Dr. Michael “Mike” Looney speaks in the Fulton County Schools’ North Learning Center April 17 where he was announced as the finalist for its superintendent. (Evelyn Andrews)

The Fulton County School System announced Dr. Michael “Mike” Looney as its finalist for the superintendent position on April 17. Looney, a former Tennessee Superintendent of the Year, will now meet the public at community meetings before the board vote on his appointment.

Currently serving in the position for Williamson County Schools, near Nashville, Tenn., Looney was announced as the sole finalist at an April 17 event held in the FCS’s North Learning Center in Sandy Springs.

The Williamson County district has 48 schools and about 40,000 students, Looney said. In FCS, more than 95,000 students attend its 106 schools. But Looney said he’s confident he can manage a larger school district, as he believes many of the challenges are similar.

The district did a nationwide search, finding 40 qualified applicants and interviewing seven before choosing Looney. The search began following former Superintendent Jeff Rose’s surprise resignation in late 2018. Dr. Cindy Loe, who was FCS’s superintendent in 2008-2011, has been serving as the district’s interim leader since the end of 2018 and was not a candidate for the permanent position.

Dr. Mike Looney. (Special)

The board believes Looney is the “right person and leader at the right time for Fulton County Schools,” President Linda Bryant said when introducing Looney.

“Dr. Looney has a very impressive background and track record of success during the 10 years as superintendent in his current district,” Bryant said in additional comments in a press release. “The board believes his experience and leadership skills will complement the amazingly talented teachers, principals and staff, and our focus on student achievement. We are excited for Dr. Looney to visit our schools and engage with the community over the next few days and weeks.”

A Marine veteran and recipient of the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Looney previously served as a substitute teacher, teacher, assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent. He also served as the superintendent of the Butler County School District in Alabama, according to the release. As a personal note, Looney said at the event that he is a professional skydiver.

Under Looney, Williamson County has seen increases in ACT scores, graduation rates and dual-enrollment participation, the release said.

If confirmed as superintendent, Looney would oversee major capital projects in Sandy Springs, such as the rebuilding of Riverwood International Charter School and North Springs Charter High School. Looney said his current district builds on average one new school per year to accommodate its increasing enrollment.

When asked what his first priorities would be, Looney said he wants to focus on getting to know the community and to go on a “listening tour” to understand the challenges and needs of the district’s teachers, staff, students and parents.

Looney said in brief comments that he champions working collaboratively toward a common goal and in the field.

“You might see me riding a school bus, or serving chicken at lunch or teaching a third-grade classroom,” he said.

State law requires 14 days of community input before a superintendent can be appointed. Looney will hold community meetings at high schools from April 17-19. For times and locations, click here.

“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.”