Atlanta's Fulton County Schools on Wednesday announced Williamson County Director of Schools Mike Looney as the top finalist to fulfill its open superintendent position.
Looney was present for the announcement at the Fulton County School District in Atlanta, Georgia.
As the district’s top finalist, Looney could soon exit the position he's held in WCS for just over 10 years if he chooses to officially accept the position May 2 at the competing district's school board meeting.
However, Looney has not officially announced any decision to leave the WCS district.
Looney stood before a crowd during the announcement at the Fulton County School District facilities Wednesday, which was shown on Facebook Live. The district also issued a media release and announced a Meet and Greet with Looney.
Telling the Fulton crowd that it is a privilege to be the top finalist, Looney announced he will be present over the next few days to meet parents, staff and students at various school district locations.
Williamson County school board issues statement
Gary Anderson, chairman of the Williamson County Board of Education, confirmed Looney is considering the position in Atlanta.
Anderson submitted a statement to the Williamson Herald as follows in full:
“On behalf of the Williamson County Board of Education, I want to thank Dr. Looney for his service to Williamson County Schools and wish him the best in his next endeavor. Should Dr. Looney sign a contract with Fulton County Schools on May 2, the WCS Board, at its regular May meeting, plans to name an interim superintendent and establish the effective date of that leadership transition.
“We have a strong leadership team in place at the Central Office and in our schools, and our teachers and staff are focused on success for all students. Our students come prepared to learn and achieve, and our parental involvement is second to none.
“For more than 25 years, Williamson County Schools has been recognized as a top performing school district in the state, and I believe that will continue for years to come. The Williamson County community should expect a seamless transition as we move on to our next Superintendent of Schools."
“I really look forward to getting to know people in Fulton County," Looney said Wednesday at the school district's special announcement. "It is a privilege to be here."
Fulton County School District’s school board president Linda Bryant cited Looney’s successes in WCS and the district’s “proven” successes under his tutelage as reasons for his selection as the top candidate out of 40. Some accomplishments include improving high school graduation rates, ACT scores, achievement scores and improved Advanced Placement course participation rates.
“After a national search, we believe Dr. Looney is the right person, the right leader, at the right time,” Bryant said.
WCS is currently the highest achieving school district in the state.
Looney also shared during the Fulton County Schools announcement that the interview process with its school board lasted almost five hours without a break.
“I think they were determining if I had the grit and willpower during the interview process,” Looney said. “You have a very engaged school board here in Fulton County, which is one of the reasons [I am interested].”
Looney has served the Williamson County School District for just over 10 years, while WCS has steadily accelerated to become the highest achieving school district in the state. In 2015, he was also named as Superintendent of the Year by the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents.
No escape from controversy, lawsuits
However, Looney has not escaped past scrutiny, including recent criticism over the implementation of a Cultural Competency series as part of teacher’s professional development, which contained the term “white privilege”, causing controversy.
Looney was also exonerated in Williamson County court after facing two charges of assault of a student and her mother early last year at Franklin High School. The city of Franklin issued a statement exonerating Looney of any wrongdoing after a comprehensive investigation of how the Franklin Police Department handled the issue.
With Looney at the helm, WCS has consistently produced an impressive number of National Merit Scholars, welcomed more Blue Ribbon schools and produced high ACT scores among high school students, making students eligible for scholarships, admittance into Ivy League schools and eligible for the Tennessee Promise.
Students in WCS have earned over $1 billion in scholarships.
In 2015, Looney also emerged as a top candidate to lead Metro Nashville Public Schools as superintendent. However, he decided to stay in WCS due to family and because he felt it was the right place to be. Over 5,000 parents, students and supporters contacted him over a 48-hour period, asking him to stay. The school board also showed their support by giving Looney a raise.
Meanwhile, Fulton County Schools has a student population of 95,200 students, while WCS breached just over 40,000 last year.
"Regardless of size of the district, concerns are the same," Looney said. "I look forward to getting to know you [Fulton County]."
At the conclusion of the Fulton County Schools special conference, an audience member called out "Oorah" to Looney, giving acknowledgement for his service as a U.S. Marine.