'The district has a snow plan...' Aramark executive claims, but those in the schools and wards disagree... Principals' chief, alderman challenge Aramark lies about custodial services as major winter storms will pose dangers to schools' staffs, students, parents and communities

The President of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association challenged CPS officials and executives of Aramark on the current situations facing schools since Aramark has cut custodial services in the city's public schools. And Alderman John Arena (45th Ward) basically called one Aramark executive a liar, when the executive claimed that Aramark had solved a problem which the alderman had personally witnessed.

Chicago Public Schools "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley presented the massive re-privatization plan on behalf of Aramark and Sodexo-MAGIC to the February 26, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education (above). Cawley's Power Point presentation was basically an ungrammatical advertisement for the two major corporations, replete with claims that Board members, as usual, simply accepted. Like his earliest predecessor in the job of "Chief Administrative Officer" (David Vitale), Cawley is a zealot for massive privatization, making up facts as he goes along confident that no one in power will double-check either his claims or the subsequent realities. In the case of the Aramark custodial contracts, which were approved by the Board that day, complaints began almost immediately and have escalated since. On December 1, 2014, the head of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association (CPAA), Clarice Berry, warned that the worst is yet to come, as snow requires massive work at each local school, and most principals are now facing the upcoming winter with all its dangers having been stripped nearly to nothing in their custodial staffs. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Clarcie Berry, who has been documenting the problems created by the corrupt contract to Aramark Corporation for school custodial services in Chicago, testified before the City Council Education Committee on the current conditions in the schools. And she warned that the dangers soon to be posed by the first serious snows would leave every school in serious danger. She also noted that the claims by CPS administrators, including "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley, that a new kind of machine would make the work easier was ridiculous. Berry noted that the machines could not climb stairs, and that most schools do not have elevators.

Members of the City Council also challenged claims by Aramark officials that things were being improved. Alderman John Arena, one of the leaders of the City Council Progressive Caucus, pointed out that claims by an Aramark executive the the lack of soap in school washrooms had been solved were simply not true. Arenda noted that he himself had visited schools and seen the results of the Aramark neglect.

Clarice Berry, President of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, spoke to the September 24, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, outlining the mess that the Aramark privatization contract had created in the schools. Three months later, on December 1, 2014, Berry took the floor of the City Council to warn that the mess created by Aramark would become dangerous when the first significant snows arrived. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The Sun-Times story depicts it best:

Principal rep: 'Terrified' about schools' snow-removal plan. MON, 12/01/2014 - 2:56PM, FRAN SPIELMAN AND LAUREN FITZPATRICK

Chicago Principals Association President Clarice Berry said Monday that school cleanliness issues triggered by the privatization of janitorial management have not yet been resolved, and she is terrified about what will happen when it starts snowing.

Berry was testifying before the City Councils Education Committee on a transition to Aramark she described as a train wreck. She described an improving situation that hasnt improved nearly enough. In fact, Berry said a principal she refused to identify recently went so far as to take her custodial staff to Home Depot to buy brooms because they were in tears about the level of equipment they were given to clean the building.

