Just a quick post today making note of a fascinating piece of journalism from Sports Illustrated. Lee Jenkins writes in this week’s issue about the Eastern Christian Academy Honey Badgers. The piece is available right now for free on SI’s website, but I don’t know for how long.
The basic story is that David Sills IV, a former college quarterback and now very successful and wealthy real estate developer, has a son, David Sills V, who is one of the best quarterbacks in the country in his age group. The elder David poured a ton of money into the Delaware high school his son attended, called Red Lion Christian Academy, and he loaded the school’s football team with amazing football talent, much of it in the form of poor African American scholarship kids. But eventually many parents and officials associated with Red Lion felt that the football team was taking over the school, so they kicked it out in a bitter showdown Jenkins calls a divorce.
The football team decided to stay together, which meant leaving the high school en masse. They came under the auspices of National Connections Academy, one of the country’s premiere providers of online curriculum and founders of 25 virtual public schools in 23 states. Jenkins places the team’s decision in context:
The growth of charter schools and homeschooling have pushed the number of students in grades K-12 taking online courses well into the hundreds of thousands. (p. 48)
While almost all National Connections students are homeschooled, this group of athletes have actually created a formal school, in a building with teachers. The “school,” called Eastern Christian Academy, has 54 students, 46 of whom are boys, all of whom are on the football team. The school employs four teachers and seven football coaches. The story itself gives a lot more detail about the daily operations of the school.
What’s interesting to me about Eastern Christian is how it illustrates the blurring of boundaries we’re increasingly seeing between homeschooling and schooling. Here you have an organization, National Connections Academy, that is basically a cyber charter outfit, running a school that is bringing the curriculum crafted for homes back into a quasi-public space. And you have a football program that is playing other public schools but functions more like a club team than a typical high school program. And you have families making educational decisions that have very little to do with the geography of school districts or even with whether the school is public, private, or home-based. Finally, if you read the entire article you see that this whole thing has been engineered largely through the herculean efforts and financial power of one very motivated parent. In this particular case Sills appears to be motivated not only by his son’s future athletic prospects but also by a sincere Christian commitment to helping out some talented but under-resourced kids. It’s a fascinating story. Here’s the link again.