Will & Jada Smith’s Scientology school shut down, Will is ‘flipping out’


This news was covered in the Scientology watchdog blogs earlier this month but was just picked up by Star and The National Enquirer this week. It’s new to us, and apologies if you’ve already heard. Back in 2008, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith founded a small private school in Calabassas, CA called the New Village Learning Academy. The school did not bill themselves as a Scientology school, but it relied heavily on Scientology teaching methods including “Study Tech,” an unproven educational concept developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. What’s more is that many of the staff, including teachers and management, were known Scientologists. In fact the original principal was fired and replaced by a Scientologist when she started to question the use of Scientology teaching methods.

Well Will and Jada’s school has closed after five years of operation, which was about how long the building was leased for. The couple poured $1.2 million of their own money into founding the school, which then tried to survive on donations. There were only about 40 students at the $12,000 a year school, which helped it stay under the radar of accreditors but wasn’t enough to keep it afloat.

We have confirmed directly with a member of the academy’s board of directors that the school has closed down.

The school achieved notoriety for having been supported by generous donations from actor Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, whose children attended classes there (but haven’t for some time). Tax records show that the Smiths also were on the school’s board of directors. New Village Leadership Academy was a non-profit, independent school for kindergarten through sixth grade.

Although the Smiths play down their connection to the Church of Scientology, New Village Leadership Academy made use of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s “study technology,” which is a part of what every church member must learn.

As described in its tax returns, the school took in $1,235,000 from the Smiths’ WJS Trust to get the academy going in 2008. According to press reports, $889,000 of that was used to lease a facility for three years — previously, it had been the site of a public high school.

Roger Friedman, who keeps a close eye on Smith’s charitable giving, noted more recently that the Smiths’ donations to Scientology-related entities are way down.

According to the school’s most recent tax return, in 2011 the school had taken in $2.1 million in contributions, down from $2.8 million the year before. A source familiar with the academy’s history tells us that the Smiths had financed the first three years of the school, but had hoped it would become self-sufficient after that. Despite numerous fundraisers, NVLA was unable to raise enough money to keep going.

In 2009, the Smiths fired the woman who had been hired to run the school, Jacqueline Olivier, reportedly because she had clashed with the couple about the use of the Hubbard materials. She was replaced by Franca Campopiano, also known as Piano Foster. She was still listed as the head of the school in the latest tax return.

Our source who taught at the academy told us that not only were the children at the school learning Scientology’s “study tech,” but also concepts of Scientology “ethics” were being introduced to students. (The church’s “ethics” generally contain policies that reinforce Scientology’s systems of interrogation and control.)

We put in a call to Will Smith through his production company: We later heard back that Smith had no comment.

[From TonyOrtega.com]

It sounds like an issue of money, not religion, although there are surely some disappointed parents. I was digging around in the WhyWeProtest forums and found this comment by a former parent who feels like she and other non-Scientologists were duped by the school.

I can assure you the school is closed. The ‘spiral – up’ logo and name are gone.

In keeping with the fraud and hypocrisy that were hallmarks of NVLA, the founders – The Smiths – and the administration, Ms Piano Foster, Ms Carolyn Roberts, Mr. Dave Hendry, Ms Julie Griffin, among others, ‘acted’ their way through graduation and year end ceremony knowing full well that the school would not be open next year. Then, in an act of cowardice equal to their character, mailed notices of closure home that were delivered on, or about, 15 June.

I will post mine when cleared by my lawyer. But it is true.

Note please that not all of the families were Scientologists. Many, like mine, were duped into attending what we hope would be an uplifting educational institution. Many others were professional athletes, in the film and entertainment business. Other still on scholarship. The parents are gathering together now that the truth has been reveled. (and yes, we feel guilty and stupid). Legal action pending. However, the school benefited from well counseled (un)ethics. They, under the guide of Ms. Piano Foster kept enrollment low enough to qualify as a ‘home school’ thereby staying under the radar of the state and accreditation institutions, all the while plying the community for funds to “increase enrollment”. Hendry, the head of curriculum, was paid as a contract hire.

He is now with ABC mouse, among other ‘educational’ companies. So he will continue to infect his horrific ideology via covert – op crap onto the youth.

[From WhyWeProtest, requires registration]

Can you imagine putting your child in an expensive private school only to learn that they were being indoctrinated into a cult? I would be livid.

