Fulton names Tennessee school chief as sole finalist for top school job

Mike Looney now leads Williamson County district

Big news today from Fulton County Schools: The sole finalist to replace Jeff Rose as superintendent is the leader of a suburban district outside Nashville,Tenn. Mike Looney has led Williamson County Schools for 10 years. 

Williamson County is one of the wealthiest counties in America and includes the tony cities of Brentwood and Franklin.  

In January of this year, the Williamson County school board voted to extend Looney's contract for another year, through Jan. 22, 2023.

According to the Tennessean newspaper:

In his annual review, board members awarded Looney with an overall score of 4.33 out of 5. Board members rated him based on the following categories: Relationships including board, community and faculty; facilities, finance and human resources; vision; student achievement; management and operations; integrity, fairness and ethics; and political, social and cultural context.

The decision to extend the contract follows Looney’s legal troubles. In 2018, he faced assault charges after responding to a Franklin High School student who was having a psychological crisis. 

A judge cleared Looney of the charges. 

A Marine veteran and recipient of the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Looney has a compelling backstory that includes being homeless and abused as a child.

Here is an excerpt from an interview Looney gave last year to NewsChannel 5 in Nashville: 

"Having been a homeless child before, I remember the feeling of despair that I had when there was nowhere to go. Particularly when it's cold, particularly when school is closed and there's not food," said Dr. Looney.

"At some stage in my youth, I decided I was better off to not live at home and to live on my own. So, I hit the streets. I ran away for the first time in 6th grade," said Looney. "Primarily the physical abuse was, at times, unbearable."

Dr. Looney also said the abuse was about anything somebody could imagine. He landed on the streets, sleeping under bridges or falling asleep in fastfood restaurants in between stays at juvenile detention for being a runaway.

"Back in those days, the reality was nobody reported child abuse. You just dealt with it in your family circle," Dr. Looney said.

Here is the official announcement from Fulton:

Today, the Fulton County Board of Education announced Michael “Mike” Looney, Ed.D. as the finalist for the position of Superintendent of Schools. Since December, the board embarked on a nationwide search, receiving a great amount of interest in the position and interviewing a diverse group of candidates before making the announcement today of Looney as the final candidate. 

“Dr. Looney has a very impressive background and track record of success during the ten years as superintendent in his current district. The board believes his experience and leadership skills will complement the amazingly talented teachers, principals and staff, and our focus on student achievement,” said Linda Bryant, president. “We are excited for Dr. Looney to visit our schools and engage with the community over the next few days and weeks.” 

Dr. Looney’s qualifications line up directly with the key elements identified by the board and confirmed in their recent community survey. Looney has a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Alabama and has been a superintendent for 14 years. For the last 10 years, he has served as the superintendent in Williamson County, Tenn., near Nashville. 

Under Looney, ACT scores have risen from an average of 22.7 to 25.4, and the district has increased participation and pass rates in AP, dual enrollment and dual credit courses. In 2015, Looney was named by his peers as the Tennessee Superintendent of the Year. 

“Fulton County schools have been doing some amazing things, and I look forward to meeting many of you and hearing your questions and concerns,” said Looney. “It would be an honor to serve this community and work with so many dedicated educators in the schools and district office.” 

A Marine veteran and recipient of the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Looney worked his way up the educational leadership ladder from substitute teacher, to teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and finally superintendent. He previously served as superintendent of the Butler County School District in Alabama, and as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction in Montgomery, AL. In 2008, he was named the Greenville, AL., Citizen of the Year. 

As prescribed by Georgia law, the school board must give a minimum of 14 days for public input on a finalist for the position of Superintendent. To ensure Dr. Looney has the opportunity to engage a broad cross section of individuals in Fulton County, the Board will host the candidate at a total of five meetings where the public may come, meet him, ask questions, and learn about his vision for the district. In addition to the public meeting in Sandy Springs at the North Learning Center where the announcement was held, these meetings will take place at Roswell High School, Westlake High School, Centennial High School and Banneker High School. Times and locations are available on the FCS website. 

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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