Leslie Fowler

Facilities chief for Chicago schools is out after inspections found dozens of dirty buildings

June 1, 2018
Her departure comes a few months after inspections found unacceptably dirty conditions at 91 of 125 schools

The facilities chief for the Chicago school system is out in the wake of a scandal over filthy school buildings, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Leslie Fowler was the district's chief of nutrition and facility operations. She led the team responsible for dealing with the dirty conditions that were found in 91 of 125 schools included in recent inspections, but no longer is working for the district, sources told the Sun-Times.

In her position, Fowler, 49, oversaw the school systems' food service program, which provides 75 million meals per year for 385,000 students at 685 Schools, as well as facilities maintenance operations for 543 sites, the district's website says.

Fowler was responsible for overseeing cleaning and other facilities management work done by Aramark, the company she left when she went to work for Chicago Public Schools in 2012.

It’s not clear how she’ll be replaced. District officials could not be reached for comment.

Fowler had spent the bulk of her career in food service, running school lunch programs for Aramark until coming to the district, initially to head the school system’s nutrition department.

Last August, the district's CEO Forrest Claypool added facilities to her title and responsibilities and gave her a $20,000 raise, boosting her salary to $170,000 a year.

Shortly after Fowler joined the Chicago district, Aramark landed a major food services contract with the school system.

Fowler attracted the attention of the schools’ inspector general for dining out with the company’s president during the bidding process for that contract. In a 2015 report, the inspector general called Fowler’s conduct “problematic” but said he couldn’t prove any wrongdoing.

She was credited with bringing back “blitz” cleanliness inspections — previously common in the school system — last December.

The inspections were conducted jointly by Aramark and district employees to check on school cleanliness in the wake of a pest infestation at Mollison Elementary School in November.  

Of 125 schools inspected from December to February, 91 got failing marks, the Sun-Times has reported.

The school board has agreed to expand Aramark’s responsibilities, effective July 1, under a $259 million contract that will add oversight of all facilities services — including landscaping and pest control — to the company’s cleaning duties at the majority of district schools.

Sodexo has a similar deal for $168 million in addition to $60 million it’s to be paid for overseeing the schools it already has been working at under a pilot program.

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