What I want to know is if the Smith’s kind of undercover “faith” in Scientology is waning. They’ve never come out as Scientologists, they only have “ties” to the cult, including that clunker of a non-starter summer movie, After Earth. Many people thought the film was thinly-disguised Scientology propaganda.

The National Enquirer claims in their latest issue that the school was Jada’s idea and that Will “told Jada from the start that opening this school could be a legal nightmare.” He’s said to be “flipping out and unhappy with Jada for the humiliating closure.” I doubt Will is “flipping out” over the Scientology connections, however. He made it clear during the After Earth media tour that he was more than down with the Scientology hands-off parenting approach. He probably thinks their teaching methods are brilliant.

Photos are from 5-29-13. Credit: WENN.com

 

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

94 Responses to “Will & Jada Smith’s Scientology school shut down, Will is ‘flipping out’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

    • RocketMerry says:

      Agreed. How stupid do you have to be an ACTOR and STILL choose a religion that preaches that you should un-feel emotions?! That is just plain idiotic: no wonder that Smith’s son, who was raised $cie, cannot act for his life.

      Those poor duped parents, I hope they do sue and win.

      • V4Real says:

        Seems like the only sane one is Will’s oldest son from his ex-wife.

      • Flea says:

        The parents are surely smart enough to google the Smiths. Their connections to Scientology are out there in the public domain. They probably chose the school based on Will & Jada’s connection to it so they should take responsibility and fully research where they send their kids to school.

        I would never send my child to so much as a day camp if anyone related to Scientology was involved. Much less a school where he goes everyday, all day. That’s just crazy. I think I’d choose Hari Krishnas to educate him first.

  1. Belle Epoch says:

    Everything involved with Scientology is shifty. Surprised the parents didn’t take a look at what their kids were learning and realize this was no normal school.

  2. Alexandria says:

    I’m so disgusted by him that I can’t even watch Fresh Prince reruns, ugh, thanks Will

  3. Jen34 says:

    I had no idea that Will supported Scientology. I remember an interview, when asked about Scientology, he said something about his Baptist grandma would kick is a** if he converted or something like that. I put this on Jada.

  4. DanaG says:

    How nice of Will and Jada. That school sounds like a ripoff to not tell the parents it was the doctrine of a cult has to be illegal somehow. I think they closet Scientologists or why open the school? Putting that much money in seems to show they are involved with the church a lot more then they want people to think. Do their kids even go to school? It seems Scientology in general isn’t that big on education.

    • KWM says:

      I think part of it is Scientology and part is just their MASSIVE EGOS! I remember reading years ago that Will said he and Jada are better equipped at teaching their children than any school or teacher.

      So of course they would think they could start up a school.

  5. lucy2 says:

    As soon as they opened this school, everyone was like, uh, that’s a Scientology school. How did the parents not know?

    • Mary says:

      Exactly! But let’s assume for one second that they somehow didn’t know. If you are shelling out $12,000 a year on your child’s education, wouldn’t you ask to see a curriculum or something that let’s you know what your kid’s would be learning. But in all honesty, I do think that these parents did know what the school was all about and just wanted to put their kids in it cause it’s connected to Will Smith. What morons.

      • Jo 'Mama' Besser says:

        I know!!! Would you get Big Bird to run your pap smear? No? So why would you trust a couple of flakes without a single accreditation between them to mastermind the education of your legacy in any capacity, let alone without knowledge of what’s being taught? A five-year-old signing up for classes at the YMCA takes more initiative and shows more agency than that. What’s that about the fool and his money?

      • ol cranky says:

        how is it they could charge parents $12K/mo for private school education and still claim “homeschool” status without making it clear to the parents the school was covered as homeschooling?

    • Mia 4S says:

      You would be stunned how many people fall for celebrity spin. Some people still believe Travolta is straight, that Tom and and Katie were a real marriage, that Reese Witherspoon is sweet. I’m sure they heard the “rumors”…but, but Will and Jada said it was all OK! Sad and ridiculous.

    • Lucinda says:

      Most people don’t read gossip sites where their Scientology connection is well-known. In fact, I was talking to a friend this week about Tom Cruise and he had no idea Tom was into Scientology at all. He mostly said he didn’t like his movies because Tom couldn’t act.

