Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host, Leahy welcomed Executive Director of The Star News Education Foundation and the author of Guide to Shop and Engineering, Kent Misegades to the show.
During the second hour, Misegades discussed the methodology of direct instruction and what it offered children and how it motivated him to become part of the Thales mission. At the top of the second segment, he described the history and the growth of Thales Academy from 2007 and why parents should consider enrolling their children. He stressed that it was an investment and worth every penny.
Leahy: We are joined now by our very good friend. The author of the Guide to Shop and Engineering. Also the executive director of our newly formed non-profit, Star News Education Foundation. And one of the early parents involved in Thales Academy back in 2007-2008. An exciting new private school of high quality and affordable coming to Franklin, Tennessee.
Tomorrow night, there will be an informational meeting for new parents interested in high quality private affordable education for K-3 students. Possibly even more than that depending upon the signup. If you want to sign up and go, I will be there by the way as well as Carol Swain and Crom Carmichael. Go to ThalesAcademy.org/Franklin. And Kent good morning. You’re calling in from North Carolina.
Misegades: Good morning Michael.
Leahy: Tell us a little bit about the origin of Thales Academy. How did you get interested in it? I guess you visited a predecessor to it at a charter school where you saw educational innovation which was as you’ve told me many a time – electrifying.
Misegades: Yes indeed. I was running an engineering business in the town of Apex. And, in fact, one of the locations of Thales in North Carolina. I was in a business association where I met Mr. Bob Luddy, the founder of these schools. He invited me to come up and see the Franklin Academy Charter school which he had founded.
Leahy: Let me clarify for our listeners. It’s a charter school in North Carolina in the Raleigh-Durham area called the Franklin Academy. It’s NOT located in Franklin, Tennessee where Thales Academy is coming in July of 2020 in Franklin. Just to be clear on that.
Misegades: Good point. At that time we had our legislature had a cap of 100 charter schools. I was with a group of parents that were seeking alternatives to the public schools which were ok but they could have been better. Bob invited me up to see his new charter school and I went into the elementary school and quite frankly was electrifying to see direct instruction seeing the children all working together towards mastery.
No discipline issues. Nice dress code and good character education. First I thought. Oh my gosh, my children missed this because they were finishing high school at the same time. Then second I said, we can do something about the next generation and that’s when we started to talk with him about an alternative because of the cap a low-cost private school which is called Thales Academy.
Leahy: Just for a minute, describe briefly because Rachel Bradley who’s going to be the head of school here at Thales Academy in Franklin parent meeting tomorrow night. ThalesAcademy.org/Franklin if you are interested and live in middle Tennessee or Williamson county.
Some of you may be after to make the morning trek and afternoon trek there. But tell us just briefly, what is so interesting and different about using this methodology called direct instruction to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic?
Misegades: Direct instruction, in fact, it looks an awful like with what was used when I was in grade school in rural towns in Kentucky and Alabama when I was young. My mother who is now about 90, looked at it and said this is what we used in schools in 1950.
The beauty of direct instruction because of the structure in it, it’s very easy to determine where each child is on their route to mastery. There are achievement groups that children are placed into groups that are all approximately at the same level.
And so those are a little faster and they’re put into similar groups. Those that need a little more help are put into a similar group. So you don’t have either the boredom or frustration that one finds when they’re thrown into one big pot like is found in most schools.
And it’s a very well developed methodology that’s been around for 50 years. And I would say that Thales has taken it to the next level. They are perhaps the best users in direct instruction in the entire country.
Leahy: So tell us a little bit Kent if you will about kind of the growth of Thales Academy from the time you were involved in 2007 to where it is today. Then also, why parents should consider Thales Academy.
Misegades: Yes, thank you. The first school of Thales in Apex opened around the Fall of 2008. It was the second elementary school of K-5 of Thales Academy. Subsequent to that, there were additional campuses in Raleigh and Knightdale and a few other communities around the Raleigh triangle area.
