'A school that could start out clean on Monday by Friday, if things havent been done, is really almost a pig sty.'... Piss on the floors and poo on the walls dramatize the lies of Tim Cawley's Aaramark Power Point

It's less than six months since David Vitale and the members of the Chicago Board of Education sat smiling benignly while "Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley presented the Board will his $300 million proposal to further privatize custodial work in Chicago's public schools. According to the Cawley Power Point, which is still available as an artifact of bureaucratic history at the CPS website, the further privatization was going to make things much much better and save much much money while relieving principals of all those nasty jobs of supervising those who clean the toilets. The URL for those who missed Cawley's Power Point is

As usual, the Board members nodded their approval as another clueless bureaucrat with no teaching or administrative experience in real schools enacted the "Power Point of the Month" ritual that the management of the nation's third largest school system has substituted for reality since Rahm Emanuel's school board has decided that the best qualifications for executives in the nation's third largest school system are that they (a) come from another state or city and (b) have no Chicago teaching or principaling experience.

In that context, CPS "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley is from "Chicagoland" (he lives in the wealthiest northern suburbs) and is as virginal as most of his peers as far as the nitty gritty of teaching or operating a Chicago school is concerned.

The "Chief Administrative Officer" of Chicago's public schools, Tim Cawley, is paid $215,000 per year (plus "performance" bonuses), but has never taught or been a principal in a real public school. Cawley came to CPS via a stint as an executive at Motorola, then time as an administrator at AUSL (the Academy for Urban School Leadership), brought into the top ranks by Rahm Emanuel's school board in May 2011. At the February 26, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, Cawley was licking his lips after presenting a $300 million proposal to the Board to further privatize the school system's custodial services, giving massive contracts to Aaramark and Sodexo-MAGIC. Although Cawley promised the Board that the schools would be cleaned as never before, according to some formula he put into a Power Point, he never promised to lick the floors to show how clean they would be under his corporate plans, and by September 2014 principals across the city were furious that their schools were opening filthier than ever before, and that the chaos at Aaramark was forcing principals and teachers to try and stay ahead of the mess as 400,000 children returned to school. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.No sooner had the Board of Education unanimously passed the plan, however, than the mess got greater. By June 2014, as Aramark and Sodexo Magic began cutting custodial workers from the schools, some principals began complaining that the Cawley plan of hyper privatization (remember: most of the custodial work had already been privatized) was leaving things in a bigger mess. Substance even published an early depiction of the problem at one school: poo on the walls and piss on the floors. But it wasn't until two things changed that the story blew up. Over the summer, a group of principals began speaking out publicly against the nonsense that passes for administration in the nation's third largest school system. And then, despite Cawley's claims that the schools would be cleaner and principals would have to do less work, the schools opened in the biggest mess in history. To which the Board of Education, through its latest iteration of "Communications" specialists, claimed there wasn't really a problem.

But by September 8, 2014, with school in session precisely one week, both Catalyst and WBEZ radio had the story that they should have had before the 2013 - 2014 school year ended. But at least the story is now up as the 2014 - 2015 school year begins. The most disgusting photographs of the results of the Board's latest dogmatic privatization move will eventually be published. Meanwhile, the public can settle for the reports that are coming out.


Dirty schools the norm since privatizing custodians: principals, By: Sarah Karp / September 08, 2014

CPS contracting out the management of the districts custodians has led to filthier buildings and forced principals to take time away from instruction to try to make sure that their building is clean.

The eighth slide in Tim Cawley's Power Point singing the praises of the privatization of custodial work at the February Board meeting claimed that the plan would provide "Less work for principals." By September 2014, the plan had collapsed in chaos, as some had predicted, and principals were forced to scramble to try and keep their schools clean as 400,000 children returned to classrooms in the nation's third largest school system. This is the results of a survey done by AAPPLE, the new activist arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. The contract is the first issue the group is taking a hard stance on, hoping that their input will force the district to make some changes. About 230 principals responded to the survey with most of them saying the number of staff provided has been reduced and is now inadequate and that the cleanliness of their buildings has been affected.

A principal of a South Side school with three buildings and more than 1,500 students says her staff has been reduced from three day custodians to one. The day custodian is running around here like a crazy lady, says the principal who did not want to be identified. And it is filthy.

