Live from Music Row Thursday 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’s Principal Rachael Bradley to the newsmaker line to discuss the continued successes of Thales Academy-Franklin and their open house Thursday, August 5 at 6 p.m.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line, our very good friend, a great educator, Rachael Bradley, the principal and administrator of Thales Academy-Franklin. Rachael, welcome to The Tennessee Star Report.
Bradley: Good morning! I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for having me.
Leahy: We first met two years ago. Do you remember that? You came here with Bob Luddy, the founder of Thales Academy, and we held a presentation, and we talked you into coming and setting up a school here.
Bradley: And here I am, a volunteer in Tennessee. (Leahy laughs)
Leahy: And you opened up a year ago. You started out with K-2 and I think maybe K-3 with 100 students. And now you’re opening up this year K-5, and you got a grand opening for everyone to come and look at the facility on Thursday, August 5. Tell us a little bit about where Thales Academy is today.
Bradley: So I want to back up just a bit further, because when I moved here last April, in the height of COVID, and we had about 20 kids enrolled. And it was a real challenge to spread the word about Thales and recruit new students. And then by the end of the summer, we had 100 kids and that was kindergarten through third grade. And now we are Pre-K all the way to fifth with just around 200 students.
Bradley: We had a really big first year.
Leahy: Pre-K to fifth grade. That’s great. And now tell our listening audience what is unique about Thales? Tell them about direct instruction and the very affordable tuition.
Bradley: Absolutely. So a couple of things. We offer a classical education. Our campuses were founded in North Carolina, go from Pre-K all the way to 12th grade.
And in the K-five level, which is my wheelhouse, we use direct instruction, which is a phenomenal teaching methodology. It’s over 60 years of research.
It’s data-driven, it’s mastery-based. And really, the two key components are: all of the children are engaged and learning the entire time. So it makes for a really nice learning environment.
Leahy: I’ve seen you teach and the classes at Thales Academy-Franklin, and what I notice is typically you go into a K-5 classroom and there are some kids sitting in the back looking at the ceiling, daydreaming. I don’t see any of that with Thales Academy.
Bradley: No. And that’s exactly how I describe it. In a traditional classroom model, a teacher will say a question and wait for children to raise their hands.
We all know from when we were children, the same few children raise their hand every time. And just what you said, we’ve got 10 or 12 kids in the back counting butterflies. (Leahy laughs)
So it’s really not an effective model. And the way we do it, it’s very teacher-led. Everything is very explicit and purposeful so that we can maximize learning in the classroom. It’s a thing of beauty to watch.
Leahy: It really is. And you’ve got to go see it. Tell us about your open house on Thursday, August 5. What time will it be? Where will it be?
Bradley: It’s going to be at our new campus in Franklin 3835 Carothers Parkway at 6 pm. I have it as Thursday, August 5. We have fully renovated our building.
It’s beautiful. Top to bottom. That was a big project over the last year. We finally completed it and we are ready to show off our campus.
So anybody who’s interested in finding a really great high-quality education for their children in Pre-K through fifth-grade levels, please come out and visit us. You can go to the classrooms, talk to our wonderful teachers. You can review our curriculum. I will be there, of course, happy to answer any questions. So we would just love you to come out and see our school.
Leahy: One thing that really impresses me about the way you run the school, Rachael, is it’s like a project management par excellence to watch how kids come in in the morning and how they go out.
Describe the safety and security and the process that you go through to make sure that the kids get in and get out safely and in a timely manner.
Bradley: Yes, it is like a well-oiled machine. Admittedly, we started school on Monday. That’s another important feature for me to point out – is that we use a year-round calendar, which is phenomenal so we don’t have time lost learning.
It’s the same amount of school days as a traditional model, but our breaks are spread out through the year. So we started school on Monday and we’ve had a great first week.
It does take a little bit to get all the children and especially the adults, who might have to be trained.
Leahy: Just as you trained me here. (Laughs)
Bradley: (Laughs) That’s right. But then we are rocking and rolling. So it is just everybody pulled up. It’s just synchronized opening of car doors, safely escorting the children in. And we get everybody in the building in about 20 minutes.
Leahy: And you don’t have that big, like two and a half month summer off where kids forget about stuff and you’ve got to reteach them. That’s a key premise. A key idea of the Thales Academy model, right?
Bradley: Yes, exactly. We pick up right where we left off from quarter to quarter. It’s essentially four quarters, nine weeks on, three weeks off, in the fall, winter, and spring.
And then summer is five weeks, which is just enough time. And all the parents out there now, by then they’re ready to send them back and the children are ready to go back.
I can’t tell you how excited the kids have been this week to get back to school and back to learning and seeing their friends and being engaged instead of hanging around on the couch watching YouTube.
Leahy: Yeah, exactly. Apparently, your parents are very grateful for the schooling you provided. They went out and they bought a big thank-you billboard right outside the school, didn’t they?
Bradley: They did. They sure did. That was one of our best teacher appreciation gifts. They bought the billboard behind the school to thank all the teachers and staff for a great year.
So they really were thankful. And I get it as a parent and seeing how the last year was so challenging for friends and family and neighbors who didn’t have a classroom to send their children to. We’re just really fortunate we were open in person all year.
Leahy: So you’re located in Franklin, Rachael. But I hear that people from all around Middle Tennessee bring their kids there. I know folks from Wilson County. What’s the range of student locations and residences?
Bradley: I would say we’re primarily Franklin residents, but we have students from Spring Hill, Nashville, Nolensville, Columbia, and Chapel Hill.
People are really driving from all around to get to our school because we were kind of what a lot of people were looking for, which is an amazing education.
But the key is that we’re affordable and that’s our mission. Excellent, high quality, but affordable because we want to educate as many children as possible.
Leahy: Now, when you say affordable, what’s the tuition for a full year?
Bradley: So, Mike, most private schools in this area are around the $20,000-$26,000 range. Thales Academy is $5,300 for the year.
Leahy: $5,300 for the year?
Bradley: Yes. Now, to me, that’s something that I think any middle-class family that budgets can probably afford for a child.
Bradley: I agree. It’s really a no-brainer. Once you get in and see the program and what we’re able to offer and do for the children. You’re looking at about $500. a month.
And I know as a mother again, I paid more than twice that for preschool for my son. It’s really a very certain niche that we’re feeling that I don’t think anybody else is offering right now.
Leahy: I’m going to be there Thursday, August 5 to see how direct instruction works. I’m the poster child for today’s lesson in direct instruction. Thank you, teacher Rachael Bradley. (Chuckles)
Bradley: My pleasure.
Leahy: 6 p.m. I’ll be there. You can meet Rachael. It will be great. Thales Academy in Franklin.
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.