Superintendent Devon Horton of Evanston/Skokie School District 65 announced Tuesday afternoon that he will be leaving his post to become the leader of a county school district outside of Atlanta.

Devon Horton. Credit: Evanston/Skokie Dist. 65

In an email with the subject line “Important Leadership Announcement,” Horton wrote that he is the sole finalist for the superintendency of the DeKalb County School District. That district’s board is expected to make his appointment official later this month, Horton said.

“Despite beginning my chapter in District 65 during one of the most challenging periods in public education, I am deeply proud of all that we have accomplished,” Horton wrote in the email to families. “I believe we have made great strides in furthering educational outcomes for all students by strengthening academic supports and interventions.”

Horton was hired by the District 65 school board in December 2019 and officially took over as superintendent in June 2020, in the early months of the pandemic. In 2022, his contract was extended through 2026.

District 65 also posted a news release on its website Tuesday afternoon sharing the news of Horton’s impending departure. The school board and other district leaders will share plans for a transition and a search process for a new superintendent later this month, the release stated.

“I remain fully invested in District 65 and my energies are in support of stability and a smooth transition,” Horton wrote.

The exact timeline for when he will leave Evanston for the Georgia district is unclear at the moment, though the board will have to act quickly to recruit a new leader in time for the 2023-2024 academic year. Last year, Evanston Township High School named Marcus Campbell as its next superintendent on April 21, replacing the retiring Eric Witherspoon, after a search and interview process that lasted several months.

DeKalb local news outlet reported that “Horton would likely start after June 30.”

The DeKalb County School District also released a public announcement Tuesday afternoon naming Horton as the lone finalist for superintendent. The district has more than 130 schools, 14,000 employees and 92,000 students that he will be charged with leading.

“I firmly believe that DeKalb will be the best place in America to learn, teach,
and lead. If entrusted with the superintendency, I will embrace that goal enthusiastically,” Horton said in DeKalb’s news release. “DeKalb is a place that inspires me, and the conversations that have led to this moment have only increased my excitement.”

He is scheduled to be in DeKalb for community meetings with families, board members and staff there on April 12, 13 and 14, according to the announcement. His application for the job is also available online.

Moving forward, Horton leaves behind the Fifth Ward school construction project and the multiyear Student Assignment Planning process, which the next superintendent will oversee to completion.

“Dr. Horton’s leadership was instrumental in the implementation of frameworks, processes and strategies that focus on ensuring students, families and educators get the resources they need to close the historic opportunity gaps in our school district,” District 65 board President Sergio Hernandez said in a statement. “He will be sorely missed and the board and I wish him and his family continued success as he moves on to his next great opportunity to bring much needed transformative racial equity change within the American educational system.”

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Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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  1. I didn’t have a chance to know Dr Horton, given that my kids are grown and gone already. So when I hear criticism of him I wonder about the following: According to US NEWS the responsibilities of the SCHOOL BOARD ARE “developing the annual budget to run the school system; setting school policies; and hiring and evaluating the superintendent…”

    Considering the continuing downslide in student grades and achievement, isn’t this regrettable situation the responsibility of the many school boards who were elected year after year, yet unable to change the results??? Aren’t THEY the ones – even more than the superintendent – who bear the ultimate responsibility for the policies and their implementation? However in this last election Evanston voted all the same people in again! As Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.”

    This year the clamor is “diversity, equity, inclusion….” Other years it is something similarly hopeful, but never merit. But whether Horton in D65 or Witherspoon in D202, or whoever comes to our districts, the statistics in reading and math deteriorate year after year, superintendent after superintendent, with absolutely zero accountability… And we seem to be content when a D202 superintendent claims a 90+% student graduation where some of those students cannot read properly or calculate what ten percent of a number is. Did the newly elected board members of both districts ever think of this?

  2. We still don’t have an agreed upon plan for the new 5th ward school, D65 reading scores are still low (lower today than 3 years ago), overall educational standards are still in flux, and there are 3 years remaining before Horton’s contract ends. How does resigning now make sense?

  3. This is a great opportunity for D65 to find an amazing educational leader!

    I look forward to an open, collaborative and robust search process on the part of the Board.

    A first step could be soliciting parent input and reactions to a proposed selection process and ideal candidate profile, as well as a clearly outlined decision making structure. This would help minimize potential biases from the outset, increase community trust in the process and help in final candidate selection!

  4. Something in this buttermilk has always been unclean. What exactly has been achieved for our Black community? This is “Chatting & Chewing” alright, with many “to go” plates in hand. Through all the Chuck E Cheese fan fairs, what was accomplished?? The continual decline in data, the “For Sale” signs germinating out of the lawns across the wards, and the constant staff postings/departures are enough for me to take my family, along with my black dollar, elsewhere. Shame.

  5. From a DeKalb parent and commenter over on my blog:

    “I am concerned as our district has been through the ringer since 2019 and are on our 4th superintendent. Two of those are still on our payroll & will continue to be even with the new person because of board shenanigans and lawsuit settlements so we are all skeptical of anything the board does or who they may recommend. We are a HUGE district and these posts surface operation issues we already have with our central office. ”

    Sounds like a perfect fit for Dr. Horton! A permissive board, a big budget, and even more patience for financial shenanigans than we have.

  6. Dr. Horton will surely be missed. He has brought equality, inclusion, and diversity to School District 65

  7. I’m very glad that Dr. Horton has punched his ticket to Georgia. He wasn’t a solution to D65’s problems, he was additive to its problems.

