The board of Heritage Academy of Science and Technology filed a lawsuit Thursday against Minneapolis Public Schools after the district canceled the school’s contract last week.
The lawsuit alleges that the school district breached its contract with Heritage Academy and discriminated against its board, which is almost entirely Somali. The Heritage board is seeking monetary damages and asking that the court stop the district from intervening.
“I feel sorry for Somalis in Minnesota,” said Kenneth Udoibok, the lawyer representing the Heritage board. “Where else is the federal and state government going after them? And now the schools.”
The district did not respond to requests for comment.
The school district canceled Heritage’s contract and assumed oversight of the campus after months of disagreements within Heritage’s board, staff and families.
Heritage was one of the district’s 11 contract schools. Most of those schools serve students who are behind in credits or do not perform well in traditional classrooms.
For seven years, Heritage functioned independently — with its own board, budget and staff — and received more than $2 million from the district. The school in southeast Minneapolis enrolls about 275 students; nearly all are Somali.
Last year, the school received a positive review from the district. But the relationship changed this summer after the Heritage board decided not to renew the principal’s contract.
In September, the district issued a notice of default claiming the Heritage board was, among other things, violating open-meetings laws.
The district also said the school owed the district $64,000, but did not specify why.
The district gave the board 10 days to respond. But when the board responded in a letter, Interim Superintendent Michael Goar said he was not satisfied.
The Heritage board contends that it was not given enough time to do everything Goar asked.
“Ten days was insufficient time to contest any of [the district’s] allegations, especially to completely overhaul Board procedure and create a Board manual for directors,” the lawsuit says.
Under the district’s control, Heritage will keep its staff and faculty. The Heritage board will not be able to make decisions for the school. The Minneapolis School District and its school board will have oversight.
Mohamud Galony, one of the Heritage board members, said he has received notice from more than 80 students that they intend to leave the school and that more will leave when the district takes over.
Other families and staff members have welcomed the district’s decision, saying the school was poorly governed.