NORTH FULTON — The Fulton County Board of Education expressed its confidence in the district’s leadership by unanimously approving a contract extension for Superintendent Mike Looney through 2023.

The three-year contract is the maximum length a school superintendent can be under contract in Georgia. Historically, the Fulton County School Board has maintained a three-year rolling contract for its superintendents.

The extension made no others changes to Looney’s initial contract in June 2019 when he was hired. That contract provided Looney with a benefits and salary package of nearly $400,000 a year, placing him among the highest paid superintendents in Georgia’s 189 public school districts.

In announcing the contract extension on Oct. 13, School Board President Julia Bernath praised Looney for navigating the state’s fourth largest school district through the COVID-19 pandemic.

In mid-March, the Fulton School System became the first district in Georgia to move to remote learning after a staff member tested positive for the virus.

“It is clear through this tumultuous time that Dr. Looney’s guidance was critical to the stability and success of the district,” Bernath said. “With all the ups and downs, it was important for the board to confirm that district leadership remain consistent through the transition period back to education under non-COVID circumstances.”

Last week, the district’s 106 schools finally opened to in-person instruction after a seven-month pause.

Stability in the leadership position has come under scrutiny in Fulton Schools in recent years. Looney is the ninth superintendent, either full time or interim, for the district over the past 25 years. Only one served longer than five years in the top position.

Looney’s 14-year tenure as superintendent in the Williamson County (Tenn.) School District was a key factor in the board’s decision during the hiring process, according to those close to the selection.

 “We have amazing students, teachers, principals, staff, parents and taxpayers, and they deserve consistent management as we focus on recovery and excelling going into the future,” Bernath said.

Candy Waylock is an award winning education reporter who has covered all things education for Appen Media over the past 20 years. She is an Alpharetta resident.

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