By EMILY R. WEST
Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney didn’t waste any time Tuesday projecting facts and figures at the State of the Schools address. But he started with one staggering number.
“Williamson County Schools will see 10,000 new students in the next five years,” he said.
Both Looney and Franklin Special School District Superintendent David Snowden shared the vision and optimism for education in the county in the event hosted by Williamson, Inc.
Looney has said for months the district would see an unprecedented amount of growth. Right now, the system is waiting on the Williamson County Commission to approve the funding for a new K-8 facility in Thompson’s Station and looking for a piece of land near Brentwood.
He didn’t reveal a clear plan of where those students would go, but layered it with news of other growth.
“Your school system is better, strong, quicker and more productive than it’s ever been in its history,” Looney said. “If you go to school in Williamson County, you are receiving the premiere public education in the country.”
Currently, Williamson County Schools has 6,000 full- and part-time employees. Looney said through visiting classrooms this week, he’s witnessed the success that emerges from selecting “exemplary” employees. The strengths of those employees translates to how well students perform.
As of now, students are only two-tenths of a decimal point off of the district’s goal for the ACT average. Next week, WCS will receive its new score calculated from last year. The average sits at 23.8, which Looney thinks will soon hit the coveted 24 mark.
Doing well has also meant students earning college credit and millions worth of scholarship money before they leave a Williamson school.
Last year, the Class of 2016 raked in a significant amount before they even stepped onto a college campus. They received in total $145.4 million in scholarships, averaging out to nearly $54,000 per student.
Similarly, the Franklin Special School District found the same success in its hallways throughout the past year. Snowden said the two do well together, because of the economic climate Williamson County provides.
“The state of the Franklin Special School District is strong for the same reasons,” Snowden said. “How can you go wrong with that kind of support?”
On a much smaller scale, FSSD has 3,700 students, unlike its Williamson counterpart which serves around 38,000.
At least 32 different languages are spoken in FSSD. Only 54 percent of its students are white, with hispanic and black children making up 40 percent of the FSSD population.
“Here’s a part of the story a lot of people don’t know, and we feel it’s a strength,” Snowden said. “It’s the diversity. Forty percent of our children come from poverty. Poverty is not a deterrent for a strong school and strong education.”