Making the most of every opportunity will go a long way for the operations department, especially as facility budgets continue to be cut. In fact, in 2011, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) operations budget was cut by $6 million.

“When faced with a deficit of this magnitude, you have to look at every single area of operations,” says McGuffage. “We always think that operations is top-of-the-line, but we have to make cuts somewhere.”

He continues, “In 2011, we really had to look at custodial management and tried to dig into staffing, as well as potential efficiencies and where we could tweak schedules. We had to look at schools that were under utilized, address cleaning frequencies or make staffing reductions. Changes we made in these areas really drove the cost savings.”

The department evaluated equipment and assessed how newer options may increase efficiencies. Cleaning frequencies also took a hit. Tasks such as carpet extraction and floor stripping and finishing were reduced as interim cleaning such as vacuuming and floor buffing increased.

“Dusting might have also gone down a bit, but we didn’t want a reduction in restroom cleaning, trash collection or mopping,” says McGuffage.

To offset cleaning frequency cuts and to bolster custodial productivity and accountability, CPS introduced the use of lead custodians in each school. These individuals are responsible for the supervision of cleaning personnel and process improvements that would allow the same level of cleaning services to be delivered using less manpower.

“Lead custodians were chosen by school principals as someone who would maintain cleaning expectations and keep the staff accountable,” says McGuffage. “Cleanliness is very important to the principals and they have a lot of say regarding what they want done in the schools.”

Budget woes continued in 2012, forcing McGuffage and his staff to find even better and cheaper ways to meet cleaning expectations. To do so, he has adopted cleaning standards.

“We are working towards acceptable levels of APPA standards,” he says. “Once we do, we can vary that standard to meet our financial and cleaning needs and deliver that same level of expectation to every school, creating consistency throughout the district.”

Consistency between the schools is one of McGuffage’s biggest challenges. With the varying ages and sizes of facilities, the types of building occupants and the distance between buildings, creating standardized processes can be difficult.

At the same time, the size and types of buildings within the district can be a plus.

“We draw a lot of interest from outside groups that want to help us because we are a large urban district,” says McGuffage. “We have a lot to offer in terms of contracts, so we attract a lot of high-quality vendors. It puts a lot of expertise at our doorstep, which helps us with our goal to continue improving the services we offer our students and staff throughout the district.”

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