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 the second hour, Bradley confirmed that Thales Academy of Franklin will be open for school on July 20 and advised that there will be a parent informational meeting at the Franklin Mercantile Deli today from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Leahy: We are joined now by our very good friend, the principal of the soon to open Thales Academy-Franklin Rachael Bradley. Good morning Rachael.
Bradley: Good morning Mike. How are you?
Leahy: I don’t know which of us is more excited about the opening of Thales Academy-Franklin (Bradley chuckles) on July the 20th. One week from Monday it’s really going to happen!
Bradley: It is really going to happen. I was just thinking about it. I’m about to get really busy.
Leahy: (Laughs) We will be able to get you on one more weekday morning probably next Tuesday. But then I think after that you’re going to be so busy that we’ll have to come out there and interview you in person. There is so much demand I think.
Bradley: Oh, my word. I think people are really getting down to the wire and still not knowing what’s happening with Williamson County. Man, my email and phone have been blowing up.
Leahy: So let’s just be clear. You are opening for business and children will be in person in school at Thales Academy-Franklin which is located at 3835 Carothers Parkway in Franklin starting one week from Monday on July the 20th. It’s going to happen!
Bradley: That’s exactly right. July 20 we are going to have kindergarten through third grade. Our kindergarten is so full at this point that we are considering adding a second class to meet the demand. So yes, we are going to be ready to go. We are assembling furniture and unpacking books this week.
Leahy: So just to be clear, yesterday the mayor of Williamson County announced that there will be a mask ordinance in Williamson County. Does that apply to the children in your school?
Bradley: It does not Mike because they are under the age of 12. We are happy about that. We didn’t feel like that is conducive to learning in an eight hour school day especially children who are trying to learn phonics and social development. It’s just not conducive to the school day in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and third-grade children.
Leahy: The good news is that you are going to be in compliance with the standards set about by the American Academy of Pediatrics which are saying kids go back to school!
Bradley: Right. I think they are saying that and most of the parents that I’ve talked to. Well, all of the parents that I’ve talked to.
Leahy: Give us a little insight as to a typical conversation that you are having with parents right now of children in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and third grade who could enroll in Thales Academy-Franklin starting a week from Monday.
Bradley: Parents have been really honest about the fact that they are just not equipped to home school their children. I saw an article this week that in North Carolina that the office for homeschooling has shut down because they are so overloaded with requests. That’s wonderful however I don’t think people realize that not everybody is equipped to homeschool. You can’t just decide you are going to do it and do it.
There’s a lot that goes into educating children day in and day out. A lot of parents were very honest about that and it’s not their calling. They both have jobs and they can’t afford to give up one of those jobs. And they need their children in school. And we are all seeing the impact that not having been in classrooms since March is having on this group of kids.
Leahy: Before a child is accepted you do an assessment of them.
Bradley: We do.
Leahy: Are you noticing that they are not really performing at the level that they should be because they’ve been out of school for so long?
Bradley: Yes. Absolutely. It’s pretty easy for me to see having especially taught all of those grades, ok, it’s evident that this child had about three quarters of a school year.
Leahy: Yes. And it’s not like you think, oh they had three quarters of the school year and did something online and that was a full year, no. It’s just not happening, is it?
Bradley: No it’s not. And that’s what I mean with parents just being brutally honest and saying listen. Especially here. Nothing was provided to them in those cases. But as you see, as you hear that word optional kids tune out. (Chuckles) Especially older kids and expecting them as well that don’t happen to be the kids that I’m interacting with. There is definitely a deficit.
Leahy: So tomorrow from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. you have a parent meeting at the Franklin Mercantile Deli on 4th Avenue in Franklin. It’s right across from the 4th Avenue Church of Christ. That should be a fun event. Do you have a lot of parents signed up for that already?
Bradley: I do. In fact, I got a notice yesterday that my sign up is full.
Leahy: Oh my goodness.
Bradley: I know!
Leahy: Even if you are just listening to this, stop by and get Rachael’s card and have your child assessed if you are interested in getting them back to school in person starting a week from Monday. Tell us a little bit briefly about the direct instruction methodology and the cost of Thales Academy.
Bradley: Direct instruction is our foundation in kindergarten through fifth grade. It’s a teaching methodology that is data-driven, researched-based, and very carefully scripted way of teaching. And we maximize student engagement and maintain high time on task. Those two things are so important for success. We are able to do all that with a tuition of only $5,300 a year.
Leahy: Wow. $5,300 a year. That’s less than daycare I think, isn’t it?
Bradley: It is. It certainly is. It’s really a special thing that we are offering. It’s an excellent education. But our mission is to provide an excellent education at an affordable cost to families. And that’s how we can reach as many children as possible.
Leahy: For parent coming in its K-3 now but I’m assuming for next year it will be fourth or fifth grade. You’ll just keep going every year?
Bradley: We will add grades every year. My personal son will be in third grade so we will absolutely have to have the fourth grade and fifth grade and so on. (Leahy chuckles)
Leahy: So tell us a little bit about your teachers and engagement of your teachers. I think parents have been out there trying to get their kids engaged and they are zoning out. Keeping the kids attention is a real challenge. Tell us about your staff there that you’ve personally hired.
Bradley: We have an excellent staff. I’m really excited. They are fairly young, fresh, passionate, and energetic. And those are all things I’m looking for. When I say high time on task and maximizing student engagement that means teachers are not just sitting at their desks and working independently on worksheets. Our teachers are up all day.
And that’s a tall order. I often tell young teachers because it was true for myself it’s like you are on stage. You are up there performing and you have to in order to keep their attention and make it fun. And so we have a really great batch of highly qualified teachers that are ready to get started.
Leahy: By the way, you can see Thales Academy. the signs are up now on Highway 65 just before you get to the 96 exit look to your right. They are next to Sunvertibles. You can see the sign, Thales Academy. Tell us Rachael what a typical day will be like for the parents and for the kids.
Bradley: I also wanted to tell you Mike that we now have a billboard up outside the old church. and you’ll see as there is a large Thales Academy ad. It’s pretty cool. Our school day starts at 8 a.m. We’ll open at 7:45 a.m. It’s all carpool. So you have a window to drop off. We get started at 8 a.m. and we dismiss just after 3:00 p.m. It’s a full day of reading, math, language arts, vocabulary, handwriting, science, and social studies. So we are busy busy.
Leahy: You’ve been a principal in the North Carolina version of Thales Academy that’s been around since 2007 with eight schools there. You were a principal for 5 years at the Apex, North Carolina campus. You told me how to get the kids in and get the kids out. That’s part of the routine. You are out there every day, right?
Bradley: Yes. And boy I’ve put a lot of time and energy into the carpool. Parents want carpool to be efficient. We want it to be safe. So we worked really hard to get that running like a well-oiled machine. I did that at Apex with 524 kids so I feel like it’s going to be a piece of cake this year with a fairly small student body as we get started here in Franklin.
Leahy: And the layout that you have here is pretty easy. You have one exit point and one entrance point so it should be a good flow as cars come in and kids come out. There will be a teacher out there to greet them. You’ll be out there every morning to greet them?
Bradley: You can drive all the way around the building and that’s ideal for a carpool lane. So I’m excited about that.
Leahy: Well Rachael Bradley. I’m going to stop by and say hello tomorrow. Franklin Mercantile Deli from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. I have a couple of people who said they want to get their children assessed. So I’ll call you after the show to give you their information.
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” by Thales Academy.