TORKELSON COMP. $146,359
Contract $98,000; Benefits $30,000
Wis. DPI Supt. comp. $121,307
Cost per student Mercer $20,146,
Wis. $12,942, Nation $10,667
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 422 Wis. schools





Wednesday, October 2, 2019


A Mercer School First
DPI TEST CHEATING INVESTIGATION DISCUSSED IN OPEN SESSION
For more than a year information concerning the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s investigation into test cheating at the Mercer School was kept from the public by the school board and administration – that is, until Monday night’s board meeting.   Then, new board President Bob Davis explained the chain of events surrounding the investigation.

His attempt at transparency was refreshing.  However, he seemed somewhat critical of the fact that the former school board and administration were not more directly involved with the investigation.  Apparently, Davis was unaware that the DPI had deliberately excluded the board and administration from participating because the administration and some members of the teaching staff could have been involved in the investigation – either as witnesses or subjects of the investigation.  And at that time, Mercer had a school board majority that would not have allowed anything to be done anyway.  (Four of the five members of the current board are new, including Bob Davis.)

Asking those involved to investigate themselves would be like the proverbial “fox guarding the hen house”. 

Davis acknowledged that the Mercer School District did not have the legal authority to become involved in an individual’s licensing status and that it was the DPI ‘s responsibility.  He also pointed out that the investigation involved the testing procedure for the 10th grade Wisconsin State Forward Exam, ending speculation that ACT testing was involved.   

Davis also announced that the board was creating the position of district assessment coordinator to assure future compliance with testing procedures.  In a closed session following the regular meeting, the board gave the assignment to Mercer school counselor Amanda Kopka at an annual salary of $7,000, which is in additional to her duties as school counselor.  Last year she earned $56,656 in salary and benefits as school counselor.

Discussion of the investigation was not allowed before Monday’s meeting even though the DPI had announced to news media on several occasions that it was conducting the investigation into Mercer’s test administration and scoring.  The DPI also acknowledged the investigation in responses to citizen requests for public records. 

But in no instance were the names of individuals involved mentioned.  The first clue came when under one Mercer teacher’s license status the note “under investigation” appeared.  The teacher surrendered her license several days ago.  (See MSF 9/18/19 The Mercer Testing Scandal) This made a moot point of approving the acceptance of her resignation, also on Monday night’s agenda.   Davis explained that the board had no authority to approve or disapprove the resignation because under state statutes it had no option but to end her employment if she no longer had a teaching license.    (That teacher received a total of $90,352 in pay and benefits during the 2018-19 school year.)

The question remains: Has the investigation ended?  Monday night’s school board agenda provides a hint that maybe it isn’t over.  A closed session agenda item called for the board to discuss matters of “District Testing Allegations/Investigation”.  When the board returned to open session, Davis reported that it had not taken any action on the matter.

3 comments:

  1. One would think that if there is total transparency, the Board would just come out and say that the investigation is continuing?

    The Mercer School Board may be under the misconception that all they have to do is show up to a meeting each month. They really need to be more proactive. Other wise it's just the same old same old, whose relative should we hire?

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  2. The more things change the more they stay the same......

    So the board “just created” a district assessment coordinator position? This is false. DPI requires all districts to employ a testing coordinator. Mercer has had a coordinator for many years and you can find out who they are by visiting the collegeboard website. Interestingly, Amanda Kopka was already serving as testing coordinator and has been for the last two years. Including, during the Spring 2018 testing window when the 10th grade Forward Exam cheating took place.

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    Replies
    1. As I have said before, the only way to change Mercer School culture is to bring in totally new people. Better yet for the students and taxpayers is to consolidate with a larger district.

      It is extremely apparent that the Mercer School Board is either unwilling and/or unable to run a school properly.

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