Rolling Stone issued a new report this week, investigating practices, conditions, and a strange veil of secrecy surrounding newly founded California private school Donda Academy—which, as the name may have clued you in, is a new Christian private school founded by musical superstar Kanye West.
We swear to god, we take our eyes off this guy for one second…
Let’s tackle the secrecy element first. Although sources close to the school discount statements that parents and kids are asked to sign legally binding non-disclosure agreements before attending, they did confirm that parents are asked to sign an “informal agreement” not to talk about what happens at the Simi Valley institution. (Which serves grades K-12, has been running since 2021, and reportedly enrolls 100 or so students at a rate of $15,000 a year, with some of those educations reportedly subsidized by West himself.) Tamar Andrews, a consultant for the school, says there’s no great hurry at the moment on informing the public about the school: “Honestly, we don’t care if people know about the school,” she said, noting that “I don’t know that we have to advertise, which is a blessing and a curse.”
The report also notes that the school—which has put a strong emphasis on its athletics and choir programs—has yet to be accredited, which could present problems for students after they graduate. Chicago educator Beulah McLoyd, who was previously Donda’s executive director, stated in the Stone report that she left her position at the school recently because of a disagreement about “the level of stability that is required to educate students in an effective way.” Kids at the school are subject to a curriculum that includes, per its web site, “Full school worship,” “Core classes of language arts, math and science,” and “Enrichment courses including World Language, Visual Art, Film, Choir and Parkour.” (They also get a 10 to 1 ratio of kids to teachers in each classroom, which is, like, wildly good; it’s not hard to see why parents who can afford it might be into this, even before taking the celebrity connection into account.)
According to Malik Yusef, a long-time collaborator of West’s who serves as Rolling Stone’s most major on-the-record source for the report, the school is an expression of long-held beliefs and desires for the musician. “I want to be emphatic that there’s never been a time that Kanye West did not want to do this,” Yusef said. “I think people don’t understand the gravity of that. This man always wanted to create a school in his mama’s name.” (West’s mother, English professor Donda West, died in 2007.) Among other things, West helped designed the school’s uniforms—pulled from his various fashion partnerships, with Adidas apparently backing the school’s basketball team, the Donda Doves—and has been pushing his ex-wife Kim Kardashian to enroll his kids at the school at least part-time.
So, yeah: Kanye’s got a school. We’re just going to have to wait and see if this is one of West’s occasional (and rarer by the day) radical, undeniable successes, or, uh, the other thing that happens when Kanye West throws his whole self at a project.