UPDATE: Fulton County Schools hires superintendent, sets $329K salary

Mike Looney will be the next superintendent of Fulton County Schools, Georgia’s fourth largest school district.

The Fulton County school board on Thursday voted unanimously  to hire Looney. He will be Fulton's fourth superintendent, not including interim leaders, since spring 2008.

“Today is the conclusion of a thorough and thoughtful process,” said board president Linda Bryant.

Looney begins his three-year term with Fulton County Schools on June 17.

He will make a base salary of $329,000, more than the $295,000 salary received by previous superintendent Jeff Rose.

By comparison, DeKalb superintendent Steve Green makes a base salary of $306,000. Gwinnett superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, who has held the position since 1996, makes a base salary of $357,418.

Like other superintendents, Looney also will receive numerous other benefits, according to contracts obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open-records request.

In addition to his base salary, he will receive a $1,250 per month expense allowance to be used for “routine expenses” that come up as he fulfills his job duties. Looney will not be required to document those expenses. In addition, the district will pay or reimburse “reasonable travel and other expenses” as approved by the board.

Looney will receive an $800 a month automobile allowance, in addition to reimbursements for insurance, fuel, service and repairs.

The district will contribute 10 percent of his base salary to a retirement plan.

Looney plans to work for the district as a consultant prior to June 17, work that may entail attending school board meetings, reviewing the budget and district policies, and meeting with employees and community groups. The district will pay him a daily rate of $1,400 for days he works for Fulton before his official start date. That daily rate works out to the same amount as his annual salary.

The district also will pay for moving expenses and travel, and cover the cost of Looney’s first six months of temporary housing.

Looney, 56, takes over  after the resignation of Rose last fall. The board did a national search to find Rose's successor and interviewed seven of the 40 applications it received from qualified candidates. The  board announced Looney as its top choice two weeks ago. 

“I will bring a laser focus to student learning like we haven’t seen in recent times,” Looney said during brief remarks after the vote.

Georgia law allows school districts to keep much of a superintendent search secret, but school boards can’t vote to hire a superintendent until 14 days after releasing the finalist’s name. The waiting period is intended to allow for public comment on the board’s pick, and Fulton school board members used the time to visit Looney’s Tennessee district and meet with parents, school leaders and community members there.

Looney has been the superintendent of Williamson County Schools in Franklin, Tenn. for nearly a decade. The affluent district located in a suburb of Nashville has about 40,000 students, about half the size of Fulton, and 48 schools.

He previously worked as superintendent of Butler County Schools in Greenville, Ala., from 2005 to 2009. Before that he was assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Montgomery Public Schools in Alabama.