Family sees benefits of public schools

By Steve DeVane
Aug 18, 2007

FAYETTEVILLE — Laura Foley attended public schools and a Christian school. For her, they both worked. In seventh grade Laura left a Christian school she’d been attending for five years to go to a middle school in the Cumberland County public school system. She stayed in public schools, going on to graduate from Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville.

Laura, who grew up in Snyder Memorial Baptist Church and was active in the youth group there, said the move was right for her.

“I almost think the potential for ministry is greater at public schools because there are people to minister to,” she said. “There was actually a field rather than a church.”

Laura said she was exposed to different socio-economic classes in the public schools.

“I hold that experience very high,” she said.

The diversity in the public schools forced Laura to make her own choices.

“It was good preparation for college,” said Laura, who will be a junior this fall at Appalachian State University in Boone, majoring in recreation management with a minor in art studio.

Laura’s father, Andy, agreed.

“I think her transition has been awesome,” he said.

Andy Foley said there once was some talk about Snyder starting a Christian school, but the church decided against it.

“If we segregate ourselves out of the public school system, we’re taking the salt away,” he said. “In order to be influential, you need to be willing to go wherever and do whatever.”

Laura’s path through school was similar to that of her older brother, Matt. When Matt was about to enter sixth grade, he would have had to go to a middle school where Andy Foley said there were more than 40 reported assaults on teachers by students the year before.

Andy Foley and his wife, Chris, decided to spend thousands of dollars a year to send Matt and Laura to Northwood Temple Academy, a private school affiliated with a Pentecostal Holiness church about two miles from the Foley home.

“We felt it was the right thing to do,” Andy Foley said. “Nothing against public schools.”

It wasn’t an easy decision. Both parents had attended public schools.

“I never had plans to put my kids in private school,” Chris Foley said.

Now she speaks highly of the move. At the time Laura was struggling a bit learning to read among the large number of students in a public school. In her first year at Northwood, she was in a class of nine students with a teacher who had previously served as a reading tutor.

“It was a real blessing,” Chris Foley said.

Andy Foley said he and his wife weren’t concerned that the school was affiliated with a Pentecostal church because they were confident that their children were grounded in Baptist beliefs from their background at Snyder. The increased safety, smaller class sizes and proximity to their home made Northwood a good choice, he said.

After Matt’s sophomore year in high school, he asked to return to public school, where most of his friends attended. He graduated from Pine Forest High School and later earned a degree from North Carolina State University. Matt now works as a mechanical engineer in Raleigh.

Laura’s main motivation to go back to public schools was athletics. At Northwood she played on the varsity basketball team when she was in seventh grade. In public schools, she got to play for the same coach who had coached one of her basketball heroes, Shea Ralph, who starred at Terry Sanford and the University of Connecticut.

Laura, who will turn 20 in September, was happy that some of her friends from the youth group at Snyder attended Terry Sanford, but made a point to try to meet new people during her time at the school.

She remembers fondly her time at Terry Sanford and at Northwood.

“They were both good experiences,” she said.

This article is reprinted from the August 18, 2007, issue of the Biblical Recorder, the newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

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