"Comprehensive change management plans begins now..." claimed Tim Cawlay's February 26, 2014 Power Point, ignoring both its flawed grammar and the nonsensical claims the presentation was making before the members of the Chicago Board of Education voted, virtually without debate and without proofreading, to approve the largest privatization plan of 2014. Substance photo from the screen during the Board meeting by George N. Schmidt.Its little consolation that CPS has vowed to reimburse principals for out-of-pocket spending. My principals are buying supplies, buying equipment they shouldnt have to because of the quality of things in schools, Berry said. Lets talk about staffing. That is horrific. A school with 900 kids with one custodian in the daytime? We have to collect breakfast. Ive got assistant principals who are emptying garbage. I ve got all kinds of situations. You cannot run a school with 900, 1,000 or 1,300 kids with one custodian in the morning and one at night. Just last week, we were told some of custodial issues will be taken care of. However, going from one custodian to two or from one to 1.5 is not gonna fix the problem. Berry then zeroed in on a four-letter word that sends chills down the spines of Chicago politicians: S-N-O-W. I am terrified. We have not had our first major snow in Chicago. What do we do when weve got one custodian servicing 900 kids, 12 inches of snow outside, salt that needs to be thrown out, hallways that need to be mopped so people dont slip, garbage to be taken out, lunch rooms to be cleaned, toilets to be washed out with one, 1 1/2 or two custodians? Berry said. You need bodies in a schoolThat [equipment] is wonderful if youve got a one-story school. But how do you get many hundred-pound equipment up to the third-floor? Most of our schools dont have elevatorsThere are no mops, no buckets in the schools anymore. And we keep hearing, `You dont need those mops and buckets. You need `em if you cant get the equipment to the third floor. You need to have more people in a building.

Berry wasnt the only one griping during Monday's hearing.

Ald. John Arena (45th) complained of janitorial staffers who are being moved around so much, theyre unfamiliar with the buildings theyre charged with maintaining.

My problem is that youre doing this at the expense of our kids and the cleanliness that they experienced for an entire half a year ... where parents are complaining and kids are complaining theres no soap to wash their hands and principals are complaining that the bathrooms are dirty and havent been clean," Arena said.

The expectation is that, if were gonna award you a $340 million contract that you think about this before you implement and dont say, `Sorry, weve had 300 people leave."

Arena said he personally saw empty soap dispensers in one of his Northwest Side schools just three weeks ago.

He was not appeased when Trevor Ferguson, regional vice president for Aramark, insisted that the problem had been solved by Aramarks decision to standardize soap dispensers before Thanksgiving.

Youre telling me that what I saw and what I heard literally three weeks ago is not happening except I saw it and heard it, Arena said.

Not one member of the Chicago Board of Education took issue with the silly claims by Tim Cawley and Aramark that an Amway-style cleaning products line would solve a problem in cleaning Chicago schools. And the Board members, Aramark, and Cawley failed to notice that the much-touted "Dry Zamboni" cleaning machine that Aramark was going to place in each of the city's 600 schools would be unable to navigate in tight classrooms or climb the stairs in schools without elevators. Substance photo of page 6 of Cawley's February 26, 2014 Power Point slide in support of the massive Aramark contract by George N. Schmidt. Ferguson countered, There was a plan to install those dispensers over months. At the districts request, we accelerated that process and brought in thousands of dispensers and installed them over a three-week period which ended roughly a week ago. So, they are in every school now.

Ferguson insisted that Chicago Public Schools are cleaner than they were when we got here and that problems caused by absenteeism are being resolved. The staff has stabilized. We have processes in place to stabilize the daytime custodians as well as the second-shift custodians. Things are stabilized. Open seats are down significantly. Folks are showing up to work. Theyre doing their jobs and were training them, he said. The absenteeism rate here is higher than industry standard [among people] our sub-contractors hired. We have a process underway where were providing subs for those people who are absent so that theres always someone in those chairs. When someone is there, usually the work gets done. The school gets cleaned. Ferguson argued that Berrys fears about what happens when a major snowstorm hits are unfounded. The district has a snow plan, he said. This isnt the first time its snowed at CPS. This plan has been in place for years and its worked for years.


December 2, 2014 at 11:32 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Snow Plan is a Snow Job

Those of us who challenged the claims made by Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley as early as his February 26, 2014 Power Point and presentation in support of the massive contract with Aramark noted that the privatization was going to result in many messes, the most dangerous of which would occur when the snows began in 2014 - 2015. Criticism of the Aramark deal began almost immediately and has escalated as principals finally found their voices to publicly challenge the Board of Education's mismanagement of the schools. But the stories still haven't been told with enough video and photo evidence to show just how bad things have gotten since the massive privatization contract with Aramark went into effect in April 2014.

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