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Superintendent’s former business partner won’t be working for DeKalb County Schools

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Superintendent’s former business partner won’t be working for DeKalb County Schools

DeKalb County School District Administration and Industrial Complex on Mountain Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain. Photo by Dean Hesse

This story has been updated. 

DeKalb County, GA —  The DeKalb School Board recently approved the hiring of five central office staffers, but one of those hires raised eyebrows.

But that person has turned down the job, Decaturish has learned.

The school board on July 10 approved Horton’s hiring of Antonio Ross as the district’s new Director of Leadership and Development. Ross is 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 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.

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. The vote to hire Ross and Horton’s other hires was 6-1. School Board Member Dr. Joyce Morley was the sole board member who raised questions about Ross at the meeting and opposed hiring him.

