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MPD chief blasts Madison School Board's police contract, says he won't agree to amendments

MPD chief blasts Madison School Board's police contract, says he won't agree to amendments

MEETING (copy)

Mike Koval, Madison police chief, said he would not agree to the amended language in the SRO contract the School Board passed Monday night.

Though the Madison School Board approved an amended contract Monday that would keep police officers in the city's four main high schools, Police Chief Mike Koval said Tuesday that he'll never agreed to the new language. 

"We had never agreed (nor will I ever agree) to language regarding the ability to remove an officer for 'cause,'" Koval said in a blog post. "The School District floated this language out last week and it was made unequivocally clear that I would not agree to this language."

The School Board voted unanimously to adopt the amended language, which would give the district the authority to remove a police officer — described in the contract as a school resource officer or SRO — from school if they found cause. The amended contract itself was approved by a 4-2 vote.

"I will reiterate that the processes for disciplining or assigning officers are governed by state law and labor contract, and these rights cannot be bargained away in an agreement with a third party," Koval wrote. "We have always worked cooperatively with MMSD to select our resource officers and to address any areas of improvement. However, the law does not permit us to pre-determine discipline through the contract language that was suggested."

The current contract between the district and city is set to expire at the end of the school year. The proposed contract approved Monday would begin in summer 2019 and extend through June 2022.

"The majority of the board spoke last night," School Board member TJ Mertz, who proposed the amendment, said Tuesday. "I think the the board speaks when it votes. I don't think there's anything we need to add because it could undermine our negotiating team."

Matt Bell, the district's general counsel, said after the School Board meeting Monday that the amended contract would go to the city where it would eventually need approval through the City Council. 

The contract traditionally has been finalized by June or July, Mertz said. The last time the contract was renewed, the process dragged into August, which Mertz noted is not ideal. If there is no agreement by the time the 2019-20 school year starts, he said the School Board could look at other enhanced security measures.  

"I want it to work," Mertz said. "I want it to work for everyone."

Koval said he is looking to end the controversy around the SRO contract renewal. 

"It is time for the School Board to end this 18 month saga and just ratify the terms of the contract that were agreed upon," Koval wrote. "I believe that I am speaking for more than just a few folks when I say that the future of MMSD is tied to the perceptions and realities of school safety--time to act and get this done without further debates, committees, and studies!"

School Board President Mary Burke said she wants to work collaboratively with MPD on the contract. 

"We take very seriously the fact that as a school district, we are ultimately responsible for the adults who interact with our students, and in the unlikely event that an issue arises, we want to be able to work collaboratively with MPD to address it," Burke said in an email. "We believe that is a reasonable and responsible request, and we're looking forward to further discussion."

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Education Reporter

Negassi Tesfamichael is the local education reporter at The Cap Times. He joined the paper in 2018. He previously worked as an intern at WISC-TV/ and at POLITICO.