Live from Music Row Tuesday 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 Principal Rachael Bradley of Thales Academy of Franklin to the newsmakers line.
During the second hour, Leahy and Bradley discussed the upcoming Thales Academy-Franklin event on June ninth at 6:30 p.m. and how Thales will teach reading to their students.
Leahy: We are joined on the line now by our very good friend. Former North Carolina Tarheel (Chuckles) and still a Virginia Tech Hokie but now also a Tennessee Volunteer Rachael Bradley the principal of Thales Academy-Franklin. Welcome, Rachael.
Bradley: Good morning Mike. How are you?
Leahy: I am delighted to have you on. We are going to talk a little bit about Thales Academy and how you go about teaching reading. But before we do that. I have another job. A week from tonight. At 6:30 p.m.
Bradley: That’s right.
Leahy: I will be the official greeter/bouncer as we say. (Bradley chuckles) As you call me at the parents’ informational meeting at the Thales Academy-Franklin. Tell everybody a little bit about that event and what you do there.
Bradley: I would love for people to come out and hear about Thales Academy. I’ll give a full overview of our program which will start at 6:30 p.m. It will take about an hour. And yep, Mike will be out in front greeting and being the bouncer. (Leahy laughs) The building that we bought which I’m super excited now says Thales Academy on the front of the building as of yesterday.
Bradley: It was formerly The Gate Community Church. So there is a large sanctuary and so we’re able to spread out and everybody is able to attend and still maintain a safe distance.
Leahy: 3835 Carothers Parkway in Franklin. So it’s K-3. You told me last week that the kindergarten class is almost filled up now. Is that right?
Bradley: We are getting close. I was just contacted late last night by another family. You know I’m always on call here Mike. Checking my email and such. Another kindergartner applied around 10:30 p.m last night. And then my P.E. teacher has twins that he would like to add to our kindergarten class.
Bradley: So we are filling up quickly.
Leahy: That’s great. That’s great. Now one of the reasons that people like Thales Academy is because of your approach to education. You use direct instruction. We’ve talked a little bit about that. Last week we talked about how you teach math. This week, tell us about how you teach reading and how it’s different from I don’t know, some of the other harder to understand methods that are currently being used in other schools.
Bradley: Right. Well, we use a tried and true reading instruction. It’s a phonics-based instruction. Our curriculum is reading mastery. And again it’s phonics-based which is really important. Learning to read is like learning to crack a code. And for a while, a whole language approach became really popular. And that’s fine and dandy.
Leahy: Explain what you mean by the whole language because it doesn’t sense to me. What is the whole language?
Bradley: Well it was sort of like let’s put the children in a print-rich environment which is again, that’s all well and fine. But that’s not an instruction methodology.
Leahy: In other words, let’s have a whole bunch of books around that they can maybe figure out how to read on their own. Is that how they do it?
Bradley: Exactly. They think maybe by osmosis.
Leahy: Oh goodness. That doesn’t make much sense to me.
Bradley: Just put books around the room and words on the wall and maybe they will just soak it up.
Leahy: It doesn’t sound very organized. But you’ve got a very traditional, organized, and well-documented methodology there.
Bradley: We do. It’s data-driven and researched based like everything we do. A phonics program with incremental lessons. And it builds a super-strong foundation for these children. My son is just finishing up second grade and he can pretty much-read anything that I put in front of him. And that’s because I wasn’t trying to teach him lists of sight words, I taught him how to crack the code of reading.
Leahy: That makes a lot of sense. By the way, your son was there at our last meeting. Very nice young man.
Bradley: Thank you.
Leahy: As a mom, I’m sure you are very proud of him. But he’s going to be there in third grade. He was at Thales Academy K-2 in North Carolina before you moved on April 1. You’ve been here now for two months and one day. We are delighted you are here by the way. You came in the middle of the pandemic. That’s dedication. (Laughter)
Bradley: It’s all working out. I tell everybody that the month of April felt like time just stopped. But as soon as May rolled around and things started opening back up we’ve really had great momentum. I’m so happy to be here.
Leahy: So if you want to find out more about Thales Academy you can go to tennesseestar.com and you’ll see we have blue banners that say Thales Academy. I’m doing this in real-time, you click on that banner and you go right to the sign-up sheet for this event a week from today.
Thales Academy K-3 prospective parent meeting. And you can indicate if you are interested or going. I can see we’ve got about 50 people interested in that. That’s pretty good. Just about the other aspects of how a typical day works there. Just briefly describe what parents could expect in a typical day.
Bradley: Well we provide a really rigorous academic program. The parents who seek us out are looking for a safe and fun learning environment but with strong academics. And that’s what we provide. We get started around 8:00 a.m. Math is the first thing in the morning for approximately an hour.
We have a morning snack that you bring from home. Recess on our playground which is being fully renovated as well. And then we have a reading and language arts block. So we use our direct instruction teaching methodology to teach reading, grammar, vocabulary, and handwriting. We even teach cursive still in third grade.
Leahy: I love that by the way.
Bradley: A lot of people are happy to hear that.
Leahy: I was never really great at cursive. But you see kids today don’t even know how to write cursive.
Bradley: And they don’t know how to sign their name. That’s important.
Leahy: I would say. You can’t sign those checks. (Laughs)
Bradley: That’s right. And then we have a great National Geographic science program and a strong history program. So we are working hard all day long. Keeping those kids engaged and helps us keep any behavior disruptions to a bare minimum.
Leahy: Now one other interesting thing is there is a certainty that on July 20 you are opening. You are going to have K-3 classes going.
Leahy: I think a lot of other parents are dealing with uncertainty. What am I going to do with my kids if schools don’t open? What school should I send them to? I don’t think there is real clarity on many public schools of when they are going to open. You are 100 percent certainly and absolutely opening up on July 20?
Bradley: We are absolutely. The furniture has been ordered. The curriculum has been ordered. We are ready to roll.
Leahy: And you’ve got the teachers right?
Bradley: Teachers are hired. We are going to be ready. And we can do that because we are going to be a smaller independent private school. A smaller student body in our first year. One building to maintain safely. Keep disinfected and a healthy environment for our students. We are able to do that without a lot of the hurdles that a huge county like Williamson County is going to face.
Leahy: And by the way. As to expense. How much does this cost?
Bradley: Our annual tuition is $5,300.
Leahy: Well that’s less than childcare I think isn’t it? $5,300?
Bradley: Absolutely. By the time you pay the tuition and the deductible deposit, you are looking at $5,000. You can pay in full and receive an additional $300. discount. Or you can pay in 10 monthly payments. Absolutely it’s about half the cost of private daycare.
Leahy: And Thales Academy has been operating eight schools in North Carolina with great success like this since 2007. And you were there. You’ve been part of this system for several years and you know what you are doing right?
Bradley: Well yes. (Leahy laughs) Thank you for that. I believe that’s accurate. I started teaching for Mr. Luddy. Mr. Luddy is our founder and a public charter school in 2003 and I taught kindergarten for four years. Then I got married and moved far south to the Gulf Coast in Alabama and taught in public school for six years. So I have a really great perspective.
Leahy: And then you have been principal for many years in North Carolina.
Bradley: Yes sir.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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