Crazy Cawley quote sums up CPS executives' cluelessness -- 'Lets not focus on the number of custodians you get; lets focus on the work that needs to be done...' Principals document Aramark thefts, incompetence, and confusion as CPS continues to push expensive re-privatization contract

As the extent of the scandals involving the massive (more than $300 million) "re-privatization" contracts with Aramark and Sodexo-MAGIC continue to become public across Chicago, the Board of Education members who voted without discussion or debate to approve the contracts at the Board's February 26 meeting remain silent as the Sphinx. But the difference between the past and today is that Chicago principals have finally found their voice. Among their ranks are those who are compiling the facts about the scandals and scams being foisted on the city's real public schools by the administration of "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett and her executive administrative crew, led by non-teachers like "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley.

First page of the Board Report of February 26, 2014 awarding the $260 millon 're-privatization' contract to Aramark.To review: Custodial work at most Chicago public schools has been privatized for more than a decade. But at its February 26, 2014 meeting, the Chicago Board of Education voted unanimously to approve two Board Reports (agenda items) which reorganized the custodial services under Aramark and Sodexo-MAGIC. According to the Power Point presentation by "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley and Barbara Byrd Bennett (the CEO), the re-privatization contracts would not only make things easier on principals, but save lots of money.

By April, when the new contractors began reducing and reassigning custodial workers (usually to jobs at lower pay), principals and others were noticing that the plan had all the earmarks of a Wall Street-style scam to increase the profits of the firms taking over the contracting (remember: there had been contractors overseeing the work) at the expensive of the schools. But the real test, as all teachers, parents, and principals knew, would come during the summer of 2014, when the schools would have to be cleaned and readied for the arrival of the kids on September 2, 2014. And by the end of the first week of school, it was clear that the new contracts had completely failed to do the jobs that needed to be done. Also, instead of "relieving principals" of the work, the complex bureaucracy of the new corporate cleaning corporations had created bottlenecks that left classrooms and other areas of the schools filthy or worse. But this year, it was not just the Chicago Teachers Union (which discussed the problems at its September 3 House of Delegates meeting) but the principals who were also going to challenge the scams.

While Chicago examines the mess crested by the six-figure executives who pushed the "re-privatization" plan through the February 26, 2014 Board of Education meeting (Cawley's base pay is $215,000 per year; Barbara Byrd Bennett is being paid $250,000 per year), the problems with school custodial services into the second week of the 2014 - 2015 school year continues.

The best media coverage of the story so far has been by Catalyst reporter Sarah Karp. As of September 10, neither the Sun-Times nor the Tribune has covered the story. The full September 8 Catalyst story is below here:

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

The $340 million privatization of the districts custodial services has led to filthier buildings and fewer custodians, while forcing principals to take time away from instruction to make sure that their school is clean.

That is the finding from 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 custodial staff has been reduced and is now inadequate and the cleanliness of their buildings has been negatively affected.

A principal of a South Side school that is comprised of three buildings and more than 1,500 students says she now has just one day custodian, down from three. 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, lead to cleaner buildings and incorporate state-of-the-art cleaning technology, such as cleaning Zambonis.

Cawley did not say the contract would result in layoffs.

Email acknowledges problems

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 that 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 group also wants CPS to consult them on any contract of more than $500,000 that will impact schools.

McCaffrey says CPS officials are working with 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 student 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 custodial managers turn over 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.

Bad timing, no new tech

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 it is difficult to clean when it gets dirty.

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 school that took in children displaced from last years closings 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 mopping.

During the summer, she sent e-mails on a daily basis to her network chief complaining of the problem, but never heard back. One of her biggest complaints concerned the bathrooms, which she says have a bad 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.

But the story has been developing quickly as more principals, parents and teachers become bold enough to share on the record the full scope of the problem despite the attempts by CPS officials to shut people up and the lame talking points being distributed by the expensive CPS "Office of Communications."

On September 9, the principals circulated the following:

Get The Most Out Of Your Aramark Meeting Demand A Plan

Dear Colleagues,

An Aramark custodian was suspected of stealing equipment purchased for children from a CPS school. The principal had to spend 10 hours watching surveillance video to prove her case and get the custodian removed.

Another principal paid day laborers from her own pocket to move furniture that Aramark custodians refused to move.

