs. the actual contractual amount; how are Fund 80 monies actually being used (misused); and should Kelly Kohegyi be re-elected to the School Board?

First the “failing school” comment, which was mentioned just once in the “real email” but was mentioned “on multiple occasions”, according to Torkelson -- another inconsistency.  How else might the authors of the “real email” describe a school which has seen a steady decline in ACT results since Torkelson became administrator?   The Mercer ACT 2016-17 results placed Mercer at the very bottom of a list of ALL area schools – eight of them --with a 16.6 composite score, and far below the state average of 20.0 for all of the state’s 424 school district, and even below some Milwaukee inner-city schools.  Educators everywhere have recognized the ACT as “the true measure of how well a school does in educating its students”. (See MSF 10/8/17 More Bad…ACT News and 9/29/17 Mercer ACT Scores Plummet)

Another fact cited in the “real email” was that Torkelson took home $168,641 in salary and benefits when his contract provided for only $98,000 in salary and about $15,000 in benefits.  Take a look at the school’s own “Historic Labor Distribution By Employee” and judge for yourself if these were “lies, misinformation and fabrications”.

Then, the “real email” said that the bulk of Community Service Fund 80 money was paid to a few staff members.  The school’s  “Expenditure Summary Report” shows that of  the $213,000 of 2016-17 Fund 80 expenditures, $169,743, or 75% , was paid to Torkelson and a few staff members.  A meager $36,500 was reportedly spent for supplies and equipment, including $12,000 for the food fed free to anyone that wanted to come the school for it.  It’s difficult to determine what projects were actually intended for community residents because such obscure terms as “Undifferentiated Curriculum, Technology Education and Co-Curriculum Activities” were used.  The DPI requires definitive budgets with full descriptions of the projects.

One other statement in the “real email” was that Kelly Kohegyi should not be re-elected to the School Board in the 2018 spring election.  If the potential for conflict of interest – Kohegyi is Torkelson’s mother-in-law – is not enough to disqualify her, then how about the showing of the sexually explicit movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” to young school girls.  (See MSF 4/29/17 A Failed Coup d’Etat?)

Torkelson labelled the email as “slanderous”.   Slander is the spoken word and libel is the written word.  If a “counsel” really did help him with this misinterpretation of libel, and what constitutes libel, he needs a new attorney.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Mercer Taxpayers Rebel

“TAXED TO THE LIMIT,” ANOTHER SCHOOL TAX INCREASE SEEMS DOOMED
If the reaction of the crowd at a September 27 public hearing was any indication, then an apparent plan to plunge the Mercer School District $6 million in debt and sock taxpayers with an annual tax increase of $63 per $100,000 assessed property valuation appeared DOA (dead on arrival).
Not one person spoke in favor of the scheme and practically everyone favored paying for the proposed allegedly needed schools repairs on a priority basis and out of regular school tax revenues. Even Town Chairman John Sendra raised some concerns.
At the June School Board meeting, representatives of McKinstry Co., an engineering and consulting firm hired by the school to perform an audit of the physical plant, detailed what they said were the needed repairs: roof replacement, lighting and electrical improvements, mechanical upgrades, including a new boiler, and window and door replacements. At the September meeting, they prioritized the need for the repairs on the basis of “immediate (2017), high (2018) and medium (3 to 5 years).”
Paying for all of the repairs at once would require taxpayer approval of a $3,980,000 tax increase referendum, which would increase school taxes for 20 years.  (With interest costs of an additional $1,978.384, the debt would total $5,958,384.)  From the reaction of the crowd, such approval is not likely to happen.
In using $63 per $100,000 as an example, which was used in the presentation, Town Chairman John Sendra said there was a need to be “more realistic” about what it would actually cost taxpayers.  Many lake properties are valued at $400,000 and $500,000, according to Sendra. 
Sendra’s “realistic” scenario might look like this:
Property Value          Annual Tax Impact         20-Year Total Tax Impact                 

$200,000                     $126                                  $2,520
$300,000                     $189                                  $3,780 
$400,000                     $252                                  $5,040
$500,000                     $315                                  $6,300        

School Board Member Christa Reinert, a strong advocate of paying for the repairs on a priority basis and from regular tax revenues, suggested using the School District’s $1 million fund balance “to pay for some of the proposed improvements on an on-going basis, rather than borrowing for a 20-year term.” Reinert was applauded, and all other speakers agreed with her proposals.
One resident said: “I think it’s time for some fiscal responsibility.  We’ve got a system where we’re spending money like drunk sailors, and maybe we need to sit down and set priorities.  Any school district can only supply so much, and I think that we’ve been taxed to the limit.”
A major concern about incurring such a huge $6 million debt would be that it would close the door on any possible consolidation of the Mercer school with another school district, a matter which is being widely discussed in Mercer.  The point has been made that by consolidating, and sending at least the high school students to another school, would save the taxpayers money and provide a better education for the students  (See MSF 10/8/17 More Bad…ACT News, and 9/29/17 Mercer ACT Scores Plummet)
Several astute Mercer residents said that the real purpose of saddling taxpayers with such a ridiculously high $6 million debt would be to prevent consolidation.  Any acquiring school district would have to pay off the debt in one payment, and this would be totally unrealistic.
When the improvement project was originally presented several months ago, the possibility existed of imposing the tax burden without a referendum under the guise that the projects were for energy-saving purposes.  Wisconsin ACT 32, which would have allowed that, expired in September without renewal. 
Another concern raised at the September 27 hearing was that a referendum vote might be sneaked pass taxpayers by holding the election in February when many Mercer residents are away to warmer climates.  It was pointed out at the hearing that this was done in February, 2013, when those voters still in Mercer approved what they were lied to and told would be an $11 per $100,000 assessed property valuation but actually resulted in $137.  And that tax increase is FOREVER.
Naturally, the referendum is being scheduled for February 20, when many snowbirds “fly” south for the winter.  So those snowbirds have a decision to make: Get an absentee ballot and vote NO or be prepared to come home and pay more exorbitant school taxes. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017


And It Gets Worse
MORE BAD – REALLY BAD – ACT NEWS


As if the Mercer School’s ACT composite score – a miserable 16.6 – wasn’t bad enough, the school was also at the bottom of the heap with its student proficiency ratings.  Only 12.5% of the June, 2018, graduates are proficient in ELA (combined scores for English, reading and writing), math and science.  That left 87.5% who were not proficient. 


