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

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

School Board Inaction


Just when it was beginning to seem like the new Mercer School Board was decisive and willing to take bold actions comes a big disappointment.

It happened at Monday night’s meeting when the board failed to take the long overdue and much needed action of terminating Administrator Erik Torkelson.  After an hour and one-half closed door session “to discuss administrator leave status, and to potentially take action regarding same”, it reconvened to report “no action taken.”

Torkelson has been out on medical leave since last June.  The school board  disappointingly failed to terminate him at several previous meetings.

Granted, terminating Torkelson is not a simple matter.   (See MSF 1/25/20 Dismantling an Autocracy)  But his record of failure is well documented.

Also complicating the matter is his medical leave status.  Firing him while he is on medical leave could result in a lawsuit.  In any event the school board needs to “bite the bullet” and end eight years of mismanagement and misspending.  Even some sort of cash settlement would result in a savings compared with if he is allowed back in the school.

The board seemed to be on the right track with the hiring of Sheri Kopka as interim administrator, restating the financials and taking other positive actions.

Now is not the time to reverse that trend.  


  1. If the SB in firing Torkelson is rely on the attorney Torkelson hired it needs a new attorney.

  2. More of the same, but I won't say I told you so. It must be that the people who really understand quality education are not interested in being on the school board. I would guess that most of the people on the board were former business people but a school is really not a business.

    It would also appear that they are afraid to make decisions as to not offend anyone. It's the old, do nothing and it will go away. As is the case most often, it does not go away.

    However their unwillingness or inability to make any decision, is crippling the futures of Mercer School students while they drain the pocket books of many taxpayers. Many of whom are on fixed income.

  3. It seems that in the past Torkelson and his school board buffoons had no problem arbitrarily dismissing employees for. Why should Torkelson be treated any differently now?

  4. Now hold on. I think the board is doing a good job considering the mess they inherited. It took 7 plus years to fall apart. It will take a while, but it will get done. It's better to get it done the right way. I disagree with the idea of just throwing more money at him. I still think criminal charges and professional charges should be looked at. The DPI needs to be involved and hopefully revoke his professional license. Remember - this board did not create this problem.

    1. The DPI has been involved and to what end?

      If they are doing such a good job, why has no action been taken?

  5. I do not live in Mercer, but I would visit there. However after reading what goes on in this community I will no longer come to this area.

    I'm sure others will do the same.

  6. This current board made a monumental mistake by offering Torkelson a one year medical leave. Had the school's attorney been vigilant after info she received in April 2019, she may have advised this board not to grant this one year leave. The board may have considered the current state of the school and it's dysfunction under his leadership before ever extending his medical leave - What's their reason? 1.) Misguided or unguided by the School's Attorney, 2.) NEPITISM (Loth and her husband huge fans of Torkelson, Nehring quoted saying all school skeptics are misinformed, Pierce "is all in" and Davis is an uninformed fool). BOTH!!!

    For those of you waiting for the DPI to do something, the are only an oversight tool for public schools - you local tax payers and the Board need to influence an investigation into all of the misspending. Go to the District Attorney!! Get a group together, call an attorney and file a suit. Guaranteed there is grounds for an investigation.

    The Board's behavior is disturbing especially knowing the DPI outcome regarding the misuse of Fund 80 over his entire tenure (every tax payer needs to request a copy of the "Historic Labor Distribution by Employee" dating back to 2011-12) and you will all see for yourself the employees paid from FUND 80, including Torkelson. Eventhough he paraded around at the 2018 Annual meeting stating, no one has been paid from Fund 80 - lie, lie lie!! That document will show each and everyone of you who was paid beyond contracts, his was $98,000 plus in lieu payments not to exceed $114,000 - every fiscal year he took home way beyond this. A written response from Torkelson to an Open Record request, does NOT DENY these over payments, the response includes BONUSES ANNUALLY as part of the explanation for the overpayments! WHEN WERE THESE GIVEN BY THE BOARD??? NEVER!!

    Then in another response to an Open Record Request, the Business Manager(s) admit to an overpayment and that repayment was determined by the School's attorney, the Business Manager(s) and Torkelson - NOT THE SCHOOL BOARD!!! The funny thing is the repayment came from Torkelson's Sick Days Accrued, EXCEPT the contract does not compensate for unused sick days and at the point of December 2018 he had ZERO vacation days left for compensation. So what exactly did he repay???

    Wake up Folks!!! This community doesn't want change, the Interim Administrator should NOT get compensated $98,000/12 months with ZERO Experience - This current board approved that, while she was part of the below average science scores for our students. The TOWN board approved hiring Deb Hohner (also compensating her way too much) for the Interim Clerk, who was recently removed from teaching at Mercer School when her license was revoked by the DPI for CHEATING!! All truly amazing!!

    1. All pretty much true except Horner's license was not revoked by the DPI for cheating. She surrendered her license as a part of the cheating investigation. You have to wonder if she and the Deborah Rice, who surrendered her license in the DPI cheating investigation, did this on their own or were told to do it. It's amazing that the town board would appoint Horner as town clerk with this kind of record. But then this is Mercer.

  7. I never heard of any employer having the right to grant or extend a medical leave for an employee without proper documentation from the doctor administering the medical treatment

    1. Only in Mercer, where "stupid is as stupid does"to quote Forest Gump.

  8. Really how hard can it be to terminate Torkelson.

    It's an easy 1st step, Torkelson, we are giving you notice that we will not continue to renew your contract. How many people did he fire without cause?

    If he is still on the school's medical insurance, can you imagine the cost the district?

    The Board seems paralyzed to take any action, so what are they really doing? Why still protect Torkelson.

    Although this seems to be a frequent theme nowadays.

  9. If the school board is using the attorney Torkelson hired to negotiate his exit, it needs to get another attorney. She was cited in the Green Bay Gazette for being “clueless about Constitutional law as well as state public records law”’ when she gave illegal advice to a Door County school board that a reporter not be allowed to record a public meeting. She also admitted at the Mercer school board meeting that she was unfamiliar with Robert’s Rules of Order.