SCHOOL FACTS
Cost per student Mercer $26,433,
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






Wednesday, December 30, 2020

 

TOP NEWS STORIES OF 2020

2020 WAS ANOTHER EXTRAORDINARY YEAR WHICH SAW MANY IMPORTANT AND UNUNUSAL NEWS EVENTS COME OUT OF THE MERCER SCHOOL DISTRICT.  THESE INCLUDED:

·        Torkelson’s eight-year reign of mismanagement and misspending comes to an end.

·        Covid-19 virus causes closing of Mercer School to protect students and staff.  Classes resumed in the fall with a carefully thought-out Back to School Plan.

·        School Board election ends an era of a corrupt board which failed the students and the community.

·        Torkelson’s original employment contract reveals big mistakes and giveaways.

 

FOLLOWING ARE THESE NEWS STORIES AND MORE AND WHERE TO FIND THEM:
                                                       

TORKELSON IS OUT!!! 

The day many Mercer residents had hoped for arrived at 8:30 p.m. on Monday, June 22, 2020, when Mercer School Board President Bob Davis announced that Administrator Erik Torkelson had resigned.

 Torkelson’s eight-year reign of mismanagement and misspending ended after a one hour and twenty-five-minute closed session of the board.  Details of the resignation were not announced except that Davis read a brief letter from Torkelson saying that he was resigning “for purposes of retirement”.  

The separation agreement was subsequently made public which showed that Torkelson was bought out of his contract for $80,000.  (6/22/20 and 8/7/20)

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KOPKA IS IN AS ADMINISTRATOR 

The Mercer School District has a new administrator – Sheri Lynn Kopka.  She was given the position at a July 13 special Mercer School Board meeting. 

Kopka was named interim administrator shortly after former administrator Erik Torkelson was placed on medical leave in June 2019.  Torkelson remained on medical leave until this last June 22 when he resigned “for purposes of retirement”.  He probably would have been fired anyway because the new board appeared to be looking for ways to terminate him.  (7/15/20) 

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WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE TOUGH GET GOING


Mercer School Administrator Sheri Kopka and the present School Board have shown that they have what it takes to confront even the most difficult of situations.  They have taken bold actions regarding the dangers facing all of us by the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) epidemic.  


Even before Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers ordered the closing of all schools in the state, Kopka announced that the Mercer School would be closed as the students came back off a one-week spring break beginning on Monday, March 16, through Monday, April 6.  It now appears that the school closing may be extended even beyond that April 6 date.

Kopka and her staff were quick to “move forward with plans and processes that will facilitate the continuing education process for our students,” said School Board President Bob Davis in an open letter to “students, parents and community members of Mercer”. 

A sound plan for resume school in the fall was subsequently enacted. (3/19/20 and 8/28/20)

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GREAT NEWS FOR THE MERCER KIDS AND THE COMMUNITY

Mercer voters made the right choices in Tuesday School Board election by returning Sue Loth and Jeff Nehring to their board seats and soundly rejecting Deanna Pierpont.  The voters also elected Henry Joustra. 

Loth and Nehring will serve three-year terms by getting the most votes and Joustra will serve a one-year term as the third-place vote-getter. Along with Pierpont, voters also rejected Brian Baltz.

The defeat of Pierpont is good news for Mercer in that it marks an end to the clique controlled by former Administrator Erik Torkelson.  The Torkelson gang consisted of his mother-in-law Kelly Kohegyi, Denise Thompson, Micki Pierce-Holmstrom and Noel Brandt.  Kohegyi and Thompson were voted off the board in earlier elections.  Brandt resigned when he moved away, and Pierce-Holmstrom chose not to seek re-election in this April’s election.    Pierpont chose not to run for re-election when her term expired in April 2019, but then attempted a come-back this year. 
(4/13/20 and 1/9/20)  

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 NEW ADMINISTRATOR WANTS ANSWERS


In a seemingly bold but much needed action, the Mercer School District’s new administrator, Sheri Kopka, is seeking parent and community feedback by way of a comprehensive survey.  “Seemingly bold” because the former administrator, Erik Torkelson, would have never allowed such well-meaning input.

Much like the Strategic Planning Committee Kopka has formed, the thought of a parent and community survey indicates a dramatic positive change from the earlier denial of parent and community involvement in school affairs. 
(5/7/20)

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 Torkelson’s Contract – Part 1 

THE GENESIS OF A BIG MISTAKE

 A recent exchange of comments in Mercer School Facts displayed that there is a good amount of confusion and lack of knowledge about the employment contract of Administrator Erik Torkelson.    

This interest has been prompted by the new Mercer School Board’s apparent attempt to terminate Torkelson, who has been on medical leave since last June.  Since then, the board has delved into the school’s financial and academic records, apparently leading to the realization that Torkelson must not be allowed back in the school.  

The board named as an interim administrator, Sheri Kopka, to help correct many of the wrongs created during Torkelson’s eight-year reign of mismanagement.  And they have been making progress.  (6/4/20 also see Part 2 - 6/11/20 and Part 3 - 6/19/20) 

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 A MERCER-STYLE KOOL-AID PARTY?

 Under ordinary circumstances it becomes prudent to ignore minor irresponsible acts of others. But when those acts are so extreme that they endanger people’s lives, they cannot be overlooked.

Such an act occurred in Mercer on Sunday, May 24, when deposed Mercer School Administrator Erik Torkelson presided over a mock graduation ceremony for 12 of Mercer’s 14 graduates.  His help included his mother-in-law, Kelly Kohegyi, and long-time supporter, Deanna Pierpont, both former Mercer School Board presidents. 

The ceremony was held in a large, rented party tent erected at the Kohegyi gravel pit.  As near as could be determined from pictures of the event, about 50 people attended, and WITHOUT ANY SOCIAL DISTANCING AND WITHOUT FACE MASKS. In addition to the graduates and some parents, four teachers attended.  (5/27/20)

3 comments:

  1. Let's face facts. Torkelson and his school board set an extremely low bar. Their school board meetings, if you can even call them that, were a joke. The curriculum that was supported by them was even worse. Test scores prove this out.

    The fact that the school board now discusses some things is an improvement. Other than this, what has really changed? One should ask, what is the purpose of a school? The answer is the education of the students? Has the this and/or the curriculum improved? Has the the school sent out a follow up survey to the graduating students? Have they even questioned why so many choose to send the children to other school districts?

    So they again took the easy way out and bought off Torkelson. Then they hired an existing person rather than do a search for someone who may be able to steer the school in the right direction. Torkelson would frequently comment that perception was his job. So has anything really changed?

    This blog used to look at the school objectively, I question if that is the case now.

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  2. Nothing has changed. I haven't seen any positive changes that directly help the kids. All this hype around the new Administrator and school board members (its been almost a year and a half with four out of five members in the role) created nothing but longer meetings. Where's the results? Adding Joustra is just an empty seat (all talk and just excuses). No wonder parents are yanking kids out of Mercer after middle school. I know where Im sending my kids.

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  3. The Board hides it head as to what is happening there. Where is discussion about low numbers and even worse low numbers next year. How many kids are in a class— do we hire people full time if they have 2-3 kids in a class, teachers that do not even come to class or always arrive late and leave early are their contracts renewed? Some classes literally have one or two students. Why are students left with no teacher to supervise them, many times not even in the building, which happens often. At least Mr. Joustra has asked about this. Should the school be a k-6 school? Do you even have the numbers for that- combine grades?
    Lots of serious issues— stop talking to hear yourself talk about paperwoek and look into this and do something about it. The school is bleeding and a bandaid won’t work anymore.

    ReplyDelete