A day after its proposed overseer was rejected and a Minnesota court denied an attempt to avoid its closure, Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy's founder met Friday with the charter school's parents, hoping to bring "emotional closure" to the situation.
"It is my duty to tell you that it is a very high probability that we will not survive," Asad Zaman told the crowd of more than 60 at the Inver Grove Heights campus of the charter, which served 540 students last school year, including at its Blaine site. "I would advise parents to look for their best option."
TiZA will close because as of Friday it was left without an authorizer - a nonprofit agency, school district or other overseer of finances and academics each Minnesota charter school needs in order to operate.
At the meeting, Zaman and others voiced frustration over what they said was differential and racist treatment from the state Department of Education.
"I think the department is completely wrong," Zaman said. "They threw everything and the kitchen sink (at us.)"
Kimberly Rowan, who has taught at the school for four years, was among the many who stood up to speak at the meeting. She teared up when thinking about the school closing.
"My heart is broken for what is happening here," Rowan said to the group. "I'm ashamed. I see it as racial profiling and religious persecution."
Tempers flared and arguments erupted when a couple of parents voiced their frustration with the TiZA administration for not workingharder to keep the school open. Abdul-Rahim Ahmed, whose 14-year-old daughter has attended the school since its inception, felt that officials should have worked harder to find a sponsor.
"It's hard to swallow the shutdown," Ahmed said.
Zaman maintained a calm demeanor and urged parents to continue bringing him their concerns.
"I know we are all frustrated," Zaman said. "Believe me, I did not want to be here giving you this news....You have the right to criticize me."
A new state law forbidding out-of-state authorizers went into effect Friday, and TiZA's overseer, Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Islamic Relief USA, became ineligible to continue in its role.
Weeks earlier, TiZA sued the state Department of Education and Islamic Relief in federal court, charging they were obstructing its efforts to line up a new authorizer. It asked the judge to examine the constitutionality of the new law and to issue an order that would keep the school open in the meantime. On Thursday, the judge declined.
Meanwhile, the state rejected another nonprofit's application to sponsor TiZA, citing problems with its plan.
Islamic Relief and the state were also co-defendants in a long-running American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against TiZA over charges it promoted religion. Both settled with the ACLU and are now seeking a total of $2 million in legal costs from TiZA.
After its new authorizer application and court order request failed Thursday, TiZA filed for bankruptcy protection.
TiZA's gross assets are valued at slightly less than $2 million, Zaman said.
The state has given TiZA a firm timeline for closure, including a July 15 deadline to submit data on liabilities and assets.
Summer school will be closed Tuesday.
Small hope for the school site hinges on Higher Ground Academy, a St. Paul K-12 charter school, which is interested in applying to open a campus at TiZA's Inver Grove Heights building.
Many of the TiZA parents expressed concerns about sending their children to a different school.
"This was so unexpected," said Asim Tahir, whose three daughters attend TiZA. "I didn't think the Department of Education would actually shut them down."
"It is sad that over 300 kids are going to lose the school they've known," said a man who gave his name as Abdi and said he has three children at TiZA.