TORKELSON COMP. $165,963
Contract $98,000; Benefits $30,000
3rd highest paid of state's 424 admin.
Wis. DPI Supt comp. $121,307
Cost per student Mercer $24,910,
Wis. $12,942, Nation $10,667
Mercer DPI Report Card score
lowest of all 21 N. Wis. schools


Tuesday, November 13, 2018


NEWS FLASH

The Mercer School report card score for the 2017-18 school year sank lower. 

2017-18 Score                   2016-17 Score

       55.9                                        61.9

          Meets Few Expectations

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction just released the scores this morning.  Log on to:

https://apps2.dpi.wi.gov/reportcards/


The School Report Card scores are in for all state school districts and the Mercer School is at the very bottom of the list of all 21 northern Wisconsin schools.  In October, the DPI announced the 2017-18 ACT scores for all schools, and Mercer’s composite score of 18.36 placed it 14th in the list of northern Wisconsin schools.  In 2016-17, Mercer was at the very bottom of that list with a 16.6 composite score.  (See MSF 10/6/18 Mercer School’s New ACT Scores.)


Following is the DPI’s School Report Cards scores for the 21 northern Wisconsin schools:


                                     2017-18             2016-17
Maple                          81.3                    75.6
Washburn                   80.8                    77.1
Tomahawk                  80.5                    76.6
Mellen                         79.8                    78.3
HURLEY                    77.1                    74.0
Northland Pines         75.7                    74.4
Northwood                  75.0                    73.3
Winter                         74.5                    74.3
Hayward                     73.8                    69.1
Chequamegon            72.6                    70.9
South Shore                71.2                    69.9
Drummond                 70.0                    73.1
Phillips                        70.0                    68.0
LAKELAND              69.8                    66.7
Butternut                    69.1                    71.0
Superior                      68.6                    69.6
Solon Springs             68.5                    68.0
Rhinelander               66.3                    61.8
Ashland                      63.2                    65.1
Bayfield                      60.7                    63.7
MERCER                  55.9                    61.9

Scoring ratings: 83-100 – Significantly Exceeds  Expectations; 73-82.9 – Exceeds Expectations;  63-72.9 – Meets Expectations;  53-62.9 -- Meets Few Expectations; 0- 52.9 – Fails to Meet Expectations.

Thursday, November 8, 2018


Just One of Many

ANOTHER TORKELSON FALSEHOOD

“Not a dime” of Community Service Fund 80 money was paid to Mercer school staff members.  This is what Administrator Erik Torkelson told Mercer residents at the school district’s annual meeting and budget hearing.

However, the school’s own “Historic Labor Distribution by Employee” records for the 2017-18 school year and for earlier years totally contradict Torkelson’s statement.  Those documents show, in detail, the salary and benefits each school employee received.  And those records show that, in fact, “not a dime” was paid; but, instead, the following huge amounts were doled out from Fund 80 by Torkelson to staff members and to himself:

2017-18 -- $202,691.48 paid to 22 employees

2016-17 -- $136,086.36 paid to 23 employees

2015-16 -- $133,917.57 paid to 29 employees

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has ruled that Torkelson violated the law by improperly paying salaries and benefits to “several individuals” totaling $145,716.19 in 2016-17 and 2015-16.  It is still investigating payments made in 2017-18.

“No documentation was provided indicating the salaries and benefits of the District employees were the actual, additional costs to operate community programs and services,” the DPI charged.

Nevertheless, Torkelson played to his following (the people he provides with free meals and free baby-sitting services from Fund 80) by giving false information about the misuse of taxpayer dollars at the annual meeting and budget hearing.  He knew they would not bother to seek the actual information, and even if they did, they would still blindly accept what he said.
Torkelson used Adam Kussard, director of buildings and grounds, and Tricia Thompson, business manager, as examples of school employees who had not received a “dime” from Fund 80.  But look at the following excerpts from the actual 2017-18 “Historic Labor Distribution by Employee” for Kussard and Thompson. 

So, what are we to believe -- what Torkelson said or the actual school records?

Thursday, November 1, 2018


Did They Drink the Kool-Aid?