      I can totally see how parents would see celebrities starting an exclusive school and them wanting their children to be a part of that. I’m sure Scientology was never mentioned by anyone from the school in the sales pitch. Just great buzzwords like “academic rigor”.

    • hazeldazel says:

      You would be surprised how many parents are just not that involved in their children’s lives. They love them for sure, but not into the details – too much bother. Especially the very wealthy where they are raised by nannies. My best friend in college (we both were in a program for those going back to school), had worked as a nanny/au pair to the very rich in the Hamptons area. The parents used the nannies for all of the heavy lifting and consequently, the children had no real attachment to the parents. Especially in families where my friend had worked for years and thus had known the kids since they were very small. Amazing to me, the mom didn’t work. So what, you shop and gossip with friends all day, every day instead of raising your kids.

      So yeah, I completely believe that parents totally bought that this was a high-profile school because of the price tag and the names involved and never looked further. Just being able to say their kid went to some fancy-shmancy private academy founded by someone famous was enough for them.

    • Lauren says:

      I wonder if the other thing at play is the price. $12,000 is a lot, but is actually pretty cheap for an elite private school, which often are $30,000 per year and up. That makes me wonder if part of the appeal of the school to non-Scientologists was the appearance of an elite private school for something of a bargain price.

  6. T.Fanty says:

    I judge the non-scientologist parents for getting duped. I put more research into finding my kids a school than anything else in my life. Clearly, they just assumed that if they were paying $12k a year and a celebrity was attached, they were getting *some* kind of quality. That’s on them.

    • Mary says:

      Didn’t see your comment before I posted mine. :)

    • Kiddo says:

      While I agree with you in theory, and would do the same with my hypothetical children, people have varying degrees of gullibility, and that is why there will always be hucksters to follow. It doesn’t make the hucksters innocent because they were naive enough to be taken in by them, KWIM?

      • Kiddo says:

        “They” meaning the naive. I’m not sure if that made sense. Sorry, more coffee was in order.

      • TheOriginalKitten says:

        I’ve said this before on these threads but my ex went to Narcanon for treatment for his drug addiction and when his family selected the place, they literally had ZERO idea that it had any connection to Scientology.

        That being said, my ex maintains to this day that there was no brainwashing or indoctrination that occurred there–NONE (take that however you want to).
        He also credits his treatment there for saving his life. BTW, like everything CO$-related, that place cost a f*cking fortune.

        So yeah, I feel like these people are good at marketing their religion to people who seem receptive, and concealing it when they sense resistance from others. Crafty mofos.

      • Kiddo says:

        Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Maybe it did legitimately help him, maybe it was a placebo effect because he was ready to quit on his own, which is the most important part of getting clean, right? I have no idea.

  7. Marjalane says:

    I’m sorry, but Jada just looks like an evil alien to me. She probably has Will scared to death!

  8. Sonia says:

    I don’t know which is worse, shoving your religion into people faces (Tom, Kirstie) or being so embarrassed by it that you can’t admit it.

  9. Kath says:

    Ahh, scientology school.. where students shout at inanimate objects and are left alone for 12 years to look stuff up in a dictionary.

    Given that Will thinks he’s an expert in string theory and that he could pilot an aeroplane by ‘reading the manual’… I see more scientology in his delusions of grandeur than in Jada.

  10. JL says:

    Wow, 12K a year k-6th grade and straight into Sea Org. after that.

    I don’t know why the US allows this to masquerade as a religion, apparently you have to pay for everything you need for “enlightenment”

  11. eliza says:

    My word for the day is creepy. Will and Jada give me a creepy vibe. Can’t put my finger on it but there is something off about these two.

  12. Talie says:

    The whole emotional disconnect philosophy of After Earth was very much in line with the religion,

  13. TG says:

    Wish we had private schools around here that cheap. I live in the DC area and you aren’t going to find anything under $30k a year here. Too bad Will is a freak because I always liked him. Also his son looks like an exact copy if him and the daughter looks exactly like Jada.

    • Emily C. says:

      The cost of a Scientology education is your kid not actually learning anything useful at all, and being taught things that are completely wrong. In those terms, it is far more expensive than the most expensive private schools around, because you get less than nothing for your money.

  14. grabbyhands says:

    Good, another tiny arm of this cult shut down. Hopefully more will follow.