In February, the Board of Education approved two three-year contractsone for $260 million for Aramark and the other for $80 million to Sodexmagic. Aramark was to take over the training, supervision and management of custodians for all but 33 schools. Sodexmagic would handle the job for the other 33 schools.

When Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley presented the proposal to the board, he said the deal would save the district $40 million, as well as lead to cleaner buildings and the incorporation of state-of-the-art cleaning technology, such as cleaning Zambonis.

Cawley did not say the contract would result in layoffs.

Though CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey says most schools had a smooth transition to the private vendor, on Monday that vendor, Aramark, sent out an e-mail to principals acknowledging significant problems and asking to meet with them and their staff. In the e-mail shared by a principal, the Aramark official wrote company officials hear loud and clear that we have not delivered on the promise of making life easier for principals.

In a white paper, AAPPLE is proposing that the contracts be voided if the buildings are not brought up to Level 2 industry standards for cleanliness, as promised when the contracts were approved. The principal group also wants CPS to consult them on any contract of more than $500,000 that will impact schools.

Tim Cawley during his presentation to the February 26, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education on why CPS needed to award contracts totaling more than $300 million to Aaramark and Sodexo-MAGIC to further privatize the already mostly privatized custodial work at CPS. Board of Education President David Vitale and his colleagues smiled benignly during Cawley's Power Point and voted unanimously to approve the project without skepticism. McCaffrey says CPS officials are working with our contractors to address complaints. "CPS recently contracted with two proven facility management companies to improve cleanliness in all schools while saving millions of dollars that can be redirected to classrooms, he said in a statement.

Principals say the cleanliness of their buildings is integral to students learning and note that they are naturally held accountable for it. However, under the new contract, principals do not supervise the custodians at all. Some principals say the custodian managers turnover on a regular basis.

The person who supervises them comes once a week, says one principal, who did not want to be identified. That is just not going to work.

That principal of a Northwest Side school said that at the end of the school year the custodians assigned to her school left urine in the toilets for weeks. Then, they moved furniture out of a classroom, but broke things when they brought it back in. Her building is more than 100 years old and she says that when it gets dirty it is hard to get clean.

A big complaint of the principals is that staff has been laid off or reassigned at bad times, leaving someone new to take over at crucial moments. One principal said his custodians told him they had been notified that they will be laid off two weeks after school started.

Another had all his custodians sent to new buildings for no apparent reason. The (ones who were reassigned) were custodians who knew the building, knew the children, knew the community, he says. They did not want to leave.

Two of them were reassigned the Friday before school started. That is really bad timing, says the principal, who, like the others, didnt want to be identified. He says the new custodians are okay, but that he is still waiting on Aramark to let him know their schedules.

The principal also is bothered by the fact that he has seen none of the new technology that was supposed to make the cleaning more efficient. One principal from a South Side welcoming school says she had to get parents, teachers and students to volunteer in the days leading up to the opening of school to get her building ready. She says they spent much of the time throwing out an enormous amount of trash, sweeping and moping.

During the summer, she said she sent e-mails on a daily basis to her network chief complaining, but never heard back. One of her biggest complaints are her bathrooms, which she says smell. The custodians tell her it is a drainage problem, but there are no plans to fix it. Can we just get some air freshener? she said. I have kindergarteners going into these bathrooms and they are scary.

I feel like this community is already disenfranchised, she said. You go up North and you can eat off the floors of the schools. I feel like my community should have that kind of building.


Custodial contract causing problems at start of school year. Principals, teachers reporting dirty classrooms, property damage, theft, and poor communication.. September 8, 2014. By: Becky Vevea

Its one of those jobs that you dont really notice, until its not done.

Dave Belanger knows firsthand. He once worked as a part-time, fill-in janitor for extra income early in his teaching career.

Ive scrubbed toilets and washed bathrooms and cleaned classrooms and I know if you dont keep on top of that every single day, it just quadruples," Belanger said. A school that could start out clean on Monday by Friday, if things havent been done, is really almost a pig sty.

Dave Belanger is now the principal of Hanson Park Elementary School in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood on the citys Northwest side. He said, this year, the deep clean that usually takes place in schools over the summer was the scariest and least efficient process he has seen over the 14 years hes worked for CPS.

