Update: The DeKalb County School Board voted 6-1 Wednesday morning to approve Devon Horton as superintendent of the Georgia school district. Go here for the latest coverage.
The DeKalb County School District board is expected to vote Wednesday on the candidacy for superintendent in the Georgia district of current Evanston/Skokie District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton.
Just outside of Atlanta, the DeKalb County School District named Horton its sole finalist for superintendent in a public announcement April 4. Horton appeared at three town halls and answered questions from families in DeKalb on April 12, 13 and 14.
DeKalb’s school board is scheduled to convene at 9:30 a.m. Central Time Wednesday before going into a closed session to discuss Horton’s candidacy. After that, the seven board members are scheduled to vote on confirming Horton as the district’s next superintendent.
Horton’s move to Georgia is hardly a done deal. DeKalb has a fraught history when it comes to recent superintendent searches, with nine leaders, including interims, passing through the district in the last 13 years. Rudy Crew, a former New York City schools chief, won a $750,000 lawsuit against DeKalb in 2021 after the board named him a sole finalist for superintendent and ultimately reneged on the offer.
Cheryl Watson-Harris, who got the job instead of Crew, was fired after less than two years and replaced with current Interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley.
Several prominent figures in DeKalb and Georgia public education have come out against Horton’s candidacy. Board member Joyce Morley told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she favors sticking with Tinsley. Georgia State Superintendent Richard Woods, a Republican, also made headlines last week when he endorsed Tinsley and asked the board to “pause” its hiring of Horton.
Many of the questions asked at last week’s town halls revolved around controversies from Horton’s tenure in Evanston. Some in attendance talked about a lawsuit filed against District 65 by Stacy Deemar, a white drama teacher, alleging the district treats individuals differently based on race.
Others voiced concerns about District 65 prioritizing marginalized students for an expedited return to in-person schooling in 2021. Horton defended that decision as lifting up low-income students and English language learners, among others, who are disproportionately Black and Brown.
Meanwhile, local Atlanta-area publication Decaturish has reported on Horton’s consulting work with Chicago Public Schools, which has paid him more than $30,000 in contracts over the last two years for work on such topics as “cultural intelligence training” and “instructional leadership executive coaching.” Some of those workshops appear to have taken place on District 65 school days.
Horton completed that consulting work through a company he registered with the state of Illinois in 2020 called Altering the Education Xpectation. The Illinois Secretary of State website lists the organization as involuntarily dissolved April 8, 2022, though CPS paid Horton twice after that date for professional development trainings.
During the DeKalb town halls last week, Horton said he had permission from the District 65 board president to take on those consulting jobs through his own company and completed the required financial disclosures with the district and state.
For its part, the District 65 school board has yet to announce any plans for a leadership transition if and when Horton officially becomes the DeKalb superintendent. He has yet to tender a resignation in Evanston, but he said in his job application that he could start around July 1.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, DeKalb board chair Diijon DaCosta has maintained support for Horton as the district’s next superintendent and referred to questions about Horton’s fitness for the job as “just allegations.”
“There’s things that I’ve seen that were positive, things that I have seen that Dr. Horton will be able to address,” DaCosta said.
Dr. Horton’s final days cannot come soon enough. He has driven the divisive and unilateral policies resulting in white flight, horrific enrollment, and depressing future funding of a formerly outstanding school district. Evanston has not yet come to grips with Dr. Horton’s cultural and economic wake of destruction. He failed and is ducking out before he can be held to account — I’m all for it. Good luck Georgia… you’re going to learn what the Dr’s racial hatred and poor management does to public school systems.
Regardless of how this vote turns out, Devon Horton has already clearly shown he no longer wants to be superintendent of D65, and why would we want him back?—-he’s worn out any welcome that possibly remains here, and his actions in applying for the job in Georgia very could find him in breach of his D65 contract—-would he seriously be welcomed back to his superintendent position here if failing to secure the Dekalb school board vote?—-please tell me no one in Evanston could possibly want that
Agree with Amy. The Evanston school board, upper admin and some community residents need to put egos, politics, and personal interests aside and focus on helping ALL students and educators. D65 has potential to be a great district but we need leadership that will bring people together, not divide and fracture. We need a leader who listens, thinks rationally, is a realist, and understands what ‘equity’ really looks like by providing students with what they ACTUALLY need regardless of the ‘optics’ of what it looks like in the media or on social media. We need a leader who will hire effective administrators who create policies that hold students accountable for behavior and academics, understanding that being held accountable actually benefits students in their journey to college/career and beyond. Students crave and need structure and accountability. I believe this person is out there. We just need to take TIME and hold the school board accountable during this process, ensuring they are transparent & actually listen to ALL community members, parents, and educators during the process of selecting a candidate.
I grew up in District 65 schools and while I wish Dr. Horton well, I would not be sorry if he decided to move on. We have a complicated community and many strong voices here. The superintendency is a thankless job in such a contentious situation. We need strong leadership based on best-practice learning, support for all teachers, and clear messaging across the board. A superintendent at a district where I once worked said, “It’s not what you teach, it’s what students learn.” That should be the ultimate foundation for our schools, with equal favor for all groups and stakeholders. We really need to put our egos aside and put our children first.