  15. Kiddo says:

    I’m late to the party, but I didn’t realize that the Smiths were in CoS. I thought they were flirting with it in the past, but hmm, didn’t realize they went full throttle.

  16. Jackson says:

    I’m fascinated by the fact that someone given the lovely name of Franca Campopiano would change her name to Piano Foster.

  17. bowers says:

    They seem to think they’re actually parents and actually smart. Some actors should stay just that: actors.

  18. Mo says:

    Why does the youngest son always look like he doesn’t know where he is?

  19. Ruyana says:

    Nothing to do with the topic at hand, but Will’s oldest son, Trey, is really, really handsome.

  20. janie says:

    They are both creepy.. I’m not sure what the deal is with the two, they are both bizarre. Does anyone’s kids go to school in LA? You see photo ops all over the world? Does anyone care about an education?

  21. Noreen says:

    There’s something fundamentally dishonest about these two. You can see it in their eyes. Their mouths smile but their eyes look the eyes of liars.

  22. Dimebox says:

    Why does Jada always look angry? I look at her and remember how my grandmother warned me that if I frowned my face might freeze that way! :-(

  23. Virgilia Coriolanus says:

    Just to gripe about Will and Jada’s not so great parenting-did anyone see Willow’s music video for “Summer Fling”? I did, and let me say that was way too inappropriate for a twelve year old.

    Everything about it just screamed that. From the actual song….what twelve year old thinks about summer flings, and just “having ‘fun’ during the summer”? I think if she had been 16, 17ish it would’ve been better. Then you add to the fact that in the music video, everyone of her “friends” look 16, 17…including the boy playing as her boyfriend. That was creepy. She’s this complete twig, looks so YOUNG, and she’s holding hands, and being carted around like a damsel in distress by her 17 year old boyfriend. I don’t understand how they felt that was appropriate in any way. What kind of twelve year old thinks about summer flings?

  24. islandwalker says:

    They have the saddest looking children. Maybe the kids would like some parenting.

  25. diva says:

    Will looks nice in that suit. I wonder when he was introduced to this cos stuff?His family is annoying though.

  26. mommak918 says:

    I use to loveee Will.

    Now he looks like an Alien to me. His wife looks like she’d cut you and their kids have no hope but to be entitled brats……

    Ooo to have so much money and opportunties at hand and to be soooooooo dumb.

  27. Deidre says:

    She ain’t got time for fiddling as head of a school crap like this, giving her kids something creative to do to bring in the money, it seems they take for-EVER to grow up and move out.. when she is focused on her own dwindling paycheck earnings loss and flagging career man..

  28. Jayna says:

    Please. They’re pissed of because it’s closed and just now they realize it had Scientology ties as far as teachings? Sorry. How dumb are you as parents since you all talk. Not one researched the school their children were attending these past years?

  29. Emily C. says:

    They’re Scientologists. Everything they say and do confirms it, as does Will’s charisma-ectomy.

    You’re missing a lot of prime gossip if you’re not following Tony Ortega every single day ;) .

  30. Ag says:

    The parents were clearly way too gullible (stupid?). Hopefully the poor kids will be deprogrammed in some actual schools.

  31. Fue McCormick says:

    … Jada looks like a man in drag … and not good drag …

  32. LMAO says:

    Hahahahahaha. Awwwwww scientology school is shut down, what a travesty. Praise Jesus you aliens!!!

  33. MM says:

    My child attended this school. The only true parts of this story are the acting during the graduation (and that we are pissed)… the anger at being misled. The parents were duped and told the financial problems had been resolved.

    The cost of the school is way higher than reported. It costs 15K for only one semester-30K total.

    Almost every family is Christian. The cult stuff is just made up.

    And the school is K-12, with those above K-6 in independent study-based courses.

    • Kiddo says:

      So what about the school did you find so appealing in the first place, what was the draw?

      • MM says:

        The school was excellent in many ways. Five or six kids per class. And countless electives to expose the children to various interests, like ecology, any language you could imagine, music, art, yoga, etc.

        The independent study was the equivalent of exceptional home schooling. This year the kids went to HI and did envy-worthy field study examining our planet’s resources.

        IT WAS NOT A CULT. Scientology has absolutely NOTHING of substance to do with the school. These are real people, real parents, real kids. We don’t operate according to Star Mag-we live real life.

