PHOTO: Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney led a meeting in late March with parents on both sides of the issue regarding the district’s cultural competency council. Looney will be leaving in June for Fulton County Schools in Georgia, but the council will continue. / Photo by John McBryde
By JOHN McBRYDE
When it was announced Thursday morning that Williamson County Schools superintendent Mike Looney had officially accepted the position of superintendent with Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, two Williamson County parents had completely opposite reactions.
One said she was sad that Looney was leaving Williamson County, and the other appeared fully ready for his impending departure.
Looney, who has served as WCS superintendent since 2009, formally accepted the position in Georgia after the Fulton County Schools Board of Education voted unanimously for his hiring during a special-called meeting Thursday morning. He will begin a three-year term with Fulton County Schools June 17.
“I’m sad [he’s leaving] because I don’t think people have given him enough credit for the quality of schools we have in our county,” said Kalinda Fisher, who has a daughter in her junior year at Independence High School. “I think that he did a very good job with our schools. I think he was incredibly open to a fantastic number of people.”
Stefanie Rose Miles, the mother of two children who are students in the WCS district, said one of her main concerns with Looney is that he is not open enough. She said she has especially had issues lately over the controversial training videos for teachers that included the term “white privilege,” and what she had perceived to be a secrecy to a cultural competency council formed under Looney’s direction more than a year ago.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Miles said. “We hope that a lot of the questions we’ve had and still have will finally get some answers. The hope is that parents and the school board can collectively work together with more transparency, so all of us can be better educated about what’s going on in and around the school system.”
Fisher, a sociologist and founder of Advocate Market Research Bureau and The Great Reset, has been a member of the WCS cultural competency council since it started. Though Looney was the guiding force of the group, so to speak, Fisher said the council will continue. In fact, its next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 14.
“The plan at this point is it will not change, we’re still staying the course,” Fisher said. “Plenty of us have been there since day one and we’re hoping to build the number of parents involved. We hope to get a plethora of parents and diverse opinions and thoughts.”
Miles, a freelance writer, is also part of a group that is related to WCS, but one that is generally critical of the district, specifically Looney. The Facebook Group WCS TN Parents Want Facts was established after details of the teacher training videos and the cultural competency council were revealed earlier this year.
“We’re hoping we can have questions answered,” said Miles, who added that she plans to attend the next cultural competency council meeting. “I want to get a better understanding of what it is.”
Both Fisher and Miles said they will be watching closely as the process for finding a replacement for Looney proceeds.
“We hope a lot of parents will be engaged and ask a lot of questions,” Miles said. “We owe it to our schools and system to have the best-qualified replacement in somebody that will be transparent, and hope that secrecy won’t be an issue in the next administration.”
Fisher is optimistic.
“It’s a bummer that he’s leaving, but who knows what’s next for Williamson County? There’s a lot of amazing people who hopefully will come in and fill his position in a way that’s full of knowledge and full of empathy, and can really keep us on the course to having this incredible school system.”