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Looney Rejects Metro's Offer, Will Remain With Williamson County Schools

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Posted at 6:15 PM, Jul 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-07 08:51:21-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dr. Mike Looney has decided to remain in his position as Director of Schools in Williamson County. He was expected to accept the director of schools position in Metro.

“I haven't slep in three days trying to contemplate the decision,” Looney said. “I had over five thousand contacts from individuals over the last couple of days asking me to stay the course with Williamson County Schools.”

Looney announced the decision in a statement Friday morning, saying he was “humbled” by the support but opted to remain in Williamson County.

“You know you don't know what you have until it's gone or is about to go away,” Williamson County School board member Jay Galbreath said.

It seemed as though only formalities remained in making Dr. Looney the next Director of Metro Schools. The Metro School board voted Thursday to officially extend an offer to Looney to become their next director.

Looney was offered a contract of $285,000 per year for four years -- more than the $266,000 Dr. Register received. He has been working as the director of Williamson County Schools for the last six years.

Looney beat out four other candidates for the MNPS job, during a month’s long process that included multiple interviews and community forums.

In an effort to keep Dr. Looney in Williamson County, the school board there voted to extend his contract to June 2019. They also voted to approve some additional incentives – including a 5 percent raise, a $30,000 retention bonus if he stays until next July, along with extra vacation and sick days.

Looney released the following statement, which read in full:

“My family and I are humbled by the support and prayers we have received over the past few weeks.

The support from the Williamson County community, including parents, former parents, students, Williamson Inc. and the business community, and Williamson County Schools employees has been overwhelming. I also appreciate the support of the Williamson County School Board members who have worked with County Mayor Rogers Anderson and Williamson County Commissioners.

I want to thank the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Board of Education for allowing me to get to know them and for allowing me to explore the opportunity of working for boys and girls in Nashville. I was impressed with the warm reception I received. It is evident the Board's focus is on student success, and I am encouraged about the future of MNPS.

After careful consideration, I have made the decision to remain in Williamson County Schools in order to continue our journey to becoming a district recognized nationally in the academics, athletics, and the arts."

Metro School Board Chair Sharon Gentry said she was "extremely disappointed" that Looney declined the offer. They had every reason to believe he would.

Looney had signed a letter of intent after the board made him their preferred candidate, saying if certain final conditions were met he would become the next Davidson County school director. The letter was non-binding.

Looney’s denial has ignited a push for candidate Dr. Angela Huff to be reconsidered. Board members like the Metro Schools graduate but didn’t think she was ready for the top job.

“Dr. Huff is coming from a county that is much more of a match in diversity of Davidson County,” community leader Vivian Wilhoite stressed, “that again is another great point in reference to her expertise.”

After a difficult night, Looney said he and his wife prayed about the decision, and ultimately determined against the move.

Gentry said they would once again have to start the process of finding a new director. The process was expected to resume after the board's fall retreat.

“The faith that we have in our teachers and building leaders is not compromised by the fact that Dr. Looney chose not to accept this offer,” Gentry said.

Until a new director is found, Chief Financial Officer Chris Henson will continue to serve as interim director. Henson previously served in that capacity from January 2008 - January 2009. Henson says he will continue with the strategic plan that’s already in place.