        I know who the angry parent is and she is one enraged lady. She pulled her kid out the last few weeks because she was so pissed at the misinformation. They told several parents on scholarship the school would close, and told the paying out of the ass ones (us) they had just signed a new lease and we were good to go.

        Again, real people, parents, kids. The information you’ve been given by gossip rags is 95% false.

        The part about the Smiths flipping out or even being remotely worried falls squarely into that category. The school closed over a month ago and this was the first year since opening they skipped the graduation. They could have kept the school afloat easily with their money and chose to expect competence from the administration. Really, my only question is where the hell did my 120K go? Total mismanagement, just bewildering for an educational institution.

      • Kiddo says:

        Did you get your money back? It sounds like people had paid for the following year before they closed. If you didn’t, it sounds like a lawsuit is in order.

    • Kim1 says:

      Thank you for first hand info rather than tabloid BS.Will and Jada are not COS.The Beckhams are much closer to Cruise yet they are never accused of being COS.Will and Jada are rarely seen with COS member,practically every month David and his kids are socializing with Cruise.

      • Bridget says:

        The Beckhams fled the Cruise family like they were on fire, but it’s pretty well known that the Smith family are DL Scientologists. For one thing, they’ve raised their children in the Scientology way (they’re literally like miniature adults) but After Earth was like one giant Scientology commercial a la Battlefield Earth. In fact, tabloids would probably never call Will Smith a Scientologist, FYI.

    • TrustMeOnThis says:

      If they’re using “study tech” then it IS a scientology school. Sorry you got duped. Be glad it is closing down! Your kid will be better off in a real school.

    • Bridget says:

      The school uses Scientology based ”study tech” and methods – the families attending may be Christian, but they were subjecting their children to the teachings of a cult. Will and Jada even said that they were using Scientology methods for their school, so it wasn’t a mystery. Scientology is a cult: they prey on the vulnerable (like children!), drain people of their life savings, and make them disconnect from all other non-cult members. Cult. And what the hell are 7th graders doing in an independent study? It worries me that none of this set off any alarms for the parents, let alone the fact that the school was unaccredited. A celebrity name DOES NOT a good education make.

  34. LovesGossip says:

    Will and Jada are horrible parents. End of story. And Scientology doesn’t give an eff about these celebrities. It’s all about the $$$.

  35. Lola says:

    Come back to Earth Will and Jada, there are no aliens inside of us…

  36. jemshoes says:

    Will and Jada Smith are well-known, high profile Scientologists. How were any of the non-cult parents not aware of this? For my part, I wouldn’t go anywhere near any business or financial venture these two were spearheading — let alone an academic / educational organisation that has its roots in a cult.

  37. MM says:

    The school was excellent in many ways. Five or six kids per class. And countless electives to expose the children to various interests, like ecology, any language you could imagine, music, art, yoga, etc.

    The independent study was the equivalent of exceptional home schooling. This year the kids went to HI and did envy-worthy field study examining our planet’s resources.

    IT WAS NOT A CULT. Scientology has absolutely NOTHING of substance to do with the school. These are real people, real parents, real kids. We don’t operate according to Star Mag-we live real life.

    I know who the angry parent is and she is one enraged lady. She pulled her kid out the last few weeks because she was so pissed at the misinformation. They told several parents on scholarship the school would close, and told the paying out of the ass ones (us) they had just signed a new lease and we were good to go.

    Again, real people, parents, kids. The information you’ve been given by gossip rags is 95% false.

    The part about the Smiths flipping out or even being remotely worried falls squarely into that category. The school closed over a month ago and this was the first year since opening they skipped the graduation. They could have kept the school afloat easily with their money and chose to expect competence from the administration. Really, my only question is where the hell did my 120K go? Total mismanagement, just bewildering for an educational institution.

  38. Deeana says:

    Why would anyone want to send their child to a non-accredited school? Ever?

  39. Sincerity says:

    Let’s “GET REAL”!!! The only parents who would send their children to a school that intentionally avoided the rigors of state accreditation are “SOCIAL CLIMBING SOCIOPATHS”!!! They wanted “ACCESS” to other “HIGH PROFILE” parents who sent their kids there. There are just too many other “FULLY ACCREDITED” private and public schools they could have chosen. They clearly put their “SOCIAL AGENDA” before “EDUCATING” their kids.