Tuesday 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 now by our newest all-star panelist and good friend Rachael Bradley the principal of Thales Academy-Franklin. Welcome, Rachael. How are you this morning?
Bradley: I’m great Mike. How are you?
Leahy: I’m great. It’s now April 21. You have been a resident and a Tennessee Volunteer for 21 days. Everyday gets better, doesn’t it?
Bradley: It does. It’s hard to believe. Yeah. (Leahy chuckles)
Leahy: So tell us a little bit about whats going on with Thales Academy. The new high quality affordable private school that’s opening up in Franklin at the old Gate Community Church in Franklin on July 20. Tell us about the classes that will be available, tuition, and all that good stuff.
Bradley: It’s been a busy week and a half. Last Monday all of our students in North Carolina, we have over 3,000 students at eight campuses in North Carolina who started online learning to complete their fourth quarter of the school year. Our new Franklin campus is scheduled to open in July.
And we saw a need that there are a lot of families at home right now with no learning options available for their students around Williamson County. So we opened up those online classes at Thales Academy for any child that is interested in participating. And I’ve had a lot of interest and a lot of parents contact me in the last four or five days, Mike.
Leahy: Well, that’s great. If you want to connect with Rachael there are a couple of ways you can do that. You can go to the tennesseestar.com and click on the Thales Academy banner that will take you to the Facebook page. You also have an email address. What is your email address, Rachael?
Bradley: It’s my first and last name. [email protected]
Leahy: That’s a great thing to do right now because public schools apparently throughout the state will not be reopening until August. And so if you have kids that are K-5 this is available to?
Leahy: K-5 online. It’s a great value and a great way to keep kids moving and thinking and learning. Also, your tuition is pretty good from what I can tell. What’s the latest on that?
Bradley: We did lower our tuition a few weeks ago to meet the moment because a lot of families are struggling right now. Our tuition is already low. That’s part of our mission to offer an excellent high-quality education that is an affordable cost to families. So that comes in at $5,300 a year.
Leahy: Pretty good. Pretty good. We’ll talk a little bit about direct instruction which is the methodology that’s been proven and used at Thales Academy. It’s been around for about 50 years. It’s the best way to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. Before we do that, I know before this pandemic and the governor’s “stay at home” order that you were doing parent meetings.
Now that the governor has said the state will be opening back May 1, a week from Friday, I don’t know what the ruling is in terms of gathering sizes that will be allowed. But at the very least, it seems to me that you may be opening up for probably 10 folks at a time to come in. Are there plans for more parent informational meetings coming up?
Bradley: I was pulling up my calendar Mike. We would love to do that. We initially had one scheduled for Tuesday, May 12. I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t go ahead and do that in a safe way. As you said, even if its just 10 people that are able to join us that would be great. We are holding those at The Gate, the future site of our school at 3835 Carothers Parkway. There’s a large sanctuary where it would be completely feasible for 10 or 12 people to spread out and maintain social distancing.
Leahy: Yeah. And everybody could have more than six feet of distance.
Leahy: Everybody could wear a mask and follow the social distancing guidelines. Although I would love to be there. If we are going with the 10 person standard than it will be you and nine parents. (Chuckles) We’ll investigate what those rules are. I think every school and every business is trying to figure out what the rules will be. I’m guessing you are going to spend some of your time this week figuring out what those rules will be?
Bradley: Absolutely. Absolutely. We’ve been looking at all those guidelines and making a plan of how we can reopen safely as soon as we’re able to do so. In the interim, we did record a nice high-quality informational video. And it’s me. I did that at our corporate office before I left North Carolina.
That is on our Thales Academy-Franklin Facebook page. It’s about 36 minutes and its a complete overview of our program at Thales Academy. So in the meantime, while you are sitting at home I encourage you to go to the Thales Academy Facebook page and check that out.
Leahy: For our listeners, a very easy way to get there is this: Go to tennesseestar.com and you’ll see the blue Thales Academy ad and click on it and it will take you right to that Facebook page. In our last minutes here, we’ve talked a lot about direct instruction and the importance of that to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. I want to see if you could emphasize again how direct instruction works, why its the best to do it and why parents need to learn about why it’s used at Thales Academy-Franklin.
Bradley: Well for me its come from first-hand experience and seeing the success that it yields. But the basis of direct instruction, I’ve said this many times, its really two key things. It’s maximizing student engagement and maintaining high time on task.
So what that means is that all of our students are learning every minute of the school day. It’s a remarkable thing to watch. It’s a very high energy, fast-paced, lots of engagement, and data-driven. We are monitoring student progress with a mastery-based program so nobody is falling through the cracks. We are able to meet students where they are needed.
Leahy: When I went to Thales Academy and saw these classes in session, typically you think of like, the Charlie Brown at school cartoon’s right?
Leahy: And the kids are daydreaming. They are thinking of this and that. They are not engaged. Look, all those kids that I saw where absolutely engaged. Almost transfixed and focused on what the teacher was saying and understanding how to respond to what the teacher was saying.
Bradley: You are absolutely right. You know, it’s all about execution. And we at Thales are all about execution. And executing at a high level. We are focused on the outcomes. And the way we do that is side by side coaching. Every quarter of every school year for every teacher. So there is a lot of support for our teachers to ensure that they are executing at a high level. And that again yields success for the students.
Leahy: That’s the interesting part about it. My kids are in their 20s and early 30s, I remember what it was like to have young kids and boy, it takes a lot of energy. Kids are easily…
Leahy: That was the word I was looking for! (Bradley chuckles) So keeping them on task, that’s quite a challenge.
Bradley: Can you imagine right now the struggle that parents are having with their children? I only have one Mike and he’s almost eight and I’m an educator and it’s still challenging to get my own child to do what he’s supposed to do.
If I didn’t have an education background with multiple kids, and I know most of our families do, this is a really challenging time. I know I was so happy when our classes started last Monday and my son was able to continue with his classmates and teachers from North Carolina. It’s been a beautiful thing to watch.
Leahy: Rachael Bradley, principal of Thales Academy-Franklin opening up K-3 on July 20. A high-quality education here in Middle Tennessee. If all goes well, there is an opportunity for a parent in-person informational meeting on May the 12. Thanks, Rachael for joining us.
Bradley: Thanks, Mike. Have a great day.
Listen to the full third hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Thales Academy” by Thales Academy.