THE ANNUAL MEETING/BUDGET HEARING FIASCO

It is unbelievable as to how low Torkelson and his goon squad will keep going. They have created a bottomless pit. I truly believe that one day his supporters will look back and see how they were duped and taken advantage of. There is a quote associated with PT Barnum, "there is a sucker born every minute." Too bad so many of them are in Mercer.

This comment was posted on Mercer School Facts by “Save Our School”.

“It was a big joke,” was another way one highly respected Mercer citizen described Monday night’s Mercer School District annual meeting and budget hearing.

And it would be a “joke” except for the tragic way Mercer residents were fed a big serving of misinformation, and many gobbled it down.  The way in which a group of Mercer residents accepted the misinformation demonstrated that they either had no knowledge of the facts or were not interested in them.  

At the very start of the meeting, Administrator Erik Torkelson led off with a number of false statements.  He said the large audience (about 150 attended) was probably there to thank the school board for reducing their school taxes. The decrease in taxes will have absolutely NOTHING to do with anything the school board has done. The decrease will result from a $12 million increase in property valuation, which spreads the tax burden over a bigger property tax base. 

Torkelson’s 2018-19 budget, in fact, provides for an increase of $178,211 in total expenditures and an almost 25% increase in Fund 80 spending.

Torkelson then went on for about 10 minutes trying to justify his misspending of taxpayer Community Service Fund 80 dollars, saying that “not one dime” is paid to school staff members. Of course, Torkelson knew that the people he had stacked the meeting with probably did not have access to school payroll information, or, if they did, it did not matter to them. 

Also, Torkelson was counting on his group as not having paid attention to a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction investigation into his improper use of Fund 80.  The DPI has ruled that $146,916 of Fund 80 money had been improperly paid to Torkelson and select staff members during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.

The school district’s own payroll records totally contradict Torkelson’s claim for those he cited as not having received “a single dime” of Fund 80 money.  For instance, Torkelson mentioned Building and Grounds Director Adam Kussard as not having received “a single dime” of Fund 80 money.  Yet Kussard’s actual payroll record for 2017-18 clearly shows that he received $12,844 in salary and benefits from Fund 80, on top of his regular pay and benefits of $48,455.  Torkelson also mentioned Business Manager Tricia Thompson as not having received “a single dime” of Fund 80 money.  Her payroll record for 2017-18 shows that she received $13,815 in salary and benefits from Fund 80, on top of her regular salary and benefits of $56,627.

Torkelson does not keep records of the alleged time he or his staff spending in providing services for Fund 80 programs, a violation the DPI cited him for in disallowing the $146,196.  Nor does he keep any records of how many people actually use the services.

One wise Mercer citizen suggested that those few people using Fund 80 services should be asked to pay a nominal fee, taking the tax burden off the many taxpayers not using the services.  The DPI also suggests a user fee in its Fund 80 manual. But Torkelson will have no part of it.

The meeting was also marred by the performances of meeting chairperson Deanna Pierpont and school attorney Mary Gerbig.   Their lack of understanding of parliamentary procedures became apparent when a motion was made by Kelly Kohegyi not to pay the school board members.  This was followed by an amendment to the motion made by Jim Hannemann to pay each member $2,500 a year.  Pierpont and Gerbig wanted to vote on the original motion first.

Expert parliamentarian Vic Ouimette tried to coach Pierpont and Gerbig about the proper procedure which requires a vote on the amendment first.  After a discussion of several minutes, a vote was taken with the $2,500 annual pay being approved.

The 2 hour and 15 minute annual meeting and budget hearing also included approval of a resolution to borrow $139,000 for school building repairs.  With interest, the 20-year loan will cost Mercer taxpayer $211,000.  The loan caused a discussion about why the needed repairs were not carried out over the last several years and paid for from normal operating income. 

More on that and other annual meeting/budget hearing issues in a coming blog.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


It’s YOUR Tax Dollars

THE ANNUAL MEETING -- BE SURE TO ATTEND

How can anyone be serious about proposing an almost 25% increase in Fund 80 spending from $203,000 to $250,000 when the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has already ruled that $175,248 was misspent or inappropriately accounted for?

