May 30, 2012 Edition

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Foley retiring from BR School

David Foley will conclude his tenure at Black Rock School on June 30 after serving the school as a teacher, principal and superintendent. The zebra in the background was created by his daughter, LeAnne Foley, using pastel chalk while she was a junior at Hoxie High School, where her mother was a teacher.

Gretchen Hunt

Black Rock School Administrator David Foley has seen a lot of changes in the education system, as well as on the Black Rock campus, during his 29 years with the school.

Starting out as a business education teacher in 1983, he became high school principal in 1998, then superintendent in 2002.

Foley said the most trying and the most rewarding time for him was during the consolidation process.

"We had just gone under 350 (students), but financially, we were pretty well off," he said. "We had low debt and the lowest millage in the county."

He said there was a lot of research completed to determine who to consolidate with.

"We actually had offers from all four districts in the county," he said. "We were enthused to have so many that wanted us."

In addition to reviewing test results, millage rates and other information, Foley said a survey of 20-questions was sent to each district. Teachers and students were also polled, and four public meetings were held.

When the final decision was made, Black Rock School consolidated with the Walnut Ridge School in 2006 forming the Lawrence County School District.

"Now, six years later, if we had to do it again I would make the same decision," Foley said.

Following the consolidation of the two districts, Foley was named assistant superintendent. A couple years later when the high school principal's position came open, he filled that position again, as well as maintaining his duties to oversee the Black Rock campus.

A 1968 graduate of Black Rock, Foley said he was grateful to be able to return to his alma mater.

"I have really enjoyed working at Black Rock School," he said. "I loved it as a student, and I'm proud to be able to work here. I'm probably the only graduate that has been here as a student, teacher, principal and superintendent."

Foley said many have asked him why he is quitting at 29 years because they do not realize he actually has an additional nine years with the state for his service as the Lawrence County juvenile probation officer from 1974-1983.

Foley said he received his education in several different stages, starting with a two-year degree in business at Southern Baptist College (no Williams Baptist).

Foley then went to Arkansas State University to complete his education hours. He said that when he took the position of juvenile probation officer he was a single guy, so he decided to go ahead and pursue a master's degree in educational administration, which he earned in 1980.

Then, in 1998, when he became principal, he had to take two additional courses to qualify for certification as an administrator.

Career forges friends for life

Foley said lifetime friendships have been formed through his work at Black Rock School including teachers he has worked with, students, parents, community members and school board members

He specifically acknowledged his support staff, Elizabeth Pickney, Sandra McCormic and Robyn Fore.

"I've been very, very fortunate to have such a great staff," he said. "They have been phenomenal."

He cited long-time Black Rock employees Terry Rorex and Rita Prestidge for the help they have given him throughout the years.

"We share a lot," he said. "When I have a question I go to Terry or Rita. It's a very good working relationship."

Foley said he feels fortunate to have worked with outstanding administrators.

"When I first came to Black Rock I worked under Bill Maxwell, who was a legend as superintendent," he said. "Then when he left, Bob McMillon took over and did an excellent job also."

He said has also really enjoyed working with Terry Belcher, superintendent of the Lawrence County School District, as well as former BRHS Principal Mike Oldham and Coach Herschel Bryant.

"It's been a very enjoyable and rewarding occupation," Foley said.

He said one of the most rewarding parts is seeing students go on and better themselves.

"I feel like we have had a very good success rate," he said. "Hopefully, I have been a small part of that."

He may be retiring, but his support of the school remains.

"I feel like we have an excellent school here," he said. "We have given kids a quality education, and I believe they will continue to do so."

He said the teachers are very good to the kids, and the campus provides a close-knit community.

"This is a wonderful place for people to send their kids to go to school," he said. "You send your kids here; we'll take care of them."

Reception set

A reception to honor Foley has been scheduled for Sunday from 2-4 p.m. in the high school cafeteria. A slide show will be shown at 3 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend.

Foley said a priority for retirement is to spend time with family. His wife, Mary Ann, was also an educator, having retired from Hoxie school five years ago.

They have two grown children, Jason, 30, of Memphis, and LeAnne, 27, of Powhatan.

Jason owns several diet centers in the Memphis area, and LeAnne, who is to be married in July, just graduated from pharmacy school and plans to reside in Cleveland.

Foley has a cattle farm he plans to spend time working on, and he also hopes to do some traveling with a goal being to visit all 50 states.

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