BOE waits and watches with Looney

Published 3:55 pm Friday, July 24, 2009

Butler County Board of Education members are taking a “wait and see” approach with Superintendent Mike Looney’s status as a candidate to lead the Williamson County School District in Franklin, Tenn.

Lisenby said Looney notified board members of his candidacy for the job, but there has been no further discussion about the matter.

“We are aware of the situation, but we haven’t discussed it as a board,” said Joseph Lisenby, President of the BOE. “He (Looney) is obviously interested in the job. I was actually contacted by the search firm during the initial screening and I had basically glowing things to say about him. He’s done exactly what we hired him to do and Butler County schools have made tremendous strides under his leadership.”

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Lisenby said he appreciated Looney’s ambition, especially the challenges he would face should he be named Director of Schools in Williamson County.

“It would be quite a step up for him,” said Lisenby. “Not that I think he’s not equal to it. The man has a great passion for education and a tremendous amount of energy.”

Should Looney leave, Lisenby said the board would immediately begin a search for his replacement.

Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon said he would hate to see Looney leave Butler County.

“What everybody needs to understand is that Mike Looney has turned down a number of job opportunities that he was approached for,” said McLendon. “It’s a lot better having a superintendent that everybody wants versus a superintendent nobody wants…sort of like, do you want Nick Saban or Mike Shula? They came looking for him. And, for his family, he has to take a look at it. He came here and he’s done a great job, but at some point he is going to leave. We just hope that it’s not right now.”

Looney was offered the job of deputy superintendent of the Jefferson County School System in June 2008, but chose to stay in Butler County. His contract with the Butler County Board of Education runs through 2012.

Of the five finalists for the job in Williamson County, Looney is from the smallest school district. Butler County schools have 3,500 students enrolled and an annual operating budget of $28 million. In comparison candidate James Wilson, former superintendent of Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, worked with a budget of $940 million in a district of 86,000 students, according to the Williamson Herald.

The Director of Schools in Williamson County would be paid an estimated salary of $180,000, according to the Williamson Herald. Looney is paid $120,000 in Butler County.

“There’s really no comparing our school district to that one,” said Lisenby. “They can afford a lot more then we can. There’s no competition.”

The Williamson County Board of Education is scheduled to conduct an initial round of interviews with all candidates from Aug. 3 to Aug. 5, according to the district website. The district has targeted Aug. 24 as the date it will select its Director of Schools.

The Williamson County School District is comprised of 37 schools.

The county is part of the Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin metropolitan statistical area.