The “Happy” singer and 13-time Grammy-winner revealed his master plan in a press release in which he called out the current state of affairs regarding the school system, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
“If the system is fixed and unfair, then it needs to be broken,” Williams, 48, said in the release. “We don’t want lockstep learning where so many kids fall behind; we want bespoke learning designed for each child, where the things that make a child different are the same things that will make a child rise up and take flight.”
The Yellowhab group of schools – its name derived from the combination of Williams’ Yellow foundation and “hab” after the Mars habitat in the film, “The Martian” – will be tuition-free for at least the first year and the costs of attendance will be covered by philanthropic support, presumably via grants and donations.
Recording artist Pharrell Williams is opening a network of nonprofit private schools in Virginia. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
The first school is said to be opening on Sept. 7 in the Ghent area of Norfolk and while the group didn’t specify its exact whereabouts, the school will be devoted to students in grades three through five and the goals for the equity-focused nonprofit include expanding its summer programs for its city students.
The school’s executive director Mike McGalliard maintained that it has no plans to seek local approval or funding in order to designate the school as a public charter despite one of the school’s early donors, the Walton Family Foundation, having spent millions over the last two decades to support and promote charter schools, the publication said.
“We are very clear here that we’re not taking away from the city or the district,” McGalliard said. “We want to be additive and not put any kind of onerous, intrusive impact on those institutions. It’s very important that we not disrupt that revenue stream.”
Through Yellow, McGalliard has also founded other charter schools in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, the founder of the New York-based nonprofit Harlem Children’s Zone, which runs three charters in the city, is the chair of Yellow’s board.
With 38 Grammy nominations to his jacket, the artist and former “Voice” coach is the latest big name to enter into the youth education space. Ciara and Russell Wilson, Jay-Z and LeBron James are among megastars who have their fingerprints all over grade school and university programs that foster education throughout the country.
The area in Norfolk where the first operating Yellowhab school is set to open is reportedly mired by housing segregation and the city has approved a robust revitalization plan that should see three public housing communities erected through its billion-dollar St. Paul’s redevelopment effort.
Its initial enrollment will be in the range of 40 to 50 students and students will be grouped by skill level instead of grade level.
‘If the system is fixed and unfair, then it needs to be broken,’ Grammy-winner Pharrell Williams said in a press release announcing the opening of his Yellowhab network of nonprofit private schools (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
The new school’s curriculum will have a heavy emphasis on STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math — much like the summer programs that exist before it.
Furthermore, verbiage such as “below grade level” or “remedial” are barred by Yallowhab and collaboration and hands-on learning is deeply emphasized.
Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander touted the visionary effort of the blueprint formulated by the Harlem Children’s Zone charter schools, which he toured with Williams in 2019.
“What happened was breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty,” Alexander said. “To see that students had gone on to university and some of the Ivy League schools was just very impressive. That’s what we witnessed there.”
The nonprofit also plans to open a middle school next year.
A rep for Williams did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.