Education

‘It’s Just That Simple’: Fulton Superintendent Aims To Boost Achievement, Prevent Dropouts

Dr. Mike Looney has been a district superintendent since 2005. He came to Fulton County from the Williamson County Schools in Tennessee.
Dr. Mike Looney has been a district superintendent since 2005. He came to Fulton County from the Williamson County Schools in Tennessee.
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE

The Fulton County School System started the school year with a new superintendent. Dr. Mike Looney is the district’s fourth superintendent since 2008.

Looney previously led the Williamson County Schools in Tennessee, where he’s credited with helping boost ACT scores and increasing the number of student scholarships. He was Tennessee’s Superintendent of the Year in 2016.

The Williamson district had about 40,000 students. Fulton has a projected enrollment of 93,509 students this year. Looney has said he’s not intimidated by Fulton’s bigger student population.

“Regardless of the size of the district, the concerns and the challenges are often the same, and that is: parents want their children to go to a school where they feel loved, they feel safe, and they feel challenged,” he said.

In an interview with WABE, Looney talks about his transition to Atlanta, making sure kids are prepared for kindergarten, and strengthening the teacher and leadership pipelines. He says he’s been impressed with how hard teachers and students are working, but he’d like to see a brisker pace in the classroom. As a former dropout himself, he wants to prevent others from doing the same.

“We lose about a thousand students a year to high school dropout,” he said. “That’s about a thousand too many.”

Looney said he has a good relationship with the school board and said he wants to stay in Fulton for the next several years if the board agrees.

Expanded Interview with Mike Looney