Principal Rachael Bradley of Thales Academy-Franklin Talks Enrollment Growth, Student Engagement, and Optimal Learning Environment

Live from Music Row, Monday 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 talk about the school’s growth, teaching methodology, and high-quality air circulation for an optimal learning environment.

Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line right now by our very good friend, Rachael Bradley. Good morning, Rachael. How are you?

Bradley: I am great, how are you? Good morning, Mike.

Leahy: Thales Academy, what a great school. Give everybody in our listening audience a brief description of Thales Academy in Franklin.

Bradley: In Franklin, we are a pre-K-through-6 school. We’re an independent private school and our mission is excellent, high quality, but at an affordable cost for families.

Leahy: And it’s quite affordable. It’s what, $6,000 a year or something like that? Not very much.

Bradley: Not very much, $5,500. for K-5.

Leahy: Wow! Wow. So now you are back in school. Tell us a little bit about when you went back in to school and what your calendars are like there, and why your parents like them so much.

Bradley: Our calendar is amazing. We use a year-round model, which means better learning retention and less burnout for our students, staff, and families. We started July 18th, so we are a month in at this point.

Leahy: Wow! And now has sixth grade started this year as well?

Bradley: Yes, they have.

Leahy: How many kids do you have in the sixth grade?

Bradley: We have 17 kids in sixth grade.

Leahy: Wow! And overall K through sixth, you’ve got what, over 200 kids now?

Bradley: We have over 300.

Leahy: What!? (Chuckles) You’ve been growing like crazy.

Bradley: We sure have.

Leahy: And as I understand it, each year you’ll be adding a grade, is that right? You’ll have seventh grade next year?

Bradley: Yes, sir, that’s the plan.

Leahy: And so, kids, now if you’re basically sixth grade or under, you can have a path to high school graduation with Thales Academy here in Franklin.

Bradley: Yes, that’s correct. We have big plans for the future and we’ve seen that the demand is there for high-quality education.

Leahy: Talk to me a little bit about the demand for getting into the school. Are you seeing an uptick in applications?

Bradley: Absolutely, Mike. As you know very well, we opened up in 2020 and in two years have quietly tripled our enrollment. And we are on a wait list in the second, third, fourth, and fifth grades.

Leahy: You basically take applications throughout the school year, is that right?

Bradley: We do.

Leahy: You can go to what, Thales Academy dot-org to apply?

Bradley: You can. Go to And it’ll be the first thing that you open on the home screen. It’s quick and easy online.

And we do have a few seats left in kindergarten and first. So if you’re wanting a small community school where your kids are safe and engaged in a high level of learning, come see us.

Leahy: What’s the process like for somebody listening right now with a child in kindergarten, first grade, maybe they’re looking for an alternative right now? What happens next?

Bradley: Our admission team will reach out and we’ll schedule a quick one-on-one, meet with your students and give you a tour of our school.

And if you just want to come to visit us, we do regular tours and those are also posted on our website. I think our next one is – oh gosh, I don’t have my calendar in front of me but it’s coming up soon.

Leahy: I think it’s next month. And it’s a great event.

And of course, we’ve watched this grow and your great leadership there. You use a methodology to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic called direct instruction. Now people wonder, what is direct instruction? Can you give us a brief summary of what this methodology is?

Bradley: I will try to be brief. Essentially, it’s two key components: high time-on-task, maximizing student engagement. Which is a fancy way of saying everybody is engaged the entire lesson. So it’s very interactive.

A lot of teacher-student flow and engagement. And when you keep all those children busy learning, you have very few behavior issues that pop up. It makes for an excellent learning environment.

Leahy: And I’ve seen the way that direct instruction is used at Thales Academy. It’s very impressive, especially if you’re used to walking into a school, a classroom where let’s say there’s a bunch of kids and most of them are like looking at the ceiling, right? (Laughter) That doesn’t happen with direct instruction, does it?

Bradley: No, it doesn’t. Again, engagement is key, and we do that through very carefully crafted techniques that we’ve perfected over two decades at this point. So it’s a beautiful thing to watch.

I encourage you to come to visit us if you’re interested. If you just want to learn more, come for a tour. You’ll get to peek in on instruction taking place and see for yourself.

Leahy: One of the other things about Thales Academy, the founder … there are, what, 12 schools in North Carolina and Virginia, as well as this school here in Nashville – in Franklin – as well as one in South Carolina that’s about to get started. But the founder, Bob Luddy, is the CEO of Captive Air.

They specialize in state-of-the-art heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment. With the pandemic, you’ve made a whole bunch of improvements to the airflow for kids in the school. Tell us about that.

Bradley: It’s a new system that Captive Air developed just shortly prior to the pandemic. It’s called DOAS. D-O-A-S, dedicated outdoor air system. It’s fresh, filtered outdoor air.

It’s the highest air quality you could have in a building, and we put it in all of our schools in 2020. Again, an excellent learning environment. You couldn’t ask for better air quality.

Leahy: The interesting thing about air quality, you think, oh, how much does air quality matter? It turns out – to have fresh, ongoing air within a building, that makes a difference in the alertness of students.

Bradley: Yes, absolutely. Not to mention just countering all those other germs that are floating around. It’s a really amazing system and the timing couldn’t have been better.

Leahy: Speaking of systems, I think you’re about ready to go out and make sure all the parents drop their kids off. You’ve got a very impressive system. Tell us a little bit about how that works in the morning and the afternoon so the kids are safe and it works like clockwork.

Bradley: It is like a well-oiled machine. We put a lot of time and energy into making sure our carpool drop-off and pickup is safe and efficient as possible. I always tell the new parents to train those children, as soon as that wheel stops, we’re going to open your door, and escort them out safely. Kind of that tuck-and-roll philosophy and keep it moving. (Chuckles) 

Listen to the interview:

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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.


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