Kanye West Has Reportedly Opened Donda Academy as a Private Religious School, Parents Must Sign NDAs

Kanye West has reportedly opened a private school based on the teachings of Christianity.

The school — Donda Academy — is based in Simi Valley, California.

The school’s website states that Donda Academy’s mission is to “prepare students to become the next generation of leaders” by way of “an ethic of integrity and care.”

As of this writing, the school is not accredited and Donda Academy’s principal and choir program’s executive director Brianne Campbell has never held a formal educational position.

via Rolling Stone:

West returned to Instagram earlier this month to share photos of students decked out in school uniforms consisting entirely of his Yeezy and Gap designs. He also complained about his four children not attending the school, seemingly suggesting to his estranged wife Kim Kardashian that the kids should split their time between Donda and their current school.

But despite its celebrity founder, curiosity around the school, flashy visits from celebrities, and West’s plans to open up campuses across the country alongside a Donda University, the school has shared little information about its academics beyond what’s on its sparse website — an anomaly when compared to the area’s top private schools that detail their staff, classes and other programs. The academy’s website merely notes that students’ daily schedule includes “full school worship; core classes of language arts, math and science; lunch and recess; enrichment courses including World Language, Visual Art, Film, Choir and Parkour.” 

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. Donda’s listed administrators and sporting program’s leadership did not respond to Rolling Stone’s multiple inquiries about the school. A representative for West also did not respond to requests for comment. Many of those associated with the school balked at interview requests, as did parents whose children attend the school. Even attempts by Simi Valley’s local newspaper noted in a June article that it could not reach anyone

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. According to her resume, Campbell’s closest brush with a teaching position appears to be running her own piano, guitar and singing tutoring business headquartered from her apartment. The 28-year-old only enrolled in a master’s degree program in education at Pepperdine University in January and should complete the course by next August. (Campbell did not reply to an interview request.)

Malik Yusef, a producer and longtime collaborator of West’s who says he helped shape the school’s concept, tells Rolling Stone that West is serious about Donda Academy, and the school is by no means being done on a whim. It’s part of West’s longtime vision, with Yusef saying the rapper’s five-year plan is to have several campuses across the country. 

“I want to be emphatic that there’s never been a time that Kanye West did not want to do this,” he says. “I think people don’t understand the gravity of that. This man always wanted to create a school in his mama’s name … Look at what we’re doing with the choir and the fashion in school — I don’t think there’s a venture capitalist or anybody that’s had a vision this clear on what education can look like for you.”

With plans of nationwide schools and a college, Donda Academy will serve as the trial run if West and his team can pull off forming a successful celebrity-backed academic institution. Otherwise, they risk jeopardizing the education of the children entrusted in their care.

For the 2021-2022 school year, Donda Academy launched its all-star Donda Doves basketball team alongside 21 students from kindergarten through eighth grade, according to the California Department of Education. In late August, the institution opened its doors to roughly 100 students, with proud parents posting images of their children heading off to class in their all-black uniforms.

Yusef described some of the students being children of West’s collaborators, creatives and other celebrities, as Keyshia Cole posted a picture of her son in a Donda uniform and a popular family from YouTube also posted a picture of their child on the first day of school in an all-black uniform.

Elsewhere images circulated of the children gathered in an empty warehouse, eating a nutritious meal at fold-out tables, and meeting Celtics player Jaylen Brown, who said three kids had given him their autographs. “[They] said they will be famous,” he wrote on Instagram after his visit. “I believe them.”

Is it a school — or is it a cult? Only time will tell…

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