Type to search

DeKalb School Board hires central office employee who was superintendent’s former business partner

DeKalb County Editor's Pick Trending

DeKalb School Board hires central office employee who was superintendent’s former business partner

DeKalb County School Board member Dr. Joyce Morley virtually attends the boards regular meeting on May 9, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.

This story has been updated. 

DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb County School Board during its July 10 meeting approved recommendations to hire five central office positions. Board Member Dr. Joyce Morley objected to the hiring, and the item was not placed on the consent agenda for the board’s business meeting.

One of the people hired, Antonio Ross, is newly hired Superintendent Dr. Devon Horton’s former business partner, according to a report by a citizen who investigated Horton during his time as superintendent of Evanston/Skokie District 65 in Chicago. Ross is now the district’s Director of Leadership and Development.  Board members said they had reviewed the resumes of the people Horton hired, but it’s unclear if they were aware of Horton’s history with Ross.

Decaturish asked the district whether Ross is filling an existing vacancy or if his position is new.

After Morley had the new hires moved off the consent agenda, the board later approved all five hires as a separate item during the regular business meeting, voting 6-1, with Morley voting no. She also voted against approving all other items on the consent agenda.

Morley raised concerns about Superintendent Dr. Devon Horton making hiring recommendations at his first school board meeting. Horton was sworn into office on June 29 and assumed the role of superintendent on July 1.

“We need over 500 and some teachers,” Morley said. “This new superintendent, Dr. Horton, should be out with the human resources department trying to see what we’re going to do to pad these classrooms and get teachers into these classrooms.”

Here are the other personnel recommendations that came out of Monday’s executive session:

– Dr. Markisha Mitchell to the position of Associate Superintendent of Continuous Improvement / Accountability. 

– Michelle Dillard to the position of Associate Superintendent Leadership and Schools

– Dr. Yolanda Williamson to the position of Chief Community Engagement and Innovative Partnerships

– Elijah Palmer to the position of Director of Organizational Effectiveness

She claimed that Horton is trying to pad the central office with his friends during his first week on the job.

“An effective leader does not operate like that,” Morley said. “I’m looking at even the position for client and community [engagement]. I have no problem with Dr. Williamson. She’s great at what she does, but where’s the money coming from? That position was taken out of the budget.”

Morley also raised concerns about hiring Ross pending an investigation at his previous job. Ross was removed from his position as principal of Hyde Park Academy in Chicago on March 31. The reason for his removal has not been disclosed by Chicago Public Schools, according to the Hyde Park Herald.

In a letter sent to parents on March 31, Network 17 Chief of Schools Myron Hester said Ross was removed from his duties “effective immediately due to an investigation by the [Chicago Public Schools] Office of the Inspector General that substantiated findings against Mr. Ross,” the Hyde Park Herald reported.

In addition, Ross and Horton were in business together, according to the FOIA Gras newsletter covering Evanston / Skokie District 65 in Chicago, where Horton previously served as superintendent.

“On 8/27/2020, District 65 Superintendent Horton incorporated an LLC, National Stand Up LLC, with four individuals (Antonio Ross, Samuel Ross, Alfonzo Lewis, and Raymond Jones),” FOIA Gras reported. The formation was two months after he was hired as Superintendent in June 2020. According to the Secretary of State, the company was involuntarily dissolved on 2/10/2022.”

Another company affiliated with Ross received no-bid contracts from District 65, according to FOIA Gras.

“We keep bringing in people and people that should not be in a position. If he’s fired from there, under investigation, why does DeKalb County want him,” Morley asked. “What superintendent comes in at the first meeting and wants five chiefs?”

During the July 10 school board meeting, Morley added that an effective leader observes and assesses the need when coming into a new job.

“I cannot stand by and watch you all keep ramping up central office, and you don’t even have the teachers to go in the classrooms,” Morley said. “[Horton] hasn’t a chance to assess the lay of the land. You were interviewed, you stated that you would take 90 days, you would observe and assess. You haven’t observed and assessed anything. You haven’t even had school start.”

She added that Horton is a disruptor, comparing him to Russian President Vladimir Putin and former president Donald Trump.

“Vladimir Putin is a disruptor. So is the guy who was in the White House, trying to get back in, is a disruptor. Sometimes disruptors cause problems and what happens is corruption comes in, then destruction is in suit,” Morley said.

Horton should be working with the district’s human resources department to fill teacher vacancies and increase morale, Morley said.

“I am embarrassed as a taxpayer that my money is being used for stuff like this. That’s all [he’s] thinking about is raising the top while the bottom is suffering,” Morley said.

“The bottom line comes down to the way you start a relationship is going to be the way it ends,” Morley added.

After voting to approve Horton’s cabinet, other school board members welcomed him to the district. Some noted that he had begun working on behalf of the district well before his official July 1 start date.

“We know this is not an easy job, it is long hours, but also it can be one of the most rewarding and most fulfilling jobs, and I did want to just say even though technically Dr. Horton started on July 1, I think we all know he has been busy doing his homework, meeting with staff, meeting with us as board members,” Board member Whitney McGinnis said. 

School Board Vice Chair Deirdre Pierce said she hopes Horton could turn DeKalb Schools into a “waiting-list only” district.

School Board Chair Diijon DaCosta acknowledged the difficult task Horton has in front of him.

“No one said this was going to be easy,” DaCosta said.

Editor and publisher Dan Whisenhunt contributed to this story. 

Want Decaturish delivered to your inbox every day? Sign up for our free newsletter by clicking here.

If you appreciate our work on this story, please become a paying supporter. For as little as $6 a month, you can help us keep you in the loop about your community.