Clarice Berry, president of the Chicago Principals Association, told a hearing of the City Council Education Committee that she was “terrified” of what would happen when the snows began, given the general disorder and incompetence associated with privatization of custodial services in the public schools. The city administration awarded a $340 million contract to Aramark, which proceeded to lay off numerous custodians.


“Let’s talk about staffing. That is horrific. A school with 900 kids with one custodian in the daytime? We have to collect breakfast. I’ve got assistant principals who are emptying garbage. I ‘ve got all kinds of situations. You cannot run a school with 900, 1,000 or 1,300 kids with one custodian in the morning and one at night. Just last week, we were told some of custodial issues will be taken care of. However, going from one custodian to two or from one to 1.5 is not gonna fix the problem.”


Berry then zeroed in on a four-letter word that sends chills down the spines of Chicago politicians: S-N-O-W.


“I am terrified. We have not had our first major snow in Chicago. What do we do when we’ve got one custodian servicing 900 kids, 12 inches of snow outside, salt that needs to be thrown out, hallways that need to be mopped so people don’t slip, garbage to be taken out, lunch rooms to be cleaned, toilets to be washed out with one, 1 1/2 or two custodians?” Berry said.


“You need bodies in a school…That [equipment] is wonderful if you’ve got a one-story school. But how do you get many hundred-pound equipment up to the third-floor? Most of our schools don’t have elevators…There are no mops, no buckets in the schools anymore. And we keep hearing, `You don’t need those mops and buckets.’ You need `em if you can’t get the equipment to the third floor. You need to have more people in a building.”