SCHOOL FACTS
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






Monday, December 30, 2019


TOP NEWS STORIES OF 2019

2019 WAS AN EXCEPTIONAL YEAR WHICH SAW MANY IMPORTANT AND UNUNUSAL NEWS EVENTS COME OUT OF THE MERCER SCHOOL DISTRICT.  THESE INCLUDED:

·       The worst Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction School Report Card score in the state and dismal ACT test results.

·       The medical leave replacement of Administrator Erik Torkelson with an interim administrator.

·       An almost complete and needed change in school board membership.

·       Criminal felony charges against three present and two former school board members, only to be mysteriously dismissed.

·       Two teachers surrendered their licenses in the aftermath of a DPI test cheating investigation.

·       Settlement of a $185,465 DPI claim that the administration had misused Fund 80 money.

HERE’S WHERE TO FIND THESE NEWS STORIES AND MORE.

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MERCER’S NEW SCHOOL REPORT CARD SCORE

Two years ago, an astute Mercer citizen was verbally – and physically – attacked for calling the school district’s dismal ACT scores “pathetic.”  What would happen to him now if he appropriately classified the just-announced 2018-19 Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction School Card score for Mercer as “TRAGIC”?  But that’s what it is.

For the third consecutive year the Mercer School District’s Report Card score hit rock bottom. And for the most recent 2018-19 school year the Mercer School District stands all alone at the VERY BOTTOM of the state’s 421 school districts with a score of 50.4 -- fails to meet expectations.  No other school district is listed in the last place category of fails to meet expectations.  (11/12/19)

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MERCER AGAIN NEAR LAST PLACE WITH ITS ACT SCORE

The just announced 2018-19 Mercer School ACT composite score, as well as those going back at least five years, reflect on a failed administration and an ineffective former school board.  But it gives the new school board and new administrator the opportunity to fix a badly broken situation.

From the time former Administrator Erik Torkelson was hired by his mother-in-law, Kelly Kohegyi, in 2011, the school’s ACT scores have been in the cellar. Mercer’s composite score has never reached the state average for all the 422 school districts.

Mercer placed 19th in the latest list of 20 northern Wisconsin school districts with an abysmal ACT composite score of 17 for 2018-19.  In the year before, 2017-18, it was in 14th place with an 18.4 score and in 2016-17 it was in very last place with a 16.6 score.  (9/28/19) 

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ACT PROFICIENCY RESULTS

For those who question comparing Mercer’s ACT scores to other schools, citing Mercer’s comparative small class sizes, the proficiency ratings may be more meaningful -- and the results also are not good. 

The 2018-19 ACT results for 10 students tested show that 7 were not proficient in ELA (English Language Arts), 9 were not proficient in mathematics and 8 were not proficient in science.  Or, put another way, 3 of the 10 were proficient in ELA, only 1 proficient in math, and 2 proficient in science. (10/15/19)

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SHERI KOPKA PICKED AS TEMPORARY ADMINISTRATOR

Sheri Kopka, science teacher at the Mercer School, was selected Tuesday to fill in as administrator for the hospitalized Erik Torkelson. 

Although no official announcement has been made, it is generally known that Torkelson had a stroke resulting in partial paralysis.  The three-member Board accepted a request for a medical leave for Torkelson for an undetermined period.

It then agreed to enter into a contract with Kopka to fill the district administrator vacancy on an interim and probationary basis for a six-month term or subject to the return of Torkelson.  (7/18/19)

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A NEW BEGINNING? WELL MAYBE

For the first time in eight years the Mercer School may have a Board of Education and Administrator which will focus on quality education and the efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

Two new Board members, selected at the July 30 meeting, will join two recently elected members, Bob Davis and Jim Hannemann.  This is in contrast with a Board which not too long ago lacked the ability to manage school affairs in an open and honest manner.

Recently retired Mercer dentist Dr. Jeff Nehring and retired Racine schoolteacher Sue Loth were selected from a list of five to fill two vacant board seats.  The vacancies were created by the resignations of Karl Anderson and Noel Brandt. (8/4/19)

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3 PRESENT, 2 FORMER MERCER SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS CHARGED WITH CRIMINAL FELONIES

Deanna Pierpont, Noel Brandt, Micki Pierce-Holmstrom, Kelly Kohegyi and Denise Thompson have been charged with Class I criminal felony counts in the Iron County Circuit Court by District Attorney Matthew J. Tingstad. 

