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Afternoon Edition: Jan. 7, 2022

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

When CPS and a private contractor couldn’t provide enough custodians earlier this school year, security guards were called on to take out the garbage from the lunchroom at Eberhart Elementary School. After a Sun-Times report on filthy conditions there, Clarence Carson was forced out as CPS’s facilities chief. 
Provided

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 14 degrees and wind chill values as low as zero. Tonight will be partly cloudy with a low around 8 and wind chill values as low as minus-4. This weekend will be warmer, with projected highs near 32 tomorrow and near 30 on Sunday. There’s also a chance for precipitation late Saturday and early Sunday.

Top story

Ousted over dirty schools complaints, CPS official was paid $29,000 to leave

After the November ouster of Chicago Public Schools facilities chief Clarence Carson, Pedro Martinez, CPS’s chief executive officer, said the forced resignation would send a “message about holding ourselves accountable” following new complaints about filthy school buildings.

And then Martinez signed off on paying Carson just under $29,000 to go, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

That’s according to the “Severance and General Release Agreement” signed by CPS’ top lawyer Nov. 9 that authorized paying Carson $28,958.85 — the equivalent of 60 days of his $175,100 yearly salary, plus health and dental benefits for his family through Jan. 31.

Carson was forced out Nov. 4, a week after the Sun-Times reported that one Southwest Side elementary school was so filthy that teachers, the principal and other administrators had been grabbing mops and brooms themselves, and parents were offering to lend a hand because CPS and a private contractor hadn’t even ensured that the bathrooms had soap or toilet paper.

“There is a mutual desire of the parties to move in a new direction,” read the seven-page document detailing Carson’s severance, which says the payout was “to ensure a smooth transition for the Facilities Department and to resolve any and all issues related to Carson’s employment with the Board.”

Such severance deals are unusual at CPS. None have been offered to other high-profile school system officials who’ve been ousted in recent years, among them Carson’s predecessors in the top facilities post.

Carson’s deal specifies that he would not be barred from being rehired to work for CPS in the future, and there’s no “Do Not Hire” designation in his personnel file.

Lauren FitzPatrick and Nader Issa have more on the deal here.

More news you need

  1. After the murder of her teenage son, Leslie Bell said she decided to look for the killer on her own, and eventually tracked down and briefly met with the man who’s now charged with the crime. Emmanuel Camarillo has more on the murder of 17-year-old Isaiah Davis and Bell’s search for justice.
  2. Dale Clevenger, the principal horn who for nearly half a century led the brass section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, died earlier this week. The 81-year-old renowned musician passed away in Italy on Jan. 5 from complications of Waldenstrom’s disease, his family said.
  3. Oscar Martinez Jr. — the sheriff of Lake County, Indiana — has been charged with fleeing police officers in Crown Point who tried to pull him over for allegedly speeding last fall. Martinez was indicted today on a felony count of resisting law enforcement and a misdemeanor count of reckless driving.
  4. Many around the world are mourning and honoring the life of trailblazing actor Sidney Poitier, who died today in the Bahamas at age 94, according to the Associated Press. Poitier, the first Black actor to win an Academy Award for best lead performance, remains one of the most influential artists in the history of film.

A bright one

Holiday for Día de los Reyes honors spirit of giving

The parking lot of the ¡WEPA! Mercado Del Pueblo market was filled with children laughing and drinking hot cocoa as members of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center handed out gifts yesterday.

Even though Christmas has come and gone, children like 10-year-old Yisel Moondragon and her mom, Lupe Cabanas, are wrapping up their holiday season with Día de los Reyes.

A popular holiday in Latin America, Día de los Reyes, or Three Kings Day, commemorates the biblical story of the three wise men’s journey to honor baby Jesus with gifts. Traditions for the holiday include a special holiday cake with a baby Jesus figurine in the center and, of course, presents.

Jose Lopez, executive director for the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, said Jan. 6 is “probably the most important date in the Puerto Rican ritual calendar.”

Kids receive gifts during a Three Kings Day celebration by the Puerto Rican Cultural Center outside of ¡WEPA! Mercado Del Pueblo, 2559 W. Division St. in Humboldt Park, yesterday.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Yesterday’s event normally would have featured a parade. But because of COVID-19 and the biting cold, the cultural center, West Town Bikes and the Latin American Motorcycle Association had to cancel the parade.

Still, by late afternoon, Lopez said, 70 bikes had been donated, and they were quickly running through the nearly 2,000 wrapped gifts that were donated by community members and Toys for Tots.

“Just being here and having this kind of festivity in the middle of the pandemic is a sign of hope,” said Lopez.

Cheyanne M. Daniels has more on the Three Kings Day celebration here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What’s the best way to stay warm during a Chicago winter?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: How do you think future generations will remember the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol?

Here’s what some of you said…

“Unfortunately, they will remember it as the day we made a fatal turn against our democracy and the pursuit of justice.” — Nicole Jeanine Johnson

“As one of the most shameful times in our nation’s history.” — Carmen Iri

“Depends on which news network they watch or what newspapers they read.” — Adam Moen

“It’ll be watered down or swept under the rug entirely, like our history of slavery and civil rights.” — Stephanie Lyons-Belk

“As a hot mess and an embarrassment.” — Jackie Waldhier

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