This put the Mercer School far below the proficiency ratings for all state schools, at the bottom of the list for ALL area schools and even below Milwaukee inner-city schools. 
The ACT results are recognized by practically all educators as the true measure of how well a school does in educating its students.  Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Tony Evers has said that good ACT scores are “what employers and postsecondary schools tell us is required for high school graduates to be successful.”
Take a look at how Mercer compares with all area schools.

2016-17 ACT % PROFICIENCY  
                  MERCER         Statewide      Hurley        Lakeland Union
ELA*        12.5                 39.5                 23.7            38.9
Math        12.5                 37.5                 21.1            37.6 
Science   12.5                 31.7                 23.7            30.6
 
Other area schools

                Rhinelander   Ashland   Park Falls   Butternut   Mellen
 ELA*        35.3                  23.4          35.5            27.3             40.0
Math        22.8                  31.0          21.0            18.2             35.0
Science   22.8                  28.7          17.7            36.4             10.0
*ELA combines scores for English, reading and writing.

The Mercer ACT scores were even far below some Milwaukee inner-city schools.  For example, Rufus King High School, with a minority (Black, Asian and Hispanic) enrollment of 80% had an ACT composite score of 20.1, an ELA proficiency rating of 45.6%, math 30.5% and science 27.0%.  This compares with Mercer’s composite score of 16.6, and ELA, math and science proficiency ratings of only 12.5%.
With its ACT composite score of 16.6, Mercer also was far behind Hurley’s 18.5 and Lakeland Union’s 20.1.  The average composite score for all of Wisconsin’s 424 school districts was 20.0.  (See MSF Mercer ACT Scores Plummet 9/27/17)
Mercer is annually spending $24,582 for educating each student.  The state average is $12,842 per student.  The total cost for annual attendance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison – tuition, room and board, fees, books, etc. – is $22,082.
You would expect that with Mercer, on a cost per student basis, having the second-highest paid school administrator in the state at $168,641 that its ACT scores and the proficiency ratings would not be in the cellar, and not below all area schools and even some Milwaukee inner-city schools.

Friday, September 29, 2017


Failing Grades?
MERCER ACT SCORES PLUMMET; TRAIL ALL OTHER AREA SCHOOLS
When the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction announced the new ACT scores on September 27, it was a real shocker to see that Mercer scores had sunk to new lows.  Mercer trailed well behind the state scores and all other schools in the area.
The Mercer ACT composite score hit a new low of 16.6 compared with a state score for all schools of 20.0.  The scores are graded on a 1 to 36 scale.
Here’s how the Mercer composite score compares:
ACT COMPOSITE SCORES Announced by DPI on 9/27/17 (1 to 36 scale)
                               2016- 17           2015-16           2014-15
State                          20.0                    20.1                 20.0   
MERCER                   16.6                    18.1                 19.0
Hurley                       18.5                     19.4                 17.9
Lakeland UHS          20.1                    19.7                  20.0
Rhinelander              19.0                    19 6                 19.3 
Ashland                     19.1                   19.3                  18.6               
Park Falls                  18.7                   19.9                  19.0
Butternut                   18.6                   17.3                  16.2
Mellen                        19.0                   17.8                  18.5 
 
In every subject category Mercer trailed the state scores.

SCORES BY SUBJECTS – 2016-17 (1 to 36 scale)
                                                      Mercer           State
ELA (English language/arts)    16.3                 18.3
English                                       14.9                 19.2
Math                                            16.0                 20.0
Reading                                      17.6                 20.1
Science                                       17.1                 20.4    
STEM (science and math)         16.8                 20.5
Writing (1 to 12 scale)                 6.1                   6.3  

Historically, Mercer scores have been on a downward spiral.
 
MERCER COMPOSITE SCORES

2008                 21.8                                  
2009                 21.4                                               
2010                 21.0                                   
2011                 21.3                     
2012                 Redacted
2013                 20.0
2014                 Redacted
2015                 19.0
2016                 18.1
2017                 16.6      

The ACT is regarded by most educators as the true indicator of how well a school district is doing in educating its students.  According to the DPI, “ACT has a long and creditable history as an effective tool to monitor academic progress and student growth.”  
 
DPI Superintendent Tony Evers has said that ACT scores are what really matter. Good ACT scores are “what employers and postsecondary schools tell us is required for high school graduates to be successful,” he said.
At the last School Board meeting Administrator Erik Torkelson said that someone had sent out an email saying that the Mercer School was a failing school.  He countered by saying that the Mercer School “has been celebrated and awarded, and academically achieves higher than any other school in the area.”
The ACT scores seem to contradict what Torkelson claimed.
(Note: Beginning with 2014-15 all students were required to take the ACT test.   Before that, it was optional, so the test may have been taken mostly by those students planning to attend college.   However, this factor would affect the scores of all schools, resulting in realistic comparisons.)