Fulton County Schools superintendent gets contract extension

Fulton County school board extended Superintendent Mike Looney's contract through Nov. 9, 2024.  ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AJC FILE PHOTO

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Fulton County school board extended Superintendent Mike Looney's contract through Nov. 9, 2024. ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AJC FILE PHOTO

The Fulton County Board of Education extended Superintendent Mike Looney’s contract to the maximum length allowed by the state. He’s now signed on to lead Georgia’s fourth-largest school system through Nov. 9, 2024.

Looney was hired in June 2019 with a three-year contract and a base salary of $329,000, plus monthly allowances to cover expenses and a vehicle.

The board on Tuesday unanimously approved compensation changes as part of the contract extension. But President Julia Bernath refused to detail the financial implications, saying attorneys must go over it first.

“All that will come out in the details, once legal has a chance to review [it],” she said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution filed an open-records request Tuesday for the revised terms of the contract.

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Board members praised Looney for guiding the 90,355-student district during the pandemic.

Fulton schools were the first in metro Atlanta to close in March, 2020, as COVID-19 began to spread. Since then, Looney was confronted with several polarizing decisions, such as when to reopen buildings for in-person learning and whether or not to mandate masks.

Looney drew fire for requiring masks as classes began in August, prompting a group of 11 families to sue. When he lifted the rule earlier this month, parents who support mandatory mask-wearing blasted the reversal.

He also faced heat earlier this year from some south Fulton residents for his recommendation, which the board rejected, to close an East Point elementary school and convert a nearby middle school into a campus serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

“I think what you’ve shown is that everybody doesn’t have to agree with every decision but you have to make a decision,” said board member Franchesca Warren. “And you have to have the ability to stand by it and to adjust when you get additional information.”

Board member Katha Stuart praised Looney’s “bold and decisive leadership” and influence with other decision-makers, including Gov. Brian Kemp.

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The board touted Looney’s work to invest an estimated $90 million in federal funding on an ambitious literacy program aimed at boosting students’ reading skills. They also praised him for an increase in high school graduation rates.

Looney thanked the board for their support.

“The reality of it is, I don’t see myself as leading from the front. I see myself as walking with the troops,” he said. “I am absolutely committed and resolute in making sure that all of our students — all of our students — have every opportunity to learn to their maximum potential.”