Mayor Rahm Emanuel — who was “beyond outraged” last month about revelations of unsanitary conditions found inside many Chicago Public Schools — said Monday he has spoken with schools CEO Janice Jackson, and “I have all the confidence you’ll see a solution to this.”
Asked Monday about a follow-up report Sunday in the Chicago Sun-Times that cited janitors saying cheating helped schools pass outside audits of their cleanliness, Emanuel didn’t answer directly but said he again spoke with Jackson on Sunday about the dirty schools.
“She agrees they’re unacceptable, and that situation will be fixed,” the mayor said in response to a reporter’s question. “It’s not tolerable. When parents send their kids to school, there should be facilities and schools that are for learning.”
CPS blamed dirty conditions — filthy floors, smelly bathrooms, evidence of pests — at 91 of the 125 schools quietly inspected from December to February by staffers from the school system’s central office and Aramark, a private company overseeing CPS janitors, to the fact that Aramark had been in charge of cleaning but not related jobs such as pest control at city schools.
All such responsibilities for school facilities are being put in the hands of Aramark and a second CPS contractor, SodexoMAGIC. That’s now supposed to happen in July — a year and a half after the Chicago Board of Education approved spending $427 million to pay for the additional work.
Monthly inspections also will be added, according to Arnie Rivera, CPS’ chief operating officer.
To justify giving more responsibility and more money to the two companies despite complaints from principals, teachers and parents, CPS had pointed to high “pass” rates in cleaning audits by another outside contractor.
But CPS has refused to release those audit results.
And janitors at two CPS elementary schools told the Sun-Times that supervisors have alerted them in advance about those inspections, sometimes days ahead, and also told them to clean certain areas the inspector would focus on. CPS also provided additional staffing and cleaning supplies before the audits, said one of the janitors, who said she otherwise had to dip into her own wallet to buy Fabuloso cleaner to use at her school the rest of the year.
On April 5, school custodians met with the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board to discuss conditions at the schools where they work.
The inspector, John Moran, who singlehandedly has done all of the audits, told the newspaper he used to be instructed to alert the cleaning contractors when his inspections were coming. Moran said he also was directed to move one Zip code at a time across the city, so school officials could guess which schools would be next.
Also, Moran said that, against his advice, CPS had him average the results of his findings in different portions of an inspection — so a school could pass even if it failed a crucial section like bathrooms.
Since last fall, when a new CPS facilities chief took over, audits are now conducted randomly, and any schools with bathrooms, classrooms or lunchrooms that fail inspection get a failing grade, which has sharply increased the percentage of schools that fail, Moran said.