We turn now to the curious case of one Michael Looney, superintendent of schools in Williamson County. Looney has been a controversial character, ever since he left a 3,300-student backwoods school district in Alabama to become the $179,00 per year Jefe of 35,000 students in the wealthiest county in Tennessee.
Looney has developed the well=earned reputation for shooting off his mouth, then having to double back later and clean up his own mess. When hundreds of parents in Williamson county gathered last year to voice concern about Common Core with Kevin “I voted for Obama” Huffman and Jamie Woodson in tow, Looney’s comments nearly caused a riot when he dismissed parents’ concerns out of hand and tried to change the subject.
Looney is also infamous for his sometimes bizarre tweets, such as the one where he taunted parents voicing concerns about potentially bad winter weather and said if he could, he would strap snowplows onto the front of buses and damn the weather.
Then there was last week’s over-reaction to a “poll” conducted by a Williamson parent and circulated to about 100 other parents, a seemingly innocous survey of little or no consequence. In an almost comical over-reaction, Looney sent out an emergency phone and email alert to tens of thousands of parents, disavowing any connection to the survey and insinuating the circulator was up to no good. Since it went out to only about 100 people, the other 50,000-plus parents understanably and collectively said: “Huh?” The parent who sent the survey now wants an apology for Looney’s over-the-top reaction. Looney has said no way he’s apologizing.
So what does it take around here to get an apology from Mike Looney? Maybe $113,000?
So fast forward to when Huffman & Co. totally screwed up the TCAP test scores and sent school systems statewide into a frenzy on whether or not to call teachers back after school had been dismissed for the year so they could incorporate the test results into students’ final grades — as required by state law (Bob Cooper, are you listening?)
Looney immediately rushed out and said the scores were important to Williamson students and parents and, by golly, he was going to see that the state legal requirements were upheld, even if Williamson taxapayers had to cough up some extra money. He took some shots at Huffman’s staffer, Erin O’Hara, then submitted a $113,000 request to the school board to pay for the call-back. While Looney was puffing out his chest, the DOE, in an unsuccessful attempt to quell the rising storm over not getting the scores to school districts in time for report cards, offered waivers (a possibly illegal act) absolving local school distraicts with having to obey state law requiring inclusion of the scores. For those districts who had already incurred costs AND would ask for a waiver, the DOE insinuated schools might be re-imbursed by the DOE [RTP cannot resist noting that all of these extra expenditures comes from taxpayers, regardless of who promises what].
“Waivers? We don’ need no stinkin’ waivers.”
So what about Looney? Well, that’s where it gets “curiouser and curiouser.” Since Looney did not ask for a waiver, the question then became whether he (and by extention, the taxpayers of Williamson County) would qualify for a reimbursement. The potential embarassment for Looney was that by rushing out and declaring he would not ask for a waiver, and criticizing Kevin Huffman in the process, it might be a cold day in Hell before the state sent him a check for $113,000 to cover the costs of his actions.
And then, something miraculous happened. Looney issued an apology to Erin O’Hara — making him the ONLY school official t apologize to the incompetent fool who, either or her own on under instruction from higher-ups, created the entire mess regarding TCAP. Could Looney’s ephinany have come after a phone call or whispered message to him that get right with
God Kevin HUffman, or you can kiss your $113,000 goodbye. Considering his track record, no one believes Looney actually apologized on his own. And there is high suspicion that someone inside DOE or elsewhere leaned, and leaned hard, on Looney to get in line or suffer the consequences.
And in the words of the reknowned educator, Porky Pig: