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UNO Chief Steps Down From Board Amid School Contract Scandal

Juan Rangel, CEO of the United Neighborhood Organization, announced he's stepping down from the board that oversees the community group and its charter school network, in the wake of a scandal that led the state to freeze $98 million in funds for a new high school. (Credit: CBS)

Juan Rangel, CEO of the United Neighborhood Organization, announced he’s stepping down from the board that oversees the community group and its charter school network, in the wake of a scandal that led the state to freeze $98 million in funds for a new high school. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The leader of the United Neighborhood Organization – the city’s largest charter school operator – said Tuesday the group is making big changes to resolve ethical problems, in hopes of winning back state funding for a new high school.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports UNO Chief Executive Officer Juan Rangel has decided to step down as chairman of the boards that oversee the group and its charter school network, although he will stay on as UNO CEO.

Rangel said he’s asked investment banker Martin Cabrera Jr. to take his place as head of a completely new UNO board, and institute widespread reforms.


Rangel apologized for allowing some of UNO’s construction contracts to go to members of former board member Miguel d’Escoto’s family.

“Over the past few months, it has become clear to me that in many key aspects of my roles at UNO, I have failed; failed to exercise proper oversight, failed to hold UNO to the highest operational standards, failed to manage UNO in a way that kept pace with its growth,” he said.

The state froze UNO’s $98 million in construction funds because of those issues.

Rangel acknowledged it was inappropriate for UNO construction contracts to go to d’Escoto’s brothers.

“The questions that have been raised are legitimate, and they are reasonable. I am here today to apologize to you, the members of our community, and to the people of Illinois for not running our organization with the appropriate professionalism,” he said.

UNO also has turned over construction of its new Soccer Academy Charter High School to the non-profit group IFF, which will be given sole discretion over selecting contractors, subcontractors, and material providers for the construction project.

Rangel clearly hopes the reforms are enough to get the money back quickly.

Rangel also has decided to resign from the Public Buildings Commission, which oversees construction contracts for public schools and other city and county buildings.