All five defendants have been ordered to appear before Circuit Court Judge Patrick J. Madden for initial appearances at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, April 22, the same day as the Mercer School Board meeting at 5 p.m.  At the initial appearances, dates for preliminary hearings will be set.  At some point, the defendants will be asked to enter pleas of guilty or not guilty and post bonds.  Eventually trial dates will be set.

Of course, in every criminal case the defendant must be considered innocent until proven guilty. (4/6/19)

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JUSTICE: THE IRON COUNTY WAY

In what was a surprising and seemingly predetermined court proceeding, criminal felony charges against the Mercer 5 were dismissed Monday by Iron County Circuit Judge Patrick Madden.  (For details about the charges and the defendants see MSF 4/2/19 The Wheels of Justice Turn Slowly)

Of, course, the defendants must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.  But Judge Madden blocked even making that determination by throwing out the cases on a technicality that the criminal charges were flawed. We will never know if the charges actually were flawed because Judge Madden did not give District Attorney Matthew Tingstad an adequate opportunity to prove otherwise. (4/23/19)

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THE MERCER TESTING SCANDAL
A Mercer teacher has surrendered her teaching license in what may have been affected by an investigation into test administration and scoring by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.


Information posted Monday on the DPI’s Educator Licensing website shows that Mercer history teacher Deborah Hohner surrendered her teaching license on September 11.  She resigned from her position at the school on September 6.  This followed a September 4 closed session of the Mercer School Board which had on its agenda several items apparently related to the investigation.  (See MSF 9/9/!9 The Tip of the Iceberg)  (9/18/19)



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ANOTHER MERCER TEACHER SURRENDERS HER LICENSE

A second Mercer teacher has ended up without her teaching license in the aftermath of a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction investigation into “test administration and scoring”. 

The DPI website containing teacher licensing information listed the “License Status” for Irene Deborah Rice as “Voluntary Surrender as of 10/29/19”.  An earlier listing for Rice on the website showed her “License Status” as “Under Investigation”.

The only known investigation by the DPI was for Mercer’s “test administration and scoring”.  The DPI had announced to the news media on several occasions that it was conducting the investigation.  The DPI also acknowledged the investigation in responses to citizen requests for public records.  (11/6/19)

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THE DPI TESTING INVESTIGATION

Sweeping foreboding information under the rug is nothing new at the Mercer School.  But what will the new Mercer School Board do about what appears to be the latest scandal to surface?

The word is that a Mercer teacher was fired (some say that person was given the opportunity to resign) as a result of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s investigation into test administration and scoring at the school. The investigation has been ongoing for over a year and the issue apparently came to a head last week when the DPI gave the school the chance to act or face public disclosure of its investigation findings.

The former administrator and his School Board never allowed any public disclosure of the DPI investigation. There is no way of knowing how deep the investigation went or if last Friday’s firing (or resignation) is just the tip of the iceberg. (9/9/19)

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14 REASONS TO ATTEND THE SCHOOL DISTRICT’S ANNUAL MEETING

Just when Mercer residents were beginning to hope that the new school board and administrator would turn out to be fiscally responsible and begin to stop the waste of their school tax dollars, what happens?  The board and administrator propose a record-high 2019-20 budget.

Under this budget, total school expenditures will rise an alarming 9% to $3,831,953 for 2019-20, compared with an actual 2018-19 spending of $3,518,955.  

And just after settling a $185,465 penalty with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for misusing Community Services Fund 80 that cost taxpayers $161,515 including legal expenses, what does the new school board do?  It raises Fund 80 spending 31% to $192,934 for 2019-20 from $147,774 in 2018-19.  (10/27/19)

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HOW MUCH DID THE FUND 80 FIASCO COST TAXPAYERS?

You have to wonder why the Mercer School Board’s settlement with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for the District’s Fund 80 abuses was approved in closed session and Mercer residents have not been told what it involves.

The reason for the secrecy may be because the savings from the District’s appeal was not all that great.  It appears that the District was still on the hook for about $125,000, plus legal fees, for improperly using Fund 80 Community Services funds.  The DPI had originally claimed that $185,465 had been misused.  (6/23/19)

1 comment:

  1. What a sad and dare I say pathetic, situation.

    ReplyDelete