CPS to ask Board of Ed for $535M for facilities deals

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A broke Chicago Public Schools will ask the Board of Education on Wednesday to approve half a billion dollars in spending on two private companies hired to clean district school buildings and oversee facilities management at most of them.

But that planned spending on Aramark and SodexoMAGIC services does not include facilities management work for at least 91 schools that the district announced Tuesday will need to be rebid.

CPS won’t say what happened to the third private company it wanted to give that work to before canceling those plans, nor will it say how much more that work could cost.

The school board is still asking state leaders for $215 million in pension contributions needed to balance the current operating budget plans to vote on three separate measures totaling $535 million, according to the meeting’s agenda:

• A $70 million contract renewal with Philadelphia-based Aramark to oversee and execute the cleaning of an unspecified number of school buildings from March 2017 to February 2018.

• A $38 million contract renewal with Maryland-based SodexoMAGIC to oversee all facilities work, cleaning included but also services like landscaping and pest and snow removal, for the same one-year period. CPS calls those services “integrated facilities management.”

• Finally a new three-year contract for $427 million that puts both companies in charge of integrated facilities management over another 342 schools — $108 million for the 2017-18 school year alone, rising to $162 million in 2019 and the falls again in 2020, the first year after a school closing moratorium ends, to $157 million.

CPS said the new deal will cover 342 new schools, which join 87 already under management by Aramark or SodexoMAGIC. Six groups of schools — organized by geographic network — will make the move in July and four more in July 2018. Aramark will end up with 213 and Sodexo 129.

But problems arose with a third company, Detroit-based Ringo LCG, which was assigned to take on around 90 more schools in three networks, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times. Now facilities management for those networks — Network 3 on the Northwest Side, North Side Network 4 and Network 9 on the South Side — will be rebid this spring. It’s not clear what the addition will cost.

CEO Dan Ringo told the Sun-Times he wasn’t notified until Monday morning at 9:48 a.m. that CPS’ Dec. 2 offer to recommend his firm was being rescinded. That’s 12 minutes before the agenda went public.

“I’ve personally managed over 100 schools in the past,” said the former SodexoMAGIC operations manager, who left the company to start his own firm in 2016. “I was the person here that really got SodexoMAGIC off the ground and experienced success with the IFM model. . . . We were already vetted.”

RELATED: CPS building engineers say privatization effort will be costly

Spokesman Michael Passman said only that CPS is “recommending the Board move forward with the two vendors that demonstrated the capacity to effectively deliver these services.”

Despite past complaints about Aramark and SodexoMAGIC’s work, district leaders have touted the transformation for its efficiency in giving school principals a “single point of contact” to deal with any building issues because under the IFM model, each school gets a building manager who oversees the school’s engineer and janitorial staff.

The district’s press office would not make any CPS officials available for an interview. The actual contracts are not ready for inspection.

Instead, Passman provided a “background” memo that claimed about $16 million in savings annually “compared to the facilities model used in SY 12-13.” The memo did not note that CPS operated dozens more school buildings at that time, permanently closing 48 elementary schools schools in June 2013, or that it had a few hundred more engineers.

“Our students and staff deserve to work in schools that are safe and clean, and the past three years have shown that IFM provides the best structure to deliver on those needs,” the memo read. “By removing the burden of facility oversight from principals and utilizing dedicated managers to oversee all aspects of facility maintenance, IFM fosters improved facility services and higher quality learning environments for our students and staff.”

CPS also said it will keep its building engineers at their current schools, provided they pass the necessary background and drug tests. They’ll change unions though, and they will be removed from the troubled Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago.

International Operating Engineers Local 143 president Bill Iacullo said at a press conference Tuesday that his members have already provided a single point of contact for principals and can oversee facility services without an added costly layer of private management.

He called again for the Board of Education to vote no on the contracts, accusing city leaders of “pushing for an expansion of the IFM business model where public schools are filthy, unsafe and driven by profits from a distant corporate location.”

Joining Iacullo, Troy LaRaviere of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association said the program was likely to cost CPS more — as did Aramark’s initial cleaning contract, which overran by $7 million its first year because some 22 schools weren’t included in the initial count of square footage.

“There is no evidence whatsoever that this district that is in dire financial straits is going to save a dime on this,” LaRaviere said.

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