I attended a principals meeting where one of my colleagues broke into tears as she recounted the fruitless phone calls and emails to Aramark and the countless hours she spent away from her core duties in order to ensure her school was ready for children.

A recent principals survey has indicated the above experiences are widespread. It indicates these are not exceptions; they are the rule under the new Aramark contract with CPS. CPS and Aramark have been getting your emails and phone calls for months. Now, they have stepped forward to offer each of us a meeting.

Below is my response to their meeting offer. It is designed to ensure my school actually benefits from that meeting by demanding that Aramark submit a written plan to resolve all custodial issues at our school before the meeting.

Today, a high-ranking CPS official advised me not to worry about your schools, but to focus on my own. However, as a resident of Chicago, I care about the entire school system in which we work as public servants. That is why I am forwarding my Aramark response to all of you. The response was written to increase the likelihood that my school will see some results from this meeting. It is my hope that--if you choose--each of you can use it to craft a response that will get results for your school as well.

Respectfully, Troy LaRaviere, Principal, Blaine Elementary School, Parent, Kellogg Elementary School, Graduate, Chicago Public Schools (Mollison ES & Dunbar HS)


Mr. Gilliam,

I have received your offer to re-engage with our school. However, since Aramarks contract with CPS began over four months ago, we have repeatedly communicated the shortcomings of your corporations management of our buildings cleanliness.

Since we have never been disengaged, reengagement is not what we need from Aramark. What is need is a plan; a concrete realistic actionable plan from Aramark that will address all of the concerns we have communicated to your corporation since April 2014. For your convenience I will re-articulate those concerns below. After Aramark develops a concrete written plan to address each of these issues, we can then meet to discuss that plan. Please provide us with the date by which you intend to complete this plan.


(Aramark must develop a plan to address these issues)

Blaine has been consistently filthy in the mornings before students arrive. Our administration spends more time managing the cleanliness of the building than ever before, taking time away from our efforts to improve teaching and learning. Our teachers and support staff often arrive in the morning to filthy classrooms and restrooms. They have to sweep and mop floors and remove trash in order to prepare these rooms for students. Bathrooms are often overlooked and erroneous paper supply orders leave these facilities inadequately supplied for use by our students.

These conditions stem from insufficient staffing and unrealistic work plans. There are daily examples of this insufficiency, some of which are listed below.

INSUFFICIENT STAFFING (Custodian staffing is irregular and not reliable)

On the first day of school--and on many others since--there was only one custodian in the building during the day shift and only one during the evening shift in a school that spans two buildings, serves over 900 students, and has over 50 classrooms and office spaces. The proposed staffing model by Aramark is 3.5 custodians. At no time since May have we been staffed with more than 2.5 custodians.

On April 22nd there were no custodians at all in the building until 10:16am while the need for breakfast coverage starts at 7:30am.

Subs are seldom provided for absent custodians.

There has been the promise of a Board custodian but, to date, no Board custodian has been placed at Blaine.

During the Summer Cleaning Blitz, Aramark conducted a job fair and staffed personnel at Blaine, who were argumentative, used profanity, threatened the Union Rep, and walked off the job early.

UNREALISTIC WORK PLANS (Work is not getting done)

Work plans were developed for 3.5 employees. The 2 - 2.5 custodians who have shown up have not been given alternative plans when fellow custodians are no-shows. According to custodians, who have worked hard to keep Blaine clean for years, these work plans are not realistic.

Blaine Administration spends considerable time responding to staff concerns and addressing custodial needs of the teaching staff.

Staff members have stated their rooms are not getting cleaned on a daily basis, and several staff members have cleaned their own rooms when the numbers of custodians has been insufficient.

When I communicated some of these staffing concerns to CPS Chief Financial Officer, Tim Cawley, he responded Lets not focus on the number of custodians you get; lets focus on the work that needs to be done.

However, there is no credible human resources model in existence that does not take into account (1) the amount of work that needs to be done, (2) the time available to get it done, and (3) the number of people needed to get the work done within that time frame. The number of custodians assigned to work in our school is directly correlated to the likelihood of the work being done adequately and on time. We ask that your plan not ignore this basic element of human resource planning.

In addition to the above, it appears several items were lost or stolen from our building during the time when the Summer Blitz crew came to our school. We will work to determine if this is accurate. If it is, we expect restitution from Aramark.

Very respectfully,


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