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

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Terminating Torkelson?


Is the Mercer School Board working toward ridding the district of Administrator Erik Torkelson?  From some board actions it would appear so.

At the November school board meeting the board met in a closed session with the school’s attorney to “consider employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluation data of any public employee…Specifically, to discuss administrator (Torkelson) leave status , and to potentially take action regarding same.”  But why have in an expensive counsel to simply discuss his leave status?

And the board has spent $22,685 in September and October in legal fees for what may be, in part, work on terminating Torkelson.  There is his contract to consider and whether it will be necessary to pay him to go away.  

If the board is looking for reasons to terminate Torkelson it should look at the school’s failed academic record and the documented misspending and mismanagement.  His contract requires that he “perform at a professional level of competence the services, duties and obligations required by the laws of the State of Wisconsin.” 

If the board is working on removing Torkelson it should first attempt to recover the huge amounts of money he was overpaid during his eight-year tenure.  In most years his take-home pay package was in excess of $150,000.  ($161,336 for 2015-16, $168,641 for 2016-17, $165,963 for 2017-18 and $146,359 for 2018-19) During that time his contract was for a base salary of $98,000 plus about $30,000 in benefits.  So, at a minimum he probably received excess pay of about $20,000 a year.  $20,000 X eight years = $160,000.

Add to that the additional salary he took from July 2017 through June 2019.  His school board cronies – Deanna Pierpont, Micki Holmstrom and his mother-in-law Kelly Kohegyi – awarded him a new contract raising his salary $15,500 a year from $98,000 to $113,500. The problem is that the school board never approved that contract, so it is not legal.  $160,000 + $31,000 = $191,000.

An audit of other funds and perks Torkelson may have received might produce additional significant amounts.

Any settlement should end up with him owing the school district money.  But if the school board must consider paying him to just go away, it will be money well spent. 


  1. This is going to be a serious mess where the attorneys will be very busy and well compensated. His recent health issue will have a significant impact on making a clean departure. Even if a "for cause" termination is put forward it is doubtful there is any paper trail of corrective action given his immediate supervisor was a supportive school board. Potential disability and need for health care will make this expensive no matter how it settles. Can't wait for the next tax levy.

  2. Seems like a lot of taxpayer $$ is being spent on fixing the Mercer School from the previous School Board & Administration. Hopefully, in the end, everything being done will have a direct benefit to the school kids.

    1. But how do you correct the damage already done to the students, staff and community from their vile actions? Jail time and loss of pension will be a good place to start.

      Knowing that these are real possibilities, which they are, he may be willing to depart more easily.

  3. Wouldnt it be nice if we could get all the facts and all the figures and costs of what Torkelson has cost our community? And to include all the indirect costs like legal. Its our tax money mis spent yet true to government its secret and confidential. What would be so difficult after any of the past approved audits listing the income on his W-2 statement, his benefits paid plus a total of all expenses reimbursed and paid to him. How many computer keys to print that out. I also wrote here several years ago we dont know what king of contract kohegyi and pierpont gave him and it appears I am right. This school is a business and treated like one. Not as a whatever it costs we will levy the cash to cover it.
    Is their any indication he is complicit in the cheating scandal? If so he should be terminated immediately. I know if he is allowed to come back to work, all faith and credibility in our school board is lost.

  4. It is not just the extra money Torkelson took. It also all the extra money everyone else received when they shouldn't have.

  5. Any money Torkelson received from the district is too much. Half the time he was not even on campus.