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, September 5, 2019

A “Special” School Board Meeting
The Mercer School’s students and staff and the Mercer community appear to have received another reprieve – at least for now.  At a special School Board meeting Wednesday night it was agreed to extend the leave of absence of District Administrator Erik Torkelson.

This means that the almost all new School Board, which is independent of the absent administrator, and the interim administrator will continue to have the opportunity to institute much-needed reforms in the management of the school.  (See MSF “Torkelson Returns” 8/29/19)

Torkelson has been on medical leave since he had a stroke in mid-June.  Just nine days before Wednesday night’s special meeting, the Board approved a request from Torkelson to return to full-time employment on August 30.  He did not return to the school and now this puzzling request to extend his leave of absence.

The Board decision to continue Torkelson’s leave came after a two-hour long closed session. 

But also on the closed meeting agenda were two other mysterious items on which the Board took no action.  It is possible that those two issues could be related to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s investigation into the Mercer School’s ACT test administration and scoring.

The DPI has confirmed that it was conducting the investigation and reportedly has interviewed several present and former teachers and even students.  According to DPI licensing information one teacher is “under investigation”.

However, the agenda item stated that the Board was to consider “specific personnel problems or the investigation of charges against specific persons”. (Note the plural “persons”.} The agenda also stated that the Board wanted “to discuss matters of student assessment.  (ACT test results?)

The other agenda item stated that the Board wanted “to confer with legal counsel…concerning strategy to be adopted by the body with respect to litigation in which it is or is likely to become involved.”   ACT, Inc., owners of the widely used testing system which is used by the Mercer School, has been known to seek legal action against school districts which violated its testing rules.   

And if that happens, guess who could be on the hook. MERCER TAXPAYERS!


  1. I had this comment on a previous blog, but thought it fit here better.

    Well not so fast, at Wednesday night's Board meeting, they approved an extension for Torkelson's medical 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.

  2. It will be very interesting how this all sifts out. I think the posse supporters are running out of lame excuses as this "Micah Magma" has demonstrated.

  3. This strange dedication to this administrator by the majority of the board (both previous and current boards) is beyond disturbing. So who did the board hire to replace Sheri Kopka's previous Science Teaching Position? Shouldn't this b paramount for the students to have a qualified, licensed Science Teacher to teach all subjects from general bio to advanced chem, physics, etc. There hasn't been mention of this hire in the minutes, what's the plan? And if there isn't any such person hired now, is the plan for the board to continue down this irresponsible road while fulfilling the extended medical leave for Erik Torkelson? Meaning, NO SCIENCE TEACHER FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS!! Only to give Torkelson an unlimited time to heal and then return? What's more important here educating our students for their future or Erik's return? This whole situation is completely insane!! The students and the parents need to demand more for themselves. Step up and open your mouthes before it's too late!

  4. Well... looks like the accused test cheater has resigned.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Did she resign or was she fired? The DPI licensing information shows that she was “under investigation.” The DPI was conducting an investigation into test cheating at the Mercer school.

  6. She resigned effective immediately. I would assume the teacher was given the chance to resign or face termination.