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 Thales Academy-Franklin Principal Rachael Bradley to the newsmakers line.
During their conversation, Leahy and Bradley discussed the upcoming school year and Thales Academy-Franklin’s parent information meeting next week.
Leahy: We are joined now by our very good friend Rachael Bradley who is the principal of Thales Academy-Franklin. The new affordable private school opening up in Franklin, Tennessee on July 20. Good morning Rachael.
Bradley: Good morning Mike how are you?
Leahy: Well I am great. I shared with you an article the other day from The Wall Street Journal and I thought it was quite important and I’d love to get your reaction to it. They’ve looked at the results of all of this online learning…
Leahy: That’s happened since the schools have shut down. And they said it’s been a disaster in terms of what kids have learned. That it is not working well at all because kids need in-person engagement. Tell us about your reaction and what you’ve seen from the parents that have come to you in the past couple of months.
Bradley: I wholeheartedly agree with that Mike. I’ve seen it first hand. I’ve seen it as a parent with my own child as a rising third grader. And I’ve seen it with the children that I’ve met who are applying for our school to join us in July. We are happy to have them. But what I am seeing is there is a very clear deficit. It’s evident that these kids essentially only got three quarters of a school year.
Leahy: Yes. With kids I guess, you’ve been teaching and using particularly this methodology called direct instruction.
Leahy: It’s been the most successful way to teach reading and writing and arithmetic for about 50 years. Not widely used for political reasons really. But very very effective. And I guess one of the things is, you don’t want learning to go stale right?
Bradley: Right. We at Thales Academy were able to roll out online learning for our fourth quarter for our students at our North Carolina campuses. The teachers did a phenomenal job. They pre-recorded every lesson in the same format.
But that being said it’s just still not as effective as having kids in classrooms engaged with teachers and classmates. The whole premise of direct instruction is high time on task and maximizing student engagement. And you can’t do that with a child sitting at a computer screen.
Leahy: I read another story that there is an education group called T74. It had been founded years ago by Campbell Brown who is now with Facebook. She’s like a pro-charter school person. In that, it said look there were some letters from moms that had been trying to teach their elementary school kids, and what they found is that it was hard to keep the kids focused and engaged with a computer.
Bradley: Oh yeah.
Leahy: Isn’t that it? The computer just doesn’t keep them engaged.
Bradley: Oh my word. You are talking to somebody who taught elementary school for 15 years before I became the principal and all I can think is that maybe everybody is realizing how important and essential teachers are! (Chuckles)
Leahy: Absolutely. I think it’s that in-person engagement right?
Bradley: It is!
Leahy: When you look at direct instruction the way you do it at Thales Academy. The teacher I wouldn’t say commands attention yet they make it a riveting experience for the kids where they are just voluntarily on task and paying attention. That’s what it looks like to me.
Bradley: You are right. You are exactly right. It’s also just about creating a learning environment in which we have an ideal learning environment at Thales Academy that lends itself to ensuring that kids are on task and focused with minimal distractions.
That’s really hard to do in your home environment unless you’ve locked your child in a quiet room all by themselves or you as a parent have the time to dedicate to sit there right beside them and ensure they are on task the whole time. Let’s be honest, that’s just not realistic. Especially if you are a family with multiple kids. Or mom and or dad are working. That’s not feasible.
Leahy: So I’m going to ask you the question that I’m sure many of the parents you talked to are asking. Are you really going to be opening up for in-school class on July 20? And are you really going to have kids available to be taught by teachers in person and the kids aren’t going to have to wear masks? Is that really going to happen?
Bradley: That is really going to happen. We are opening. Another mom told me she’s got July 20 circled on her calendar. So that’s my little running joke. Yes, circle it on your calendar. Send those kids back to school. That’s where they need to be. You can’t find a better learning environment, curriculum, and education than Thales Academy.
Leahy: By the way, go to thalesacademy.org and sign up there. Or go to the tennesseestar.com and click on the blue banner which will take you to the Facebook page and you can sign up for this. Do you have an event on June 30?
Leahy: That’s a week from today! When and where will it be for parents that want to learn about this?
Bradley: We are going to host it at the Franklin Mercantile Deli on Fourth Street in Franklin. It’s a charming little place. Our building is currently under a full renovation getting ready for July 20 so it’s not really conducive to holding a meeting at this point. The Mercantile is going to be a great spot. They are going to provide us their signature fruit tea which everybody loves by the way.
Leahy: Delicious by the way.
Bradley: It is delicious. We’ll have some other refreshments available. We are going to do it a little earlier in the day to work with their schedule. It will be from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Leahy: 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. next Tuesday. I’ll be there. It’s right across the street from Fourth Avenue Church of Christ. It’s an easy place to remember. Nice little place. I’m hearing that there’s a lot of momentum of people wanting to get on board. When last we talked you said that kindergarten had almost filled up. Are there places still available?
Bradley: There are still potentially a few seats in kindergarten. We have quite a few applications in the queue being processed. So it just depends on if those children are accepted and enroll and complete the process essentially. We have a handful of seats in kindergarten.
We still also have space in first, second, and third. You are right. Momentum has picked up. Parents are concerned about what is going to be available to them and what their child’s education is going to look like in the upcoming school year. They are looking around. I have a mother that has said we are so thankful that we found you. And that’s a really good feeling.
Leahy: And its not that expensive compared to other private schools. What’s the cost of a year of tuition there?
Bradley: The full year is only $5,300. Mike. That’s less than daycare for a high-quality education.
Leahy: And they actually learn something. (Chuckles)
Bradley: That’s right.
Leahy: You are doing an excellent job there. If I had an elementary school kid I would want them to have you as their principal. This is a great person and a great leader and a great teacher.
Bradley: Thank you.
Leahy: And I’ve met also your teachers. They’re great! They are high energy, engaged, and very committed.
Bradley: Yes. All of the things that I was looking for. We have a great staff that is ready to go. They’ve already started training and they will be ready for July.
Leahy: Run us through a typical morning. How is that going to work? We have 30 seconds.
Bradley: 30 seconds. You drop your children off via carpool and then there’s about a 10-minute homeroom window and then we get started with math first thing in the morning. Math, reading, language arts, spelling, vocabulary, handwriting, science, and history. It is a full day of learning.
Listen to the full second 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 “Rachael Bradley” and Background Photo “Thales Academy School” by Thales Academy.