Cost per student Mercer $25,097,
Wis. $13,505, Nation $11,762
ACT comp. score Mercer 17.0,
Wis. 19.6, Lakeland UHS 20.0,
Hurley 18.7; perfect score 36.0
Mercer DPI Report Card score
lowest of all 421 Wis. districts

Thursday, August 29, 2019

What Now?

Just when we were beginning to hope for some improvemnt in the management of school affairs, a pall has been cast over the prospects for change.  Administrator Erik Torkelson submitted a request, which was granted by the Mercer School Board, to return to work on August 30.  He has been out on sick leave since mid-June, reportedly as the result of a stroke.

Meanwhile, a School Board consisting of four of five new members appeared to be doing what a Board should do versus past Boards.  And that is fulfill their responsibility to actively manage school affairs.

New Board President Bob Davis seemed in control and interim Administrator Sheri Kopka was performing in a much more open manner. This contrasts with the puppet School Board which was completely controlled by the administrator.

Bob Davis led the way with open discussions of some issues never before allowed.  He gave a full report on the Community Services Fund 80 settlement with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.  Discussion of the DPI investigation into the misuse of Fund 80 or the settlement which cost Mercer taxpayers $124,515, plus about $37,000 in unreimbursed legal fees, was not allowed under Torkelson.  Davis even developed comprehensive School Board meeting agendas – a first. 

Kopka proposed and was implementing a Citizens’ Advisory Committee, something that would not have been allowed under the earlier regime.  Now, with Torkelson returning, it remains to be seen if this idea will die a sudden death.

The pressing question is:  Will the new School Board exert its required responsibility and maintain control over school matters, or will it allow itself to revert to where the Board was controlled by the administrator? 


  1. Dear MSF,

    There is a new Mercer employee handbook preventing disclosure of illegal activities (aka whistleblowing) to DPI. This has been implemented under the guidance of board president Bob Davis. Please seek to obtain a copy of the new employee handbook so this can be made public as it appears the board does not seek to allow transparency into the goings on at Mercer School.

    1. Who would want to teach in that pit of misery? What a terrible working environment it must be.

    2. The whistleblower rule in the handbook requires staff to report illegal activities to the administrator, or board president if it involves the administrator, and states that no punitive action against the employee will occur.

  2. I hope the Board has done it's due diligence and is in possession of a physicians release to work document for Torkelson. This is supposedly a stroke and not just like he had a cold or the flu. They need to insure that he can carry out his contractual duties.

  3. Like I said before Torkelson doesn't want the dirt to get out!! He should definitely be handing the board a physicians release!
    I guess we are back to the old tricks of the trade again with Torkelson! Beware people!!

  4. Well not so fast, At Wednesday night's Board meeting, they approved an extension for Torkelson's leave.

    So let's see, he's gone, he's back with no physicians release, and now he's gone again. Could it be because the school is still under investigation for testing improprieties and misuse of funds among others? I believe the district and specific perpetrators can be sued for this.

    I don't wish anyone to be ill, but with the damage Torkelson has inflicted on many of the people in the community, I'd say he has no one to blame but himself.