Does a 20% increase from $352,922 to $422,158 in administration costs mean that Administrator Erik Torkelson plans to pay himself more than the $165,963 he took home in pay and benefits in 2017-18 ($168,041 the year before)?

And what about the $178,211 increase in total expenditures, or the $232,301 shortfall between expenses vs. revenues?

These are just some of the questions Mercer taxpayers should seek answers to at the Mercer School District’s annual meeting and budget hearing at 5 p.m. Monday, October 29, at the school. The annual meeting and budget hearing give Mercer taxpayers their only opportunity to raise questions about runaway spending, school mismanagement and dismal educational results. 

The proposed 2018-19 budget was presented to the school board by Torkelson at an October 15 special meeting.  Two school board members, Christa Reinert and Karl Anderson, raised many significant concerns, while Torkelson lackeys Noel Brandt, Deanna Pierpont and Micki Pierce-Holstrom sat mostly silent. An exception was the few times Board President Brandt mumbled some comments which no one in the audience could hear. 

The special meeting also was called to approve a contract for roof repairs.  The board approved a bid of $69,895. It was later advertised that Mercer residents would be asked at the October 29 annual meeting to approve a $139,000 loan   to cover the roof repairs and a new heating/ventilation control unit costing $21,345.  So how will the remaining $47,760 be spent? 

No other items were included in the October 15 agenda.  Nevertheless, board member Deanna Pierpont read a letter which had nothing to do with the proceedings.  In the past, Pierpont always pretended to be a stickler for meeting protocol, except when it served hers or Torkelson’s purposes.  The letter she read on October 15 was allegedly from a parent praising the free baby-sitting services Torkelson provides at taxpayer expense. 

At a meeting some months earlier, Pierpont made another huge blunder by reading a student letter which she must have known falsely accused a Mercer citizen of calling the students pathetic when, in fact, he said the ACT scores pathetic.  Several digital audio recordings confirmed the citizen’s statement, and a school video recording of the meeting would also have confirmed it.  The meeting videos were always posted on the school’s website until that meeting when the video was destroyed.  Pierpont was quoted in a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article as saying that she destroyed the video recording.

Included in the many questions Christa and Karl raised at the October 15 meeting about the proposed budget were several concerning much-needed repairs to the school’s infrastructure. Christa pointed out that we are now being asked to approve a $139,000 budget and loan for building repairs when the administration had years to make repairs out of regular operational income.  She also said the board was promised a prioritized list of needed repairs months ago but never received it. 

Brandt hinted that Mercer taxpayers may be asked – now get this – to approve another tax increase referendum for building repairs. This would be on top of the $650,000 never-ending tax increase referendum Torkelson got taxpayers to approve in 2013 by promising that their taxes would go up $11 per $100,000 assessed property valuation when they actually went up $137.

Christa asked why some of that tax increase referendum money had not been used in making building repairs.  A sensible question, but then sensible things don’t seem to happen with this administration.

Friday, October 19, 2018


The October Meeting

ANOTHER FAILING GRADE FOR THE MERCER SCHOOL BOARD

At a time when the Mercer School District Administration and School Board are being investigated for the misuse of taxpayer Fund 80 money, test administration and scoring irregularities, and open meetings and destruction of public records violations, you would expect the Board to show some responsibility in handling the school’s financial issues.

But it didn’t.  That is three of the five members of the board, Noel Brandt, Deanna Pierpont and Micki Pierce Holstrom, didn’t.  They sat like bumps on a log at the October School Board meeting when they were supposed to be reviewing a flawed proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year.  Only Board members Christa Reinert and Karl Anderson had the integrity to raise many significant inquiries about the questionable budget prepared by Administrator Erik Torkelson.

Of more significance is what may have happened in a closed session of the School Board.  Christa had asked for the closed session to address the behavior of the Administration and Special Education Director Deb Davis for “lacking compassion and understanding” in handling the needs of a blind-deaf, 5-1/2- year-old child.  (See MSF 9/28/18 From the Lakeland Times) The request for the closed session also asked the board to “consider the current state of the Mercer school under the seven years of Erik Torkelson’s tenure.” 

