Principals to CPS: End custodial contract now | WBEZ
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Principals to CPS: End custodial contract now

Chicago Public Schools principals have had it.

A survey conducted by the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association found nearly 90 percent of principals say their schools are dirtier than they were a year ago, just before the Chicago Board of Education gave control of all school cleaning services to two private companies -- Aramark and SodexoMagic.

The move led to hundreds of janitors being laid off, which in turn led to disorganization and dirty conditions. WBEZ first reported issues with cleanliness in schools last September.

Aramark and CPS scrambled to remedy the issue by not following through with some of the planned layoffs. In October, they announced plans to only cut 290 custodians, not 468.

But it wasn’t enough of a compromise for principals, said Clarice Berry, head of the principals’ group.

“There is no negotiating with us anymore,” Berry said. “We’re not listening to any more promises. We’re not waiting anymore. You can not staff a school with 1,200 kids with two custodian workers and think it’s going to work. Ever.”

The contracts were collectively worth $340 million, $260 million for Aramark to oversee all 2,400-plus janitors, and $80 million to SodexoMAGIC to oversee cleaning at 33 schools.

“This contract should be voidable, because they have not met the terms of the contract,” Berry said, calling on the district to cut ties with Aramark. 

At an unrelated press conference, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he is in contact with Aramark and will hold the company accountable.

“They better fix this,” Emanuel said. “If it’s not (fixed), it’s going to be a very short contract.”

CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett sent an e-mailed statement admitting the two companies faced a bumpy transition.

“They met with principals, worked collaboratively to address their concerns and adjusted staffing to meet the needs of our schools,” the statement read. “These efforts have ​paid off.”

CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey also included the results of an audit conducted at 308 schools showing just 17 schools falling under the cleanliness standards set forth in the contract.

Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation.

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