Under a newly proposed contract between the city and the Madison Metropolitan School District, MMSD has the ability to move away from having an officer in each of the city’s four high schools starting in the 2020-21 school year.
Under the new language in the contract, MMSD would have until Sept. 15 to tell the city if it would like to reduce the number of SROs assigned to Madison schools from four to three. The district would have to select which school should have a reduction. The reduction would then take place the following school year.
The new contract language follows a negotiation strategy the Madison School Board broadly supported last month to move towards removing an SRO from at least one of Madison’s high schools.
The new contract will be discussed at the board’s June 10 meeting and likely be up for a vote later in the month. The contract would run until June 2022.
“The Board is considering a proposal from the City that is based upon prior negotiations,” School Board President Gloria Reyes said in an email Friday afternoon. “It would not be appropriate to comment at this time before the Board has fully considered the proposal.”
In December, the Madison School Board approved an amended contract to keep police officers in the high schools after the current contract expires June 30. The added language would have given school officials the ability to remove an officer from a school if they found cause. Madison Police Chief Mike Koval and the city had argued that the added language was illegal, because personnel decisions on officers are under the authority of the police chief.
The proposal follows months of negotiations between the Madison School District and Madison Police Department after a previously proposed contract, which passed the board in December, included an amendment police called a nonstarter.
“I am relieved and grateful that the pleas of parents, students, teachers and staff have been acknowledged, and we can continue to demonstrate that the SROs are a valuable, complementary piece in making our schools safer,” Police Chief Mike Koval said in a statement.
But Koval expressed opposition to the option to drop one officer.
He used a metaphor about a road trip with four children in the car but seat belts for only three, resulting in one child riding without a seat belt and risking injury.
“I love all my kids equally, and I don’t want to have to make a choice as to which kid should be less protected against potential harm(s),” Koval said.
He also questioned how police response time to an incident at a high school without an SRO would be affected, and called choosing what high school would not have an officer “problematic.”
“I have never been silent when I object to things that could impact public safety, and I am against the clause that would provide the district the option of reducing our presence in all of the four high schools,” Koval said.
He acknowledged, though, that the decision to continue the contract is up to elected school and city representatives.
Madison East high school? Madison West? La Follette? James Madison Memorial?
Police EROs 2019
Justin Creech, West; Rod Johnson, La Follette; Zulma Franco, East; Tray Turner, Memorial H.S.
One of those lucky schools — more particularly, their students, parents, and faculty — will be freed of those troublesome school resource officers under a contract the school board is proposing with the Madison Police Department.
Madison School Board members expressed “broad support” for at least one of Madison’s four high schools to go without a police officer stationed at the school as part of a new contract between the city and district, according to meeting minutes obtained by the Cap Times in an open records request.
In a closed session meeting on May 6, the Madison School Board discussed its negotiation strategies with the city over the renewal of a contract that has a school resource officer based at East, West, La Follette and Memorial high schools.
“There was broad support for working towards at least one school with no ERO/SRO,” Barbara Osborn, the recording secretary, wrote in the meeting minutes, which the Cap Times obtained Thursday.
Mark Seidenberg, a UW-Madison professor and cognitive neuroscientist, has spent decades researching the way humans acquire language. He is blunt about Wisconsin’s schools’ ability to teach children to read: “If you want your kid to learn to read you can’t assume that the school’s going to take care of it. You have to take care of it outside of the school, if there’s someone in the home who can do it or if you have enough money to pay for a tutor or learning center.”
Theresa Morateck, literacy coordinator for the district, says the word “balanced” is one that’s been wrestled with for many years in the reading world.