We have no way of knowing what was said in the closed meeting because Board members are prohibited from revealing that information. It’s not difficult to imagine what may have happened because Torkelson had his lawyer attend, and his three School Board lackeys -- Brandt, Pierpont and Pierce -- were not likely to allow anything to happen to their master.   And it didn’t.  After the hour-and -half long closed session, Brandt reported that no action was taken. 

Based on the “no action taken” result and the length of the meeting, it is probably safe to assume that the lawyer and Torkelson’s lackeys spent the time defending Torkelson and possibly even turning it into an attack on Christa and Karl.    

Mercer citizens will get the opportunity to review and revise the budget at the School District’s annual meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday, October 29, at the school.  Meanwhile they can review the proposed budget by going on line to the school’s website.  It was also be published in the Iron County Miner. 

Many people in the audience had a difficult time hearing the open meeting proceedings, particularly the mumbling by Board President Brandt.  “We can’t hear you,” shouted a number of people many times. 

Two former School Board members were heard to say, “You’re not supposed to.  It’s a meeting of the School Board.”  An amazing statement, particularly coming from former School Board members who should know what Wisconsin’s attorney general has said:

“Wisconsin’s open government laws promote democracy by ensuring that all state, regional and local governments conduct their business with transparency. Wisconsin citizens have a right to know how their government is spending their tax dollars and exercising the powers granted by the people.”

Incidentally, the lawyer who attended the closed session is with the law firm of Davis/Kuelthau.  That law firm is supposed to represent the School Board, but it has been taking its orders from Torkelson.

COMING SOON:   The budget issues raised at the October meeting with a hint that Torkelson may again try to increase school taxes with another referendum.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


Special School Board Meeting Monday

PROPOSED BUDGET, “BEHAVIOR” ISSUE ON AGENDA

A 25% increase in Fund 80 to $250,000…a $69,236 increase in administration pay and expenses…a $178,211 increase in total expenditures…a $232,301 shortfall in expenses vs. revenues.

These are just some of the bizarre line items included in a budget proposed by Administrator Erik Torkelson for the 2018-19 school year.

The Mercer School Board will wrestle with the budget at a special meeting at 5 p.m. Monday, October 15, in the school cafeteria.  The meeting is open to the public, but a closed session, which will follow, will not be.

The closed session was requested by school board member Christa Reinert to address the behavior of the Administration and Special Education Director Deb Davis for “lacking compassion and understanding” in handling the needs of a blind-deaf, 5-1/2- year-old child.  (See MSF 9/28/18 From the Lakeland Times)

The request for the closed session also asks the board the “consider the current state of the Mercer school under the seven years of Erik Torkelson’s tenure.”  The four-page request, made public at the September school board meeting, went on to cite several issues including Torkelson’s pay and benefits, which were $168,641 for the 2016-17 school year and $165,963 for 2017-18.  His contract was for only $98,000 plus about $15,000 in benefits. The request for the meeting also questioned the payment of $49,553 to retired Business Manager Lori Boltz, without a contract, while also paying Trisha Thompson as the present business manager.

Those who have viewed the proposed budget on school’s website were amazed at how Torkelson could possibly propose a Fund 80 budget of $250,000, up from $203.000, when the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on June 26 issued official findings that $175,248 of taxpayer Fund 80 money had not been properly accounted for.  (See MSF 7/21/18 Torkelson/School Board Crisis Grows)

The administration expense increase of 20% from $352,922 to $422,156 is also puzzling.  Does it mean that Torkelson plans to pay himself even more money in 2018-19?

A review of the proposed budget by the school board, which is required by law, never happened before under Torkelson. He never allowed the school board or the public to see his budget until a few days before the annual school district meeting.  By design, the annual meeting is and always was held too late for budget adjustments to be made before the November 1 deadline.  That allowed Torkelson to basically force the school board to rubber stamp his proposed budget.   This year’s annual meeting and public budget hearing will be held on Monday, October 29.

Although this Monday night’s school board meeting agenda again does not provide for “public comment,” you will want to attend to find out how much more of your taxpayer dollars will be wasted.  But don’t expect too much questioning of the budget from Torkelson’s school board cronies Noel Brandt, Deanna Pierpont or Micki Pierce-Holstrom.

