celebrity

What’s the Deal With Donda Academy?

Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

It’s been a tumultuous month for Kanye West, now known as Ye. Since debuting his controversial “White Lives Matter” T-shirts at a YZY show, his behavior has raised concerns about his mental health (West has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder). He went on several anti-Semitic rants and at one point touted a conspiracy theory about George Floyd’s death. In the fallout, Ye has lost many of his business deals, including his partnerships with Balenciaga, Gap, and Adidas. On Wednesday, his mysterious Christian private school, Donda Academy, reportedly emailed parents to announce that it’s shutting down for the rest of the 2022–23 school year, with plans to “begin afresh in 2023.” Hours later, the Academy reportedly sent a follow-up announcing that the school would be open again on Friday. This most recent message invited families to gather “in worship for the return of Donda Academy.” The email continued, noting that the school could return “with a vengeance” with the help of parents. It’s unclear what this actually means for the future of the school.

Ye first opened up about Donda Academy and his desire for his children to attend the school in an interview with ABC News that aired in September and offered more details about the secretive school during his interview with Tucker Carlson in early October. The school, which reportedly requires parents to sign NDAs, is not yet accredited. Here’s what we know.

What is Donda Academy?

Donda Academy is a K–12 private school located in Southern California. It has not yet been accredited, which means graduating seniors might not have credits or diplomas recognized by colleges. Speaking with ABC News, Ye called it a “gospel school” focused on helping give “kids practical tools that they need in a world post the iPhone being created.” He continued, “So many schools are made to set kids up for industries that don’t even matter anymore.” He said the school is currently in its third year, with 82 enrolled students, and claimed teachers employed at the school could “actually turn your kids into, like, geniuses” with focused tutoring. Students wear Ye-approved uniforms of baggy black T-shirts and sweatpants.

What does Donda Academy teach?

The website for Donda Academy claims that the school has a ten-to-one student-to-teacher ratio and that students “learn fundamentals, grow in their faith, and experience two enrichment classes.” A daily schedule shows that students begin with a “full school worship” before going to “core classes of language arts, math and science.” Then they have lunch and recess, and in the afternoon they take “enrichment courses” that include “World Language, Visual Art, Film, Choir and Parkour.” The site also features “Donda Rules,” though it’s unclear if these are rules for the actual academy. For example, the “How We Learn” page features Donda Rule No. 51: “Students must be confident in forming ideas. If not, their writing will suffer.”

A report from Rolling Stone cited Tamar Andrews, a consultant at the school, and Malik Yusef, a longtime collaborator of Ye’s who was involved in the creation of the school, saying the school offers classes in fashion, Japanese, restorative justice, and STEM. Meanwhile, famous friends have popped in to speak to students, including Celtics player Jaylen Brown. Donda Academy promises “experienced educators” with “an uncompromised passion for creating lifelong learners and Christ-followers” on its website, and according to Andrews, the school currently employs 16 full-time teachers. But none are identified on the website or the school’s LinkedIn page, and Rolling Stone reported that Donda Academy was still hiring teachers and teachers’ aides two weeks before the beginning of the school year. Andrews, who is the director of early childhood education at Temple Isaiah and American Jewish University, reportedly resigned from the school in early October after Ye tweeted that he would go “death con 3 on Jewish people.” The president of Temple Isaiah of Los Angeles told The Hollywood Reporter that Andrews “felt she could no longer support the organization” after Ye’s tweet.

As for the three administrators who are named on the site, they have raised some eyebrows. According to Rolling Stone, principal and executive director Brianne Campbell (identified only as “Principal Campbell” on the site) has no prior experience as an educator. Her most recent employment, per her LinkedIn page, is working as the choir director of Ye’s Sunday Service. The other two administrators featured on the website — assistant principal Allison Tidwell and athletics director Shayla Scott — do have some experience in their fields.

What’s the deal with the NDAs?

Ye’s school has actually been operating for a few years now, but many fans are just finding out now. Why? Well, one reason might be the reported NDAs parents and those involved in the school are asked to sign. Speaking with Rolling Stone, Andrews confirmed parents were asked to sign an “informal agreement” when joining the school.

What about the Donda Academy choir?

Choir is a key part of Donda Academy and appears to be a sort of extension of Ye’s Sunday Service. Ye even invited students of Donda Academy to perform at his YZY 9 fashion show in Paris (the same one that included “White Lives Matter” T-shirts). The students, wearing identical black sweats and T-shirts with what appears to be a baby photo of Ye’s mother, Donda, on the back, kicked off the show with a performance of “Good Morning Donda.” North West, Kim and Ye’s eldest child, appeared as part of the choir.

Do Kanye and Kim’s kids attend Donda Academy?

It doesn’t seem as if any of Ye’s children currently attend Donda Academy. Earlier this month, Ye took issue with his kids’ schooling in since-deleted Instagram posts, making clear he wanted the kids to attend Donda Academy part time, and he told GMA he “absolutely” wants them to, adding, “I’m their dad. It has to be co-parenting. It’s not up to only the woman. Like, men have a choice also. Men’s voices matter.” Speaking with Tucker Carlson in October, Ye said that while he and Kardashian had come to a “compromise” for now, he hoped to bring his kids to Donda Academy in the future. “I’m not finished because I don’t compromise — but we’ve come to a compromise that my kids come to my school after school and they learn choir.”

Although not identified, it looks like his 4-year-old daughter, Chicago West, appears in a photo on the Donda Academy website’s “Who We Are” page.

What about the Donda basketball team?

Before the start of the school year, Donda Academy recruited many high-school basketball players, including athletes from out of state, but the team is quickly falling apart. Two high-profile basketball tournaments — the 2023 Hoophall Classic and the Play-by-Play Classic — have publicly announced that Donda Academy would not be welcome to participate this year due to Ye’s antisemitic remarks. And the New York Times reported that basketball academies and programs known for molding potentially college players (and even NBA athletes) are already making moves to recruit some of Donda’s top players.

Tuition is $15,000 per year, and even though it might be closed down for the year, it seems to still be accepting applications for the 2023–24 school year.

This post has been updated.

What’s the Deal With Donda Academy?