Chicago Public Schools Facilities Chief, Clarence Carson, resigned after it was reported that the conditions at one Southwest Side school were so bad that the administration and staff had resorted to cleaning the school themselves.
The troubling conditions at Eberhart Elementary School on the city’s Southwest Side were first revealed by the Chicago Sun-Times. Parents, students, and staff issued complaints about the schools’ condition. There were issues with the bathroom and floors left uncleaned, as well as reports of roaches.
Carson’s departure comes on the heels of CPS’s claims last month of hiring extra cleaning crews to bring schools up to standard. Back in 2014, CPS privatized its custodial services. The move was highly criticized because it took control out of the hands of the school administration. Instead, Aramark and Sodexo custodial companies were issued multi-million dollar contracts to take on the task of keeping CPS schools clean.
Since the Chicago Teachers Union has raised several concerns about Aramark’s and Sodexo’s work in CPS schools. CTU reports several members have complained about dirty classrooms and bathrooms, exposed trash, empty soap and sanitizer dispensers, and rodent droppings. The cleanliness issue became a hot bargaining issue as CTU, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot battled over the reopening of schools.
Former CPS Facilities Chief Leslie Fowler resigned from the position amid similar accusations in 2018. Enter Carson, who stated he wanted the district to sever ties with Aramark and Sodexo.
Instead, Carson dropped Sodexo and renewed Aramark’s contract. As a result, Aramark now oversees the cleaning efforts in all district schools. Aramark’s current contract totals $369 million for three years.
CPS recently brought on Jones Lang LaSalle to assist with the management of its facilities. Jones Lang LaSalle is a Chicago-based professional services company. They were awarded a three years contract for $375 million. CPS’s Executive Director of Planning and Construction, Ivan Hansen, acts as interim Facilities Chief.
Paula J. Shelton is a freelance writer and journalist based in Chicago. Find her on social @beboldshineon.