More recently a K-5 school in Waxhaw, that is a suburb of Charlotte. And of course the now the new one in Franklin, North Carolina. and outside the state. I was actually on the board of directors early of Thales and also the director of development charged with expanding the schools. And you know, there’s always a group of parents that are focused mostly on academic excellence and that’s the indeed focus of the Thales Academy.
And there are also community leaders that embrace this great American ideal of free markets and the fact that more options generally lead to improvements for all. Or as we say, a rising tide raises all ships. Thales has come along way and is open to middle schools and high schools. One in Apex and another one in Rolesville. And that’s how I also got involved in these other activities, for instance, the shop class.
Leahy: The shop class is great. Of course, President Trump must have read one of our seven elements of our key changes in K-12 education. Shop class for everyone at the state of the Union address. That was President Trump saying shop class for everyone. He must have read our mission statement for the Star News Education Foundation!
I want to ask you Kent about the cost of Thales.
Now interestingly enough, this is a K-3 school coming here and using direct instruction. The best way to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic in Franklin, Tennessee. The tuition is $6,000 if you sign up early for a year’s tuition it’s $5,700.00 if you sign up early as one of the first 100 people.
And $5,400.00 if you prepay the whole year. $5,400 for an elementary education, that is more than zero but compared to the alternatives, it’s tremendous. How are they able to accomplish that?
Misegades: Yes, that’s an important point when you consider the average cost of public schools, it’s about $11-$12,000 per student. The average annual cost for preschool is about $10-$11,000. Your average private school is about double also. And so Thales is able to do this through a couple of means.
First of all, Bob and others of us serve on the board. We’re business people. We run industry and manufacturing. In my case, we know how to build very effective and attractive buildings but at a lower cost than for a public school.
So your capital costs are a lot lower. The other way is that you don’t hire a huge staff of people who aren’t teaching. Almost everyone who works at Thales also teaches and that includes the administrators so you don’t have this additional cost for personnel that is present in other schools.
Also, we have absolutely top-notch educators. These are teachers that come from a variety of backgrounds and they’re all really top in what they do. Direct instruction helps a lot. And then also discipline. There are really no discipline issues in the schools for a variety of reasons.
When a teacher is able to not worry about discipline issues and all of the children are pretty much on the same page, you can be extremely effective. And that means, low cost. There are a variety of ways of doing it. Some borrow it from best practices in businesses and others are common sense. And the other things like direct instruction. This is a methodology that just works and is highly effective.
Leahy: Now, if you are a parent in Williamson County and let’s say a lot of them are unhappy with the left-wing propaganda that the K-12 students are receiving. We did a story about the teaching of white privilege to the teachers. And this is just permeating the K-12 public schools in much of middle Tennessee and particularly in Williamson County.
If you are sick of that. But you like the idea of not having to pay extra money to go to a public school rather than a private school. And you’re looking at, well do I spend $6,000.00 to send my children to a private school as opposed to getting it for free in a public school? How would you advise parents to look at that decision?
Misegades: Of course, that’s very important. When we were young with our children we counted every penny. It’s an investment. Pay now or pay later. We have a cost for schools. If your children are in public schools you don’t get a bill for it but you do get a bill for it ultimately through our taxes.
But also in the ability of your child to be able to be self-sufficient at the end of high school. It’s not so long ago, that most young people, certainly my generation have the skills both with their hands and their heads to earn a living and support a family. That should be the case. And as you know, that’s one of the precepts of our foundation. So look at it as an investment. Compare it to other costs.
A lot of parents have their children in preschool and daycare even as infants that are paying a lot more for that than they are for Thales. When you budget correctly and when you have an infant then you ought to be able to pay the same thing.
It would be nice if people didn’t have to pay twice, but that’s the reality. I think they need to look at it as an investment and stability. From the day your child enters kindergarten, you know the family schedule for the next 13 years. You don’t get that with public schools.
Listen to the second hour here:
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