Education Leaders Claypool And McLaughlin Launch New School

Galileo Preparatory Academy will open first location in January 2022, serving grades 6 through 12

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 21, 2021) – Mark Claypool and John McLaughlin, respected education industry veterans with decades of experience, today announced the creation of Galileo Preparatory Academy (GPA), a learner-centric, personalized middle and high school that brings together the best of traditional in-person instruction, virtual learning and technology-focused coursework.

“My entire career has centered on providing children with the tools they need to have a successful life,” said Mark Claypool, co-founder of Galileo Preparatory Academy. “With GPA, we are reinventing learning for students in grades 6 through 12. Our first campus will open in January 2022 in Williamson County, and we will open multiple locations across the Southeast by fall 2022.”

Claypool created Educational Services of America, now ChanceLight, in 1999 and built the company to more than 170 schools and programs in 20 states, reaching some 15,000 students daily taught by 2,500 teachers and staff with $165 million in revenue. He is a frequent speaker at education industry events and for years served as a sponsor and judge for the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition. Claypool was named one of Nashville’s most admired CEOs and was named E&Y’s Entrepreneur of the Year for Social Responsibility in 2016. Along with McLaughlin, Claypool has written two books. He began his career working as a child abuse investigator and foster child advocate for the state of Tennessee. In keeping with that, GPA will support the education of foster children as its charitable mission.

This school, which is now under construction at the corner of Moores Lane and Franklin Road in Franklin, Tenn., will offer a family-friendly scheduling model and a blend of virtual and in-person learning, making it possible for families to create a schedule that fits their needs and interests. Each student’s curriculum is personalized, making it possible for students to begin at any time of the year. GPA will offer a subscription model that is inclusive of all technology and learning materials.

GPA’s curriculum will consist of four pillars:

  • Core: Traditional studies in English, mathematics, social studies and the sciences.
  • Focus: In-depth study in graphic arts and design, IT, ARC-GIS, gaming, and business leadership that includes achievement of industry-leading certifications.
  • Dialogues: Growing skills in problem-solving, communication and self-expression through exploration of the arts.
  • Community: Developing interests and skills that improve the common good.

Co-founder John McLaughlin added, “Galileo is a unique schooling experience for students and their families. Our team has worked hard to ensure we are providing something that is not found anywhere else in the state. There is nowhere else a student and their families are able to have so much control and freedom in their schooling.”

McLaughlin has more than four decades of educational entrepreneurship experience, and the first school he created, Benton Hall, has been in existence for 40-plus years. As a tenured professor at Saint Cloud State University (1988-1998), he researched the rise of private investment in education. In 1992, he created and published The Education Industry Report, which shaped the early years of the industry.  He has advised investment clients from Warburg Pincus to the late Ted Forstmann, served on corporate boards from Behavioral Innovations to National Heritage Academies, and brought together some 30 acquisitions in the education and behavioral health arenas. McLaughlin is a well-known speaker and writer on the intersection of the capital markets and education. 

McLaughlin and Claypool are joined in their efforts by John Bergstrom, an experienced early-stage adviser and investor in education, technology and software businesses including Capella Education, and by Michael Moe, the founder of GSV, a modern merchant bank that invests, advises and partners with the fastest-growing, most dynamic companies in the world. Moe has invested in seven education unicorn startups. In addition, Tim Nicholson, a seasoned and early investor in early education, and is a GPA investor and board member.

About Galileo Preparatory Academy

Galileo Preparatory Academy is a learner-centric middle and high school that brings together the best of in-person instruction, virtual learning, traditional academics and technology-focused coursework creating a fully customizable experience for students and families. GPA offers mastery-based core academics, in-depth study in technology-based areas such as gaming, graphic design and geographic information systems, and purposeful development of problem-solving, communication and self-expression. At GPA, our goal is to educate future leaders fully prepared to pursue higher education or enter the tech workforce. For more information, visit

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