    In 2019, only 18% of Black students in grades 3-8 in D65 read at grade level. In 2022 this percentage declined to 16%. In 2019, 14% of Black students in grades 3-8 in D65 were at grade level math. In 2022 this declined to 10%.

    I hope that one day soon the teachers, administrators, and parents in D65 will take ownership of these failures.

    It is said that children are our future. I pray for our future.

  8. CONGRATS to Dr. Horton! He protected D65 from the pandemic. It was the most challenging times the country has faced…without a blueprint on how to navigate it safely. Being a brand new superintendent and new to the community, protecting the youth and staff was his priority. After listening to the community, one of his commitments was to return a new school back to the 5th ward. In partnership with the community and the D65 board, he can leave here knowing he played a special hand in grabbing the baton from leadership before him and running to the finish! He made it a priority to make sure a higher percentage of students than prior years were equipped and ready to perform entering ETHS! He, along with the board and the CFO, were responsible with the budget and creatively figured out a way to a new school! I recommended Dr. Horton to the State Commission for the Inclusive American History Commission and he served the state well! We thank you, Dr. Horton, for your vision and your fire to get things done. Your car was vandalized by racists and you received death threats. You weren’t given any margin for any sort of error – especially by racist parts of Evanston. But you kept going! That’s a leader! A leader who cares! DeKalb County is smart! Time for you to take on your next assignment to bring positive change where needed. Thank you, Dr. Horton. You left a positive footprint here in Evanston.

    1. What a sad commentary- “racist parts of Evanston”? Why do you receive rewards from our city with comments like that? I have lived in Berkeley, California, and Evanston ranks right up there as one of the most progressive cities in America. Hardly a hotbed of racism. And i’ve lived here for 23 years. Other comments of yours are unproven or just plain lies: the standards for ETHS are in the process of being lowered by District 65 is my understanding. Sad.

      1. I’ll repeat it. Yes, racist parts of Evanston. And, apparently, the saying is true that true “a hit dog will holler”.

        1. “throw a stone into a crowd of dogs, and the hit dog will holler”—-curious, clearly seems the thin skinned Horton and school board have been the ones hollering…good luck Dekalb County, you’re gonna need it…(BTW, just out of curiosity, where exactly is this racist part of Evanston?)

          1. If you have to ask where is the racism in Evanston…as if to say that it doesn’t exist…that speaks volumes about you. Dr. Horton went through some horrific racist attacks…and the fact that you are questioning what he went through only makes me respect Dr. Horton even that much more. His life, his family’s life, and his personal property constantly threatened as he worked everyday to do his work. I salute Dr. Devon Horton.

          2. LOL! how about North and Northwest Evanston neighborhoods that wish they were Wilmette? that would be a place to start. There are a lot of “those people” comments around there. Growing up, it was confusing that the grownups had kids from “across the canal” bussed in but didn’t seem to really be on board with the diversity this created in the schools. Recently Haven parents have been chattering and complaining about a “small group of problematic kids” disrupting the whole school’s reputation. That’s a laugh. first of all Haven has always permitted acts of racism, second of all, at this point the parents over there are emboldened enough to say the quiet part out loud because we all know the “problematic kids” = “the black and brown kids who aren’t as economically affluent”. Even worse, apparently talk is that they succeeded in having “those people” removed from Haven so ultimately they won. The question is, where did the students go? to schools that have less affluence maybe?
            Come on people. Enough already! Due to Evanstons conflicted identity crisis we got taken for a ride by a superintendent who was all talk and no results. Yes he faced a lot of pushback and racism and maybe even some threats, but to call him a hero is a bit much.
            When a person fires so many teachers and brings in their own friends at higher salaries and humiliates good, successful, productive teachers beloved by the community, (and I’m not talking about the part time drama teacher who is suing D65 for discrimination) making them have to reapply for their jobs it speaks to the character of said person.
            Disrupting the system just to disrupt it has no value whatsoever. Disrupting the system to make it better is what we should have been looking for. Gathering staff educators to tell them that they are participating in racist behaviors toward black students if they are white or Latino is maybe not the best way to get peole to work together. Showing them what equity actually looks like rather than creating powerpoint presentations outlining how much they suck would maybe be a better approach. Demonstrating what you want to see for all students instead of shooting down staff that point out that Latino students count too would possibly be a good step in creating unity.
            Reading scores are as abysmal as the were before he came with a “plan”. Students exhibit absolutely disturbing and violent behavior with no accountability. Teachers of all ages and backgrounds are completely alienated and disgusted enough to quit mid-year and nobody is asking why? The supposed teacher residency program he started and has 2 years worth of funding but only what, like 2-3 people graduated from it? where is the rest of the money? did he take it with him? The 5th ward school is still in some limbo while King Arts is getting shafted.
            Let’s be real people, there is a lot of work to do here. However, maybe the teachers will be able to teach again and lead again without such intense administrative scrutiny regardles of what educator the school board picks as their puppet next. These shenanigans are only hurting the students. Evanston has a classism problem as well as a racism problem tha needs to be addressed. Dr Horton made it worse.

            -for the record my household is mostly bilingual my husband is 1st generation Mexican American and I am mostly Northern and Eastern European mix and we teach our son that ignorant people are ignorant people regardless of race or culture, and brilliance can come from anyone anywhere.

  9. Maybe Paul Goren could be persuaded to step in temporarily if they cannot find someone immediately. I think very highly of him!