TORKELSON'S COMP.-- $168,641
Salary -- $137,937; Benefits -- $30,704
(2nd highest paid of state's 424 administrators)
ACT AND DPI SCORES -- 16.6 & 61.9
(Lowest of 21 Northern WI schools)
MERCER $25,281
Wisconsin $12,842

National $10,667

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Conveniently Unavailable Meeting Video

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.


Can't believe he still has his job said...

How can Torkelson get rid of a public record? I do believe he just violated the law yet again.

Anonymous said...

Like MSF said almost everyone there saw that the video camera was working. Maybe it isn’t the embarrassment they’re concerned about but the video being used as evidence.

Can't believe they still have their jobs said...

To Anonymous on November 21, 2017 at 4:59 PM

You hit the nail on the head. And if I was a school board member I would be very concerned because you also have culpability and liability.

Anonymous said...

I think someone pointed it out before, these supposed leaders in Mercer, go to church on Sunday and then all week long they carry on like they did at this last board meeting. And worse is the vile garbage they create and spew outside the school.