Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcasting live from Music Row on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Leahy was joined on the newsmakers line by all-star panelist and Thales Academy in Franklin’s Principal Rachael Bradley.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmakers line by the newest all-star panelist on The Tennessee Star Report. Our good friend, the principal of the new Thales Academy of Franklin opening on the 20 of July this year, Rachael Bradley. Good morning Rachael.
Bradley: Good morning Mike how are you?
Leahy: I am upbeat. It looks like we may be reaching the peak of this coronavirus pandemic. We’ll see how it plays out, but that’s good news for parents around the country and all around the state and Franklin, Williamson County, and middle Tennessee who have the kids at home thinking, hmmm when does school start again?
Bradley: (Laughs) You are exactly right. I’m not only an educator and a school principal but I am a mother of a seven-year-old boy and I am most certainly ready for him to be back in the classroom. (Chuckles)
Leahy: So the Bradley family has been brave and intrepid. You have spent your years as an educator. You graduated from Virginia Tech and you worked at teaching using this fantastic teaching methodology called direct instruction throughout your career.
Most recently you’ve been a principal at Thales Academy’s K-6 schools in the Raleigh, North Carolina area. There are about eight schools in North Carolina under the Thales Academy banner. High-quality affordable schools. The tuition we talked about a little bit is remarkably low. We’ll talk about that here in a bit.
But you and your family in the midst of this pandemic you moved because you care so much about introducing this new fantastic and affordable high-quality school to Tennessee. You moved from Raleigh, North Carolina to Franklin, Tennessee area on April 1. Have you unpacked everything?
Bradley: We have unpacked. We are both people who like our environment neat and orderly. (Chuckles) Pictures are on the wall. Books are on the shelf. Pots are in the cabinet. We are fully unpacked and ready to roll.
Leahy: That’s impressive.
Leahy: You arrived here in Nashville on April 1. So this is nine days.
Bradley: It’s been a week.
Leahy: You’ve been a week and a couple of days you’ve been a Tennessee Volunteer. No longer a North Carolina Tar Heel. I guess people have been friendly and welcoming to you?
Bradley: It’s been the friendliest and warmest welcome I’ve ever received. And that’s the honest truth. I’ve moved several times in my life for school and work and Williamson County people are extremely friendly. I’m happy to be here.
Leahy: If you want to learn more about Thales Academy which is opening up at the former Gate Community Church on Carothers Parkway in Franklin on July 20. If you would like to learn about it opening K-3 you can go to tennesseestar.com and click the Thales Academy banner ad or side ad which takes you to a Facebook page where Rachael gives a 45-minute introduction of what Thales Academy is about. Very very helpful. Or you can go to thalesAcademy.org.
Rachael, one of the things we talked about yesterday. I want you to emphasize again that if you live in middle Tennessee or Williamson County and you have child K-3 and you are looking for a place to go and worried a little bit about money. Rachael, tell us a little bit about the tuition reductions that Thales Academy is offering this year.
Bradley: Our mission has always been to provide an excellent high-quality education at an affordable cost for families. And there’s never been a more crucial time to meet that moment right now. We recognize that many families are in a really challenging position and experiencing a loss of income, potentially. Job loss. And the last thing you want to sacrifice is your child’s education. So in order to meet the moment we have lowered our already low tuition to $5,300.
Leahy: That’s for a full academic year?
Bradley: That’s for a full year of high-quality private school education. There is even an option to pay in full at the start of the school year and the tuition will be a flat $5,000.
Leahy: Isn’t that less than daycare that you would provide?
Bradley: I’m not that far out of the daycare realm. (Leahy laughs) I can tell you when my son was in preschool I was paying nearly 1200 a month for one child in preschool.
Bradley: That’s like getting a raise when your child graduates from preschool and heads to kindergarten. Even without tuition, you’re cutting that monthly payment in half.
Leahy: So if you have a family with a working mom and a working dad and you have a child in Middle Tennessee who is thinking about what do we do when we go back to work. If you are looking at the cost of daycare versus a high quality affordable private school. Its a great value I think. $5,000 if you prepay for the entire year. It’s pretty good. It’s actually not pretty good. It’s fantastic actually.
Bradley: It’s amazing.
Leahy: When you compare it to other private schools in the Williamson County area. Now you talk about your seven year old son. I suppose because you’ve been moving and that’s been occupying him a little bit. But now, what do you do with a seven year old when you are stuck at home? What do you do?
Bradley: Oh wow. A lot of Legos. A lot of walks around the neighborhood. I’m really fortunate that he has been attending Thales Academy because my plan was to put him in school here until our new campus opened but that is not possible here because the other schools aren’t open. Fortunately, our North Carolina campus, as you mentioned we have eight successful campuses in the Raleigh area. They have rolled out a full online learning program for all of their students. And that’s going to begin on Monday which will be the first day of our fourth quarter.
Bradley: My son is going to continue learning and pick up right where he left off last quarter and he’ll continue learning with his classmates and teachers online.
Leahy: So really his education hasn’t changed at all by the move because his classmates are at home in North Carolina. And he’s at home in Tennessee. And it really doesn’t make that much difference I guess if you are doing it all online?
Bradley: That’s exactly right. And that was honestly my only reservation with the move. How would it impact him leaving his classmates? How would it impact his education in that period before we opened our doors? And so it’s really sort of remarkable that all the children in the country are nearly in the same boat as him and they’re all going to be learning from home right now.
Leahy: Online. So tell us how Thales Academy is putting together this online learning that begins on Monday for those that are enrolled in Thales Academy.
Bradley: We knew that our parents despite its low cost they are still paying tuition and they except a high-quality product. And they don’t want a gap in their child’s learning. So we knew that. And as an administrative team, we have met regularly via Zoom and planned how to roll out this platform so that its user friendly for children and their families.
But learning is still taking place in a safe environment and parents are fully supported. So we’ve worked really hard on that. And we’re using some programs such as Zoom, MirrorPad, and Canvas. And two of those our families were already familiar with.
Leahy: Let’s give an example of it. Now your son is in second grade right now?
Leahy: How many classes will he have online starting Monday?
Bradley: Right. We’re going to start with the core subjects of reading and math. And that’s because we don’t want to overwhelm families. And we realize this is an ever-evolving situation and we’re going to need to continue to review it on a weekly basis. And we are utilizing surveys to get feedback from families so we can hear how did this first week go? What do you need more of or what do you need less of? How can we better support you?
Leahy: Will that be like a couple of hours a day perhaps.
Bradley: That will be a couple of hours a day. We’re still going to include optional activities for science and history.
Leahy: That sounds great.
Listen to the full third hour:
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