Saturday, October 6, 2018


Better but Not Good Enough


MERCER SCHOOL’S NEW ACT SCORES



The Mercer School’s newly announced ACT composite score for 2017-18 remained “pathetic” but moved up slightly from being at the very bottom of all 20 northern Wisconsin schools in 2016-17.  A 2017-18 composite  score of 18.36 placed Mercer 14th in the list of the 20 northern Wisconsin schools. Mercer’s composite score for 2016-17 was a dismal 16.6.


Any score reported for Mercer is questionable because the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction said it is investigating Mercer’s “test administration and scoring issues”.


According to the DPI, Mercer’s composite score of 18.36 places it between poor (16) and OK (20).  However, 18.36 would not get a student into any of the 22 state colleges listed by the DPI, which showed the lowest acceptable ACT score as 23.  A perfect score is 36. The ACT tests are administered in the spring to all high school juniors.  


As noted below Mercer trails far behind neighboring Lakeland Union and Hurley high schools.


State Forward Tests for grade 3-8 and 10 showed that 47.5% of the scores of Mercer students tested were below average for language/arts, math, science and social studies.  By comparison, neighboring schools North Lakeland Elementary was 35.1% below average while Hurley was 37.5%.


Following are the composite ACT results for all 20 northern Wisconsin schools:

NORTHERN WISCONSIN SCHOOLS

COMPOSITE ACT SCORES

2017-18                                                                    2016-17

Chequamegon        21.22                                     Phillips                      21.6

Lakeland                 20.58                                     Washburn                 20.8

Northland Pines     20.35                                     South Shore             20.4

Tomahawk              20.06                                     Lakeland                   20.1

Phillips                    20                                          Northland Pines       19.9

Northwood              19.78                                     Solon Springs          19.9

Hurley                      19.51                                     Tomahawk               19.9

Drummond              19.41                                     Drummond              19.8

Rhinelander            19.32                                     Superior                   19.4

Superior                  19.2                                       Ashland                    19.1

Hayward                  19.13                                     Mellen                      19.0

South Shore            18.75                                     Rhinelander            19.0

Ashland                   18.68                                     Chequamegon        18.7

MERCER                  18.36                                     Hayward                  18.7

Mellen                      18.19                                     Butternut                 18.6

Washburn                18.03                                     Hurley                      18.5

Bayfield                    18                                          Northwood              17.0

Solon Springs          18                                          Bayfield                   16.9

Winter                       17.74                                     Winter                      16.8

Butternut                  17.05                                     MERCER                  16.6

Friday, September 28, 2018


From the Lakeland Times

MAJOR STORY REVEALS INSENSITIVE TREATMENT OF DEAF-BLIND CHILD AND HIS PARENTS

In a well-researched and documented story in Friday’s Lakeland Times, the plight of a Mercer school nonverbal, deaf-blind child and his parents was reported in a story that began on page one and continued to a full page inside.  The excellent reporting by Brian Jopek painted a disturbing and grim picture of the insensitive way in which the child and his parents have been treated by Administrator Erik Torkelson and Special Education Director Deb Davis.

The whole affair has caused the parents of Lelyn Schmidt to take the boy out of the Mercer school out of concern for his “safety and well being.“  Lelyn’s mother, Stormi Schmidt, is quoted in the article as saying  that their “current problems with the  Mercer School District actually began when in April 2018 they removed Leyln’s seven-year-old  brother from the school because of bullying.”

To add insult to injury, Torkelson had asked the Iron County district attorney to file disorderly conduct charges against the Schmidts because of a meeting he and Davis had with the Schmidts.  A 911 call Torkelson had placed to the sheriff's office during the meeting was found to be unwarranted, and the DA has declined Torkelson’s request to press charges.

A recording of the meeting and a report by the Iron County sheriff’s office proved that there had been no disorderly conduct when the Schmidts sought answers to a letter cutting them off from all contact with the child while he was in school.  The child requires very special attention for which the mother has received extensive training. 

The letter also said that the mother could no longer have direct contact with a teacher's aide, as she had in the past, in providing the special attention the child requires.  The letter also said that it was cutting off bus transportation for the child which the district is obliged to provide.

