Rapper Kanye West has opened an unaccredited, under-staffed private Christian school in California, called Donda Academy, that requires parents to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)… and oh my god there’s no way this is going to end well. Rolling Stone has more on the school named after West’s late mother that I assume is entirely surrounded by red flags:
Two sources tell Rolling Stone that families are required to sign nondisclosure agreements; a consultant to the school claims only parents sign, and described it as an “informal agreement.”
What’s more, the school is not yet accredited and was still looking to hire instructors shortly before the school year began. Exactly who attends and works at the school has been tricky to pin down…
The ostensible head of the school listed on its website is principal and executive director Brianne Campbell, who also leads the school’s choir program. But Rolling Stone has learned that Campbell has never held a formal position as an educator.
So… it’s an idea that requires much more thought and preparation, but instead of putting the students’ needs first, Kanye West rushed to open Donda Academy (and capitalize on publicity) before it was ready for prime time. He’s already thinking about launching new campuses across the country and also opening a college.
There are benefits to signing up for a private school run by a wealthy celebrity. In theory, there’s no problem with resources, finding qualified staffers, creating exciting opportunities for the students, and using West’s connections to help those students in the future. But outside of some photo ops, there’s no indication the pieces are in place to make the most of those advantages.
As for the NDAs, it’s an open question about what students and parents would be forbidden from discussing:
As noted, two sources close to current Donda students claim those associated with the school were asked to sign confidentiality agreements, while a third source said they were not permitted to discuss the school. (West is no stranger to doling out NDAs, reportedly making guests at his Sunday Services sign them, and his Yeezy brand is suing a former intern for allegedly breaching an NDA by posting confidential pictures on Instagram.)
Public schools don’t make teachers or families sign NDAs. Just saying. Good schools have nothing to hide. And whenever you mix NDAs with Christianity, rest assured nothing good will come of it.
For the time being, there are “under 100 students and 16 full-time teachers”—a fantastic ratio, no doubt. But that assumes all those staffers are qualified to do the job. The website doesn’t say anything about who those teachers are, much less their qualifications.
Then there’s the “faith” aspect of the school. While the website says there’s “Full school worship” each day, there’s not statement of faith included on the website and no indication of the kind of Christianity that’s practiced there. Usually, that’s one of the things Christian schools put front and center. Given that Kanye West has previously said, “They’re attempting to take prayer out of schools,” you have to wonder if Donda Academy plans to push a more right-wing, historical revisionist form of Christianity or a more generic kind.
The lack of accreditation can’t be ignored either. While the process to become an accredited school is underway, as it stands, the credits those students may be earning are currently worth nothing. If they ever have to transfer to a new school, or they’re applying for college, it’s possible their credits and their diplomas won’t be taken seriously. Without that stamp of approval, this is just a grown man’s playground, not a serious center of education.
It’s a very different, and much less thoughtful, approach to education than what we saw from another wealthy superstar, LeBron James. James worked with the local public school system in Akron, Ohio to roll out his vision, and the plan seems to be working.
On the other hand, when Rolling Stone reached out to Donda Academy’s former executive director Beulah McLoyd, she pointed out “philosophical differences”… that really spell out her concern for the students.
“We had philosophical differences about the level of stability that is required to educate students in an effective way,” McLoyd says in response. “As an educator with over 22 years of experience in the field, I always put children at the forefront of any decision I make. Consequently, I moved on.”
Not exactly a vote of confidence.
This won’t end well. Go ahead and make your bets now as to what scandal will cause this place to shut down.