PHOTO: Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney (right) worked closely with Board of Education chair Gary Anderson over the last decade. / File photo
By JOHN McBRYDE
The Williamson County Schools Board of Education has called for a special meeting Monday to discuss and vote on the appointment of an interim superintendent of schools to fill in for Superintendent Mike Looney as he soon leaves to take a new position with a school district in Georgia.
At the 6 p.m. special-called meeting that will precede the regularly scheduled policy meeting at the county’s Professional Development Center, the board will also discuss and vote to officially recognize Looney’s decision to go elsewhere.
Looney received a three-year contract on May 2 to become the new superintendent of Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, just over two weeks from the time he was announced as the only finalist for the position. The Fulton County district’s Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the contract.
“Dr. Looney’s experience and approach are the right fit for our schools at the right time,” Linda Bryant, president of the board, said in a press release. “We have great confidence and optimism in his abilities.”
Looney’s move to Georgia, effective June 17, seemed to be a foregone conclusion once the announcement was made April 17 that he was the only final candidate. He said he recognized the opportunity as one he welcomed.
“As I was going through the interview process, I heard from the Board how incredibly talented Fulton County students are and about the dedicated teachers, principals and staff,” Looney said in a press release. “When I visited, I saw this firsthand and became even more excited about serving this community.”
Looney had served as WCS superintendent since 2009, and he came close to leaving the district in July 2015 when he was offered a similar role with Metro Nashville schools. He ended up staying in Williamson County, and has generally had a good working relationship with the school board.
Looney’s tenure here, however, has not been without controversy and some run-ins with board members, particularly with Susan Curlee after she was elected to the 12th District in 2014. The two clashed on several issues, and Curlee ended up resigning from the board in August 2016.
The relationship between Looney and the current board has been mostly unified, despite some recent flare-ups regarding rezoning, the formation of a cultural competency council, and teacher training videos that invoked the use of the term “white privilege” and input from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
But as a whole, the board has had confidence in Looney. It voted unanimously in January to extend his contract to Jan. 22, 2023, and at that meeting heaped plenty of praise on his job as superintendent.
After learning that Looney was officially hired for the Fulton County Schools position, WCS school board member Eric Welch said on his 10th District Facebook page that he appreciated all Looney had done for the district and looks forward to what’s ahead.
“This is a great opportunity for Dr. Looney, and I want to wish him success in his new chapter in life and appreciate all he has accomplished for our district,” Welch said. “Williamson County Schools has a strong administration in place and I’ve no doubt we will have a smooth transition in place both in the short term with the appointment of an interim superintendent, and going forward in attracting strong candidates and hiring the next superintendent that will maintain our place as Tennessee’s highest performing district and a national leader.”