Mercer School Board member Christa Reinert is quoted in the Lakeland Times article as saying: “After reading the police report, listening to the audio recording at the meeting Sept. 12 and reading both the original letter sent to the family from Deb Davis Sept. 6  and the certified letter Ms. Davis also sent to the family regarding this student, I am truly distraught how Ms. Davis and Erik Torkelson have conducted themselves in this matter.”

Still quoting the Lakeland Times: “Reinert said the entire school board received correspondence from Schmidt’s attorney, a letter Reinert says concerns me greatly with respect to the Mercer school district and the possible liability these school officials have created in conducting themselves in this way, with a very sensitive matter.  I have communicated with the family and I wish them all the best.”

The Friday, Sept. 28, Lakeland Times is well worth buying to read the entire article.

Thursday, September 20, 2018


What’s This All About?

IRREGULARITIES WITH STUDENT TESTING?

In the massive news media reporting of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction findings that Mercer school district administrator Erik Torkelson misused $175,000 of taxpayer Fund 80 money, an interesting part of the reporting seemed to get lost.  Here is what just one media outlet, KBJR6 TV in Rhinelander, reported at the time:

“KBJR6 has learned there could be an issue with (Mercer) test scores.

A Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction spokesperson said they are looking into allegations of test administration and scoring issues.

This comes after the Wisconsin DPI found 12 instances of misappropriation of funds within the district, totaling $175,000.

DPI Spokespeople say the investigation into test scores is ongoing, and they won't be releasing any further information until the investigation is complete.”

Authorities throughout the nation are taking a very dim view of school administrator and teacher cheating in the administration of ACT, SAT and other widely-used tests because it results in a misrepresentation of the students’ and schools’ capabilities.  In many cases it is being treated as a crime.

In Atlanta, Georgia, eight educators were convicted of conspiracy to boost students' test scores and received stiff sentences in a school-cheating scandal. Three top administrators were sentenced to seven years in prison, with 13 years of probation.  Five lower-ranking educators received one- to two-year prison terms.



A state investigation found that educators gave answers to students or erased and changed answers on tests after they were turned in. Teachers who tried to report it were threatened with retaliation. Investigators accused administrators of creating a "culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation."



Caveon , a company that owns a testing system, found suspicious irregularities in the standardized tests taken in the Washington, D.C., public school system over a few years. Investigators have launched a probe following suggestions that there was widespread cheating in the district during the tenure of a former chancellor.

Not only can criminal penalties be involved, but the companies which own the tests have denied schools the right to use them if abuses are found.  This can cause a problem for students trying to enter colleges which require these test scores for admission.

The reasons for the harsh treatment of test administration and scoring abuses are that it gives students a false sense of their abilities and it may make it difficult for them once in college because they may have been rated as having better than actual subject skills. This could also result in lost tuition as students may have to retake courses they failed due to improper placement.

The true test results are also important because major companies look at such test results in considering people for employment.  The military is also interested in them or administers its own tests before accepting enlistees.

The real crime is the students’ false sense of accomplishment.  They will only find out their true ability or how their schools failed them when they attend college, attempt to enter the military or go on with their lives.




Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Will Pierpont Ever Learn?

ANOTHER ATTACK ON CHRISTA REINERT GOES AWRY

How do you respond to something so ridiculous that it does not deserve a response?  That is what Deanna Pierpont expected Mercer school board member Christa Reinert to do when she asked Christa to comment on the performance appraisal of administrator Erik Torkelson.

Pierpont, who was board president when she circulated the performance appraisal to school board members, turned Christa’s completely justified refusal to participate in the charade into another attempt to harass, intimidate and embarrass Christa.

The seven-page appraisal contains some of the most outlandish praise for an administrator who has presided over a deteriorating educational program and the wasteful spending of thousands of Mercer taxpayer dollars -- someone who is probably on his way out.

The irony is that Torkelson wrote his appraisal himself-- something no one has ever heard of being done -- and then his school board lackeys were asked to provide comments and sign a cover letter accompanying the appraisal.   

Attached to the appraisal was Pierpont’s totally out-of-place attack on Christa.  Attaching an unrelated document to an employee’s appraisal is totally inappropriate and clearly demonstrates that Pierpont’s motive was to harass Christa.

