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Looney wants to make a difference in students#039; lives

After voting unanimously to make Mike Looney the new superintendent of education for Butler County, the board of education moved swiftly to get Looney on the payroll and agreed to a four-year contract with him Thursday.

Looney, the former assistant superintendent of the Montgomery Public Schools, said he was humbled by the board's decision to hire him and that he was ready to get started.

"I certainly look forward to working with (the board) and the community and we're going to have a great time working together," said Looney, addressing the board.

Afterwards, Looney said his primary goal was to create a strategic plan for the school district, which he said the district does not have now, and to make sure the new school year gets started right.

"We need to get school open and have a very positive opening," he said. "From day one we need to work on student achievement. Last year we had only one school that made AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress)"

AYP is a mandate of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and is determined primarily by student achievement and participation rates in statewide testing, including the new Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test, the Alabama High School Graduation Exam, and the Alabama Alternate Assessment.

"At the end of the day I want to be able to say we made a difference in the lives of our children," Looney said. "I'm going to give it every ounce of energy and stamina to make sure that the answer is 'yes' for our children."

Looney estimated that once the process of formulating a strategic plan begins, it should take approximately six months to complete. He said he would network with both local and outsides sources to develop the plan, which he said should "guide the schools for five to seven years." He hopes to have it completed in early spring.

According to the contract, Looney will be paid $102,000 per year and will be reimbursed for moving expenses not to exceed $2,500. He will earn the same amount as former superintendent of education Mike Reed was making and more than the $78,000 he was making in Montgomery.

The board also agreed to pay costs for professional expenses not to exceed $1,500 per year and will reimburse him travel expenses of up to $2,000 per year for travel defined by state law and regulation.

One item in the contract Looney said is not typical of most superintendents' contracts is that, beginning at the end of the coming school year and for each year of his contract, $750 will be awarded to each school that makes AYP. The money would be used by the schools for general purposes. The contract also stipulates that Looney will receive a $750 bonus for each school that makes AYP.

"I hope that sends a message that we want each school to reach the standards that are set for them," Looney said.

Board president Linda Hamilton praised her counterparts for their work in getting Looney hired.

"We knew we as a board had the ability to conduct a professional job search and land a quality candidate, and we did that," she said.