The DeKalb County school board voted 6-1 Wednesday morning to hire current District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton to lead its Georgia district.

Horton was present for the vote and told reporters afterward that he is “overwhelmingly excited” to take on the position, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He and the board still have to negotiate an employment contract, but Horton said he expects to start July 1.

But he also told the Journal-Constitution that, if the board grants him permission, he wants to start work ahead of time this spring by meeting with community members and organizations before his first official day on the job.

“I will serve as superintendent in District 65 through June 30, 2023 and am committed to working closely with our school board and district leadership team to support a smooth transition,” Horton wrote in a letter to Evanston families posted Wednesday. “A message will be forthcoming from Board President Sergio Hernandez on next steps within the coming day.”

District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton and family attend a back-to-school event in August 2021. Credit: Heidi Randhava

The Georgia district, just outside of Atlanta, has more than 90,000 students and 130 individual schools, making it about 14 times the size of District 65. Joyce Morley, the lone DeKalb board member to vote against hiring Horton, said she was concerned about Horton’s lack of experience with a district that large.

For his part, Horton said he has experience with big districts, pointing to his previous job as chief of schools in Jefferson County, Kentucky, which has more than 100,000 students. In town halls held last week in DeKalb, he identified transparency and community engagement as two of his main priorities moving forward.

The DeKalb County (Georgia) Board of Education meets April 19. The board voted 6-1 to hire Devon Horton. Credit: DeKalb County Schools

The hiring process has come with some hiccups, though, as the Georgia state superintendent even weighed in last week to oppose Horton’s hiring and ask the board to retain interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley. Before the vote on Wednesday, Morley, who has also publicly backed Tinsley for the permanent job, aired concerns about hiring outside the district, calling Horton “not qualified” and telling her board colleagues that “you all are making a grave mistake.”

DeKalb board Chair Diijon DaCosta has supported Horton throughout the last two weeks, and board member Vickie Turner said Wednesday that “the decision that we are making is in the best interest of our children.”

The District 65 school board has not made any public announcements yet about plans for a search process to replace Horton or potentially name an interim to take over in July.

“I am deeply grateful to all those who entrusted me to lead this extraordinary district and with the education of the children of this community,” Horton wrote in his message to families. “I know the future is bright for our lighthouse district with so many so deeply committed to the academic growth and emotional well-being of every child in this community.”

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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 couldn’t be more pleased, both for Mr. Horton and for District 65, that he has accepted this position with DeKalb County.

  2. Is it time to consider merging D65 and 202 to better align our K-12 system? Not sure if 202 Supt. Marcus Campbell would want the bigger job of running both districts but I believe it would improve educational impacts and cohesion if we did merge the two.

  3. It’s a shame the folks in DeKalb County ignored information sent to them by an Evanston resident who has done diligent research and filed many FOIA’s to learn about Horton’s shady dealings while the leader at Dist 65.
    But I guess they will get what they deserve. Personally, I will be very glad to see him leave. While I support efforts at increasing equality of opportunity and equity in our Evanston schools, I don’t support the hostile work environment Horton helped to create here in Evanston. I hope our next superintendent will be able to support each child’s path to success without being such a divisive figure him or herself. It’s a tough path, no question.