Pierpont called Christa a ”rogue board member” who “continuously tries to micromanage the school district.”    Pierpont is confusing “micromanaging” with Christa’s sincere attempt to fulfill her legal fiduciary responsibility as a school board member while protecting the best interest of the students and Mercer taxpayers.

Pierpont also charged that Christa’s attempts to “micromanage” the school district is costing the Mercer School District thousands of dollars in resources – time and money.”  All Christa has been attempting to do is to obtain readily available information she has been denied but to which she is legally entitled in order to perform her responsibilities as a school board member.

While falsely charging that Christa is costing the district thousands of dollars, Pierpont made no mention of the thousands of dollars in pay and benefits she and Torkelson’s mother-in-law, Kelly Kohegyi, allowed Torkelson to take home every year which far exceeded his contractual amount.  Nor did Pierpont mention the many other thousands of taxpayer dollars --- $1.6 million of Community Services Fund 80 money alone – which have not been fully accounted for.  In an ongoing investigation, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has already found that Torkelson diverted $145,916 from the school’s Fund 80 account into his pocket and the pockets of a few select staff members.  (See MSF 6/30/18 Torkelson’s Taxpayer Ripoff Draws Fire)

In the appraisal, Torkelson took credit for 88 achievements, practically all too ridiculous to mention.  For example, he credited himself for Mercer test scores that “have steadily improved”.  Since when does steady improvement mean being at the very bottom of the list of all 21 northern Wisconsin school districts with Mercer’s ACT and DPI school report card scores?

He also credited himself with doing “a great job on the ($650,000 school tax increase) referendum.”  Was it “a great job” by lying to Mercer taxpayers and telling them taxes would go up a mere $11 per $100,000 when he knew they would skyrocket by about $137 per $100,000?

Pierpont has been known to consistently use extremely poor judgment in her unwavering support for the failed administrator.   Her attack on Christa is just another reasons why she should be voted off the board in next spring’s election.

Sunday, September 2, 2018


Another Open Meetings Violation?

“SCHOOL BOARD” LETTER COULD BRING CHARGES

In an attempt to try to cover the mysterious misspending of thousands of Mercer taxpayer dollars, School District Administrator Erik Torkelson submitted 73 meaningless documents to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.  But one document stands out as being the epidemy of flawed judgement.

It was a letter dated May 1, 2018, in which the “Mercer Board of Education” feebly tried to explain two earlier meetings.  “Mercer Board of Education” is in quotes because two of the five signers as board members were not on the board at the time.

The DPI saw through the scheme and pointed out that the May 1 meeting violated the open meetings law because it was never legally posted.  The Iron County district attorney has been asked by several citizens to investigate the matter.

On an earlier occasion, the Mercer school board was found in violation of the open meetings law and was given a harsh warning by the then district attorney never to do it again.  In an earlier incident, Torkelson and the school board were found in violation of the public records law, resulting from a faked hacking scheme, and were ordered to pay a fine and legal fees of $5,000.

Two signers of the May 1 letter, Kelly Kohegyi and Denise Thompson, were booted off the board by voters in elections preceding the May 1, 2018, date.  And two members of the board on that date, Christa Reinert and Karl Anderson, were not advised of the meeting, nor was the public, as is required by law.

In its investigation, the DPI had requested proof that Community Service Fund 80 money had been legally used.  Torkelson submitted the documents without the “real” school board being advised as to what was being submitted, despite requests by Christa and Karl.

On June 5 the DPI discounted almost all the materials submitted and issued 12 findings that there was no documentation supporting the use of $175,248 of taxpayer Fund 80 money in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.  Most of that amount wrongly went into the pockets of Torkelson and a few select staff member as pay and benefits for duties Torkelson falsely claimed were needed to operate the community services programs. (See MSF 5/30/18 The DPI Investigation and 8/2/18 Another Black Eye)

The DPI is still investigating misuse of Fund 80 money for the 2017-18 school year.  Torkelson has appealed the earlier findings.  But that appeal is likely to go nowhere even if more documents like the phony May 1, 2018, letter are fabricated.