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Looney changed attitudes in Butler County

Superintendent Mike Looney is still around. But not for long. As reported in this newspaper on Saturday, Looney – who brought an energy never seen before in Butler County – to the school district’s top job, will be leaving to takeover as Director of Schools in Williamson County, Tenn.

Change is inevitable and the Board of Education likely knew in 2005 when it hired Looney that he would not be long for this job. The surprise is Butler County was able to keep him around as long as it did. Looney came into the county with an open door and an open phone policy (he handed out his cell phone number freely to parents and students), earned the respect of both county and municipal officials, and firmly established the “Whatever It Takes” mentality in the school district.

Accomplishments? There were plenty, but some important ones:

Improved test scores: Despite the draconian, all-or-nothing, federal mandate that is No Child Left Behind, Butler County Schools made huge strides in Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) during Looney’s tenure thanks to hard work by teachers and school administrators who bought into what was trying to be accomplished. Greenville High School came within a breath of making AYP this year, which would have given the district a perfect 7-for-7 in schools making AYP.

Buildings for the future: When he arrived, Looney immediately saw the dire need the district was in for new school buildings and set about making it happen. Looney met with elected officials and secured their partnership in passing the taxes necessary to begin construction on a new school in Georgiana and at W.O. Parmer Elementary, a new athletic facility for Greenville High School, and renovations to other school buildings in the county.

Fiscal responsibility: When the governor declared proration Looney took action, slashing monthly energy bills and cutting costs, but doing everything necessary to save jobs and programs. He worked with the budget he had, refusing to drain the district’s $2 million in reserve funds.

Being this was his first job as a superintendent, Looney made mistakes: the naming of the K-12 Georgiana school, for example, or the questions surrounding PayPlus – the BOE’s state-funded, teacher incentive program – and its applicability to the central office staff.

You may like Mike Looney and you may not like Mike Looney, but know this:

Mike Looney brought change, good change, to Butler County.

And for this, we respect his accomplishments and we thank him for his service to our children’s future.

Butler County schools are better for having had his leadership.