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, March 5, 2020

Important Work Takes Time


This expression functions as a plea to be patient. For example, Mercer citizens need to be patient as the new school board struggles to correct eight years of mismanagement by former Administrator Erik Torkelson and as it discusses ways to terminate his employment. 

“To discuss administrator leave status, and to potentially take action regarding same” is an entry appearing with greater frequency on the school board’s meeting agendas.  It was there again for a Wednesday night special meeting. 

These discussions are held in “closed session,” which means that the public cannot attend and that board members are prohibited, by law, from discussing what transpires.  As in the past, the school board returned to open session after its closed session Wednesday evening and reported that “no action was taken.” 

This makes sense.  Terminating Torkelson is complicated.  The board must consider the consequences it faces if a correct and legal process is not followed.  For this the board appears to be using the legal firm hired earlier and has paid that firm such amounts as $9,104.94 in January and $4,197.50 in November, just to mention two months.

Further complicating the situation is that by firing Torkelson while on medical leave could open the school district to a discrimination lawsuit.

Torkelson has a contract which is automatically renewable every two years, but he must file an acceptance statement each time.  Whether this was done is in question. 

However, it would seem that the board has enough evidence to terminate Torkelson under “Section II Duties” of his contract.  That section requires that he “perform at a professional level of competence the services, duties and obligations required by the laws of the State of Wisconsin and the job description, policies, procedures and handbooks of the Board.”  The school’s failed academic performance and the documented wasted and misspent school funds would seem to justify terminating him under the “duties” requirement of his contract. 

Meanwhile, the board has been struggling with such other tasks as restating the school district’s finances which had been used improperly.  The restatement of the finances was required as a part of a settlement of a $185,465 claim by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction that Torkelson had misused Community Services Fund 80.  

The finances and removal of Torkelson are just two of the issues with which the school board has been confronted.  So, as you can see, the board has its plate full.

Meanwhile, Mercer citizens, be patient.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.


  1. Well written and well reasoned. Nice to see a calm rational statement. Hopefully this reflects a cautious optimism regarding the direction of Mercer schools.

  2. No action taken? Yet again? This board has been in place for almost 1 year and all they have to show for it is they video tape meetings again. Wow, what a decisive action.

    How about tackling the lack of of an established curriculum? Could it be that no one knows how to write curriculum?

    How about sending out surveys to the graduates? How hard is this? After all, for the past 5 years there may be 50 graduates.

    It appears like most organizations they just want to meet for meetings sake.

    Do something meaningful already!