Many teachers spent a half a day to a day, last week, before kids came in, scrubbing their classrooms, tops of bookcases, window sills, walls, baseboards, things that would normally be cleaned were not cleaned, Belanger said.

Belanger is just one of more than 230 principals recently surveyed by the Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education, or AAPPLE, a member-driven arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. The results reveal problems across Chicago Public Schoolsdirty classrooms, damaged materials, theft and an overall lack of communication.

Shifting control of custodians

How CPS got to this point is complicated. For years, custodians fell under the oversight of each schools building engineer. That changed a few years ago, when budget officials centralized the building engineers and put custodians under principals. CPS has also subcontracted with private cleaning services, like We Clean and Total Facilities, for the past few years.

Then this past spring, the Chicago Board of Education awarded a $260 million contract to a company called Aramark to oversee all 2,400-plus janitors in the school system. Under the contract, Aramark assigned custodial managers to groups of 15 to 20 schools, according to Leslie Norgren, the districts director of asset management.

Aramark would oversee subcontractors as well as 825 board-funded custodians that are unionized and covered under a contract negotiated by the Service Employees International Union Local 73. SEIU Local 73 did not respond to requests for comment about how the change to Aramark has affected its members.

Communication problems and more 'red tape'

District officials promised the new contract would not only save money, but would also lead to cleaner schools and give principals more time to focus on teaching and learning.

But that hasnt happened. Teresa Chrobak- Prince, principal of Hearst Elementary on the Southwest Side, said because nobody knows whos directing who, the responsibility falls back into the principals lap.

When WBEZ spoke with Chrobak- Prince at the end of the first day of school last week, she still didnt know who her Aramark custodial manager was. She also said the new contract has created more red tape.

For something as simple as making sure the air-conditioning is regulated, you have to make ten phone calls and send five emails before anything gets done, she said. You cant just simply go to your engineer and say I need this done because then they have this whole new system and they have to put it in the computer and they have to call their FM and they have to get it approved, and then we have to get three quotes.

Norgren of CPS said that should not be happening.

[Principals] should feel very comfortable directing the custodian that that garbage can needs to be dumped, Norgren said. It shouldnt be this process where theyre running it up the flagpole.

Norgren says Aramark officials will be meeting with individual principals in the coming weeks to address any problems. Fewer custodians, cleaner schools?

CPS officials insist overall cleanliness of schools remains the same, despite reports indicating otherwise and an overall reduction in the custodial workforce. Of those who took the principal survey, 87 percent reported at least one janitor being cut. Additionally, WBEZ spoke with more than a dozen people at schools across the city and nearly all say their school has fewer custodians.

As of right now, we have six night custodians, when we used to have ten and only two daytime custodians, said Carolyn Brown, a teacher and parent at Kelly High School. She says at least one of the bathrooms in the school is now only being cleaned once a week. My daughter actually goes to school here and it makes me, the parent in me, cringe at the idea of her going into a bathroom thats only cleaned once a week when we have thousands of people come through this building, Brown added.

Jonathan Zielinski, a teacher at Drummond Montessori in Bucktown, said the school used to have four custodians, one for each floor of the building. They now have two.

One of them has been at Drummond for more than 20 years and is being reassigned to another school, where hell take the place of three custodians that were cut over the summer.

Hes not losing his job, but hes losing his family, his community, Zielinski told WBEZ. He added that for a school like Drummond, where the Montessori curriculum requires students to work in very specifically prepared environments, a clean, neat classroom is important. The custodians, like the one being reassigned, play an important role.

He knows everybody in this building too, Zielinski said. A stranger walks into this building, [he] will recognize a face or not recognize a face. If I saw somebody who I didnt recognize in the building, I would ask [him] if he knew who they were, because he is here every day, every moment.

And the reassignments are just the beginning. Norgren confirmed that roughly 475 custodians will be let go by the end of September. None of the 825 custodial positions covered by SEIU Local 73 will be cut, Norgren said. Many of those positions, like the one at Drummond, have been shifted as a result of the layoffs.

Two and a half of those positions will be cut from Dave Belangers school, Hanson Park.

I dont see how it would be physically possible for three and a half custodians to clean the campus we have, he said.

That campus includes four buildings with a total of 65 classrooms.

Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation.


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