Evanston/Skokie School District 65 superintendent to lead DeKalb SchoolsDr. Devon Horton. Photo provided by DeKalb County Schools
This story has been updated.
DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb County Schools has named Dr. Devon Horton as the sole finalist to be the district’s next superintendent.
Horton would likely start after June 30. To read an FAQ about the search process, click here. The board will have to wait 14 days to approve Dr. Horton’s contract, per state law.
Dr. Horton is currently the superintendent of the Evanston/Skokie School District 65. If the school board votes to approve his contract, he will be replacing interim Superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley, who took over when the school board abruptly fired Cheryl Watson-Harris last spring.
“I’m deeply honored to be selected as the sole finalist for Superintendent, and I look forward to continued conversations with the Board. 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,” Dr. Horton said in a press release. “DeKalb is a place that inspires me, and the conversations that have led to this moment have only increased my excitement.”
Dr. Horton has received some criticism for his equity work in Illinois, mainly among conservative news websites. Fox News seized on reports that he would prioritize minority groups for a return to in-person learning in that district, for which he received hate mail and threats. Dr. Horton said the plan had been “misrepresented” by the media.
“In every priority group we have on our website, we don’t have Black and brown students anywhere,” he told The Daily Northwestern. “We know that’s illegal.”
Dr. Horton will inherit a polarized district with declining enrollment and unimpressive test scores. The board is also being watched closely by Cognia, a nonprofit accreditation organization, because of the board’s tendency to pursue individual interests instead of working for the district as a whole. The district also churns through superintendents. Since 2013, there have been six superintendents, with two of them being interim and two being terminated by the board, Cognia noted.
It’s unclear whether Dr. Horton will have the unanimous support of all board members. During the search for Watson-Harris’ permanent replacement, there was some not-subtle politicking going by members of the board and state Sen. Emanuel Jones to keep Tinsley. Jones’ ex-wife was an assistant principal in the district, according to his ethics disclosure forms filed in 2020.
Winning over the diverse, quarrelsome DeKalb County community will be Dr. Horton’s first order of business.
Dr. Horton will attend a series of town hall meetings to get to know DeKalb better.
“On April 12, 13, & 14, Dr. Horton will engage with district employees, scholars, and community members during April 12-14, including three (3) town hall meetings in DCSD facilities,” the announcement from the district says. “Locations will be announced shortly on the DCSD homepage. Each two-hour town hall meeting will begin at 6 p.m.”
Here’s more information about those meetings from DeKalb County Schools:
These meetings will be live-streamed, and the general public and media members are encouraged to attend in person.
The public is invited to submit questions and provide feedback regarding the sole finalist by completing the survey at https://survey.sogolytics.com/r/8L6n4h
To see Dr. Horton’s redacted job application for the DeKalb County Schools job, click here. To read a short biography of him, click here.
Here’s the full announcement from DeKalb County Schools:
The DeKalb County Board of Education is pleased to announce that Dr. Devon Horton has been selected as the sole finalist for the district’s superintendent position. The DeKalb County Board of Education collaborated with the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) to conduct a fair and robust selection process in which Dr. Horton emerged as the top candidate.
Dr. Horton has over two decades of experience in educational leadership and currently serves as the Superintendent of Evanston/Skokie School District 65, previously holding positions such as Chief of Schools at Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky and Deputy Superintendent of East St. Louis School District 189 in Illinois. He has also worked in various roles at Chicago Public Schools in Illinois. Dr. Horton holds a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership from Chicago State University, a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from the same university, and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Jackson State University.
Board Chair Diijon DaCosta, Sr. said, “The Board has made great progress in announcing its sole finalist for DeKalb County School District’s superintendent position. Dr. Horton has an impressive track record of leading districts with diverse student populations and implementing initiatives that promote academic success. We are confident he will lead our district of 14,000 employees with integrity and excellence and be committed to achieving positive academic outcomes for our 92,000 scholars.”
Dr. Horton is a recognized leader in education, having been named Superintendent of the Year for his outstanding contributions. As the Superintendent of Evanston/Skokie School District 65, he implemented innovative programs to support Black and Latinx students’ academic growth, including Academic Skills Centers at all campuses. Dr. Horton also partnered with local universities to establish a teacher residency program that trains master-level candidates to become quality teachers within a year.
In addition to his achievements, Dr. Horton has been invited to speak at education-related conferences and has developed Urban Teacher Residency programs for multiple school districts. These programs prioritize selecting and training teachers who believe in providing quality education to all students.
“I’m deeply honored to be selected as the sole finalist for Superintendent, and I look forward to continued conversations with the Board. 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,” said Dr. Horton. “DeKalb is a place that inspires me, and the conversations that have led to this moment have only increased my excitement.”
Dr. Horton will engage with district employees, scholars, and community members during April 12-14, including three town hall meetings (TBA) and visits to schools in each region. The public is invited to submit questions and provide feedback during each town hall meeting by visiting www.dekalbschoolsga.org.
General questions regarding the selection of Dr. Horton as the sole finalist for DCSD superintendent can be sent to [email protected].
The DeKalb County Board of Education encourages all community members to participate in the upcoming town hall meetings and provide feedback on Dr. Horton’s candidacy. The Board is committed to ensuring a transparent and inclusive selection process that reflects the needs and aspirations of the District’s diverse community.
“We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Interim Superintendent Dr. Vasanne S. Tinsley for her dedicated service to the DeKalb County School District and 25+ years career in education. Dr. Tinsley’s wealth of experience and expertise has been invaluable during this transition period, and we thank her for stepping up to lead our district during this critical time. Dr. Tinsley will remain with us until June 30, 2023, to work collaboratively with Dr. Horton for a smooth transition,” added Board Chair DaCosta.
According to Georgia law OCGA 50-18-72, school districts must provide a minimum of 14 days for public input before finalizing an agreement with a new superintendent. The Board can vote on the appointment any time after the 14 days.
For more information and updates about Dr. Horton’s schedule, please visit the superintendent search page on the DCSD website and follow @dekalbschools on our social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Correction: The original version of this story said that Sen. Jones noted his spouse worked at DeKalb County Schools as an assistant principal on his most recent ethics disclosure forms, filed in May 2020. Decaturish contacted Jones via email on March 22 to inquire about this information. He didn’t respond. On April 5, Jones contacted Decaturish to confirm that he and his wife had separated awhile ago and that she no longer works for the district. This story has been updated with the correct information.
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