In her role as the board chair of Lakeside School, Connie Ballmer announced that the Seattle institution is teaming up with nine other private schools to form the Global Online Academy, which will initially present distance learning opportunities for, well, rich kids.

In addition to Lakeside, which graduated Bill Gates and Paul Allen, other schools in the exclusive alliance include Sidwell Friends School, currently attended by President Obama’s daughters and the alma mater of ‘Waiting for Superman’ director Davis Guggenheim; Punahou School, which President Obama attended from 1971-1979; Cranbrook Schools, whose grads include Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and friend-of-BillG Michael Kinsley; and The Dalton School, the $35,300-a-year Manhattan school whose alums include Sean Lennon and Anderson Cooper.

“Independent schools have traditionally struggled with how to provide their education models and resources to a wider student population in order to serve a public purpose,” Connie Ballmer explains. “While the initial classes will be for students at member schools only there is potential to share them with a broader community and help narrow the disparity of educational opportunity.”

Trickle-down education, you might say.

Last year, spouse-of-Connie Steve Ballmer spent $425,000 to help defeat a proposed Washington state income tax, which coincidentally also had the potential to help narrow the disparity of educational opportunity for WA public school students. Bill Gates Sr., the father of the Microsoft chairman, led the campaign in support of the tax.

In March, Connie Ballmer noted that Lakeside’s tuition is $8,446-a-year less than the per-student expenses incurred by the school, thanks to the magic of fundraising. Records show that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation contributed $34 million to Lakeside in 2008, and $40 million in 2005, primarily in support of the school’s capital campaigns.

Global Online Academy is currently conducting a national search for its director. The first classes are slated for September.

Story tips? Geeky gossip?

Previously: Full text: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s advice to USC grads

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  • John Wedgwood

    The genuinely positive aspirations and motivations of the people involved in creating this program don’t deserve the level of anonymous drive-by snark you have chosen to apply.

    • Anonymous

      John, thanks for the feedback. I edited and fact-checked this post. Geek Insider is our running gossip column, and it naturally takes on a point of view. It’s meant to be fun and edgy. Previous examples here …

  • John Nelson

     1/3 of the kids at Lakeside are on financial aid, I think a lot of people are shocked by that,

    • Anonymous

      And they have some amazing sports teams.

  • Clay

    I’m confused.  Was this supposed to be factual news reporting, or was this misplaced editorial comment trying to pose as reporting?  The snarking is beneath you and doesn’t bode well for the future of GeekWire. 

    • Anonymous

      Clay, thanks for the feedback, we’ll take it into account. See my conversation with John Wedgwood above for more of the context. The post raises important points, backed up by facts, and you’re reaching just a bit with your last comment.

  • FrankCatalano

    I’m not quite sure this post qualifies as “gossip,” as it’s really happening and publicly confirmed by Lakeside.

    I personally don’t agree with the snark, but perhaps it’s because my perspective comes from someone working with the digital education industry. Public schools are, relatively speaking, far ahead in distance/online learning and hybrid learning models, both with state-sponsored online schools and for-profit companies offering similar services to districts nationwide.

    It’s good to see that independent schools, whose isolation can be a double-edged sword, are finding a way to band together to leverage how technology can increase connections and improve education for all of their students. And I wouldn’t be surprised that if the model is successful, top-notch independent school courses will be offered, either a la carte or as part of a full program, to those outside of the participating schools. Perhaps even interested public schools.

  • Andrew Collins

    I love Geekwire but the tone of this submission rubbed me the wrong way. The standard and stereotyped tone peppered with back handed compliments used when speaking of Lakeside School is tiresome.

    • John Nelson

      And not back up by fact!  1/3 of the kiddos are on scholarship!  For real, 

  • Tedsmithsr

     what a humiliating disappointment; this is such a feeble PR attempt to disguise a hastily conceived, poorly implemented ruse to glorify the entitled.  Of what use is such a program to anyone but those who whimsically write a check for $30,000 tuition a year.  Time will tell; hopefully, someone will keep track of the “value” of this nonsense.

    • Emily McCarren

      That is a common misconception that all independent school students and their families can “whimsically write a check for $30,000 a year”.  At these schools that are part of this project, financial aid and developing the public purpose of our private schools is central to what we do.  This project in particular –exploring a way to expand the impact beyond the students that come to our schools– speaks directly to those goals. 

      • FrankCatalano

        Emily, I agree. As the recipient of scholarships to two private schools (Laguna Blanca School, The Cate School) when I was growing up, I know it’s a fallacy that independent schools don’t spend time and resources on providing educational opportunities for those who want to attend, but just can’t swing it financially. I think the Global Online Academy presents another opportunity for the independent schools not just to support each other, but to extend their course reach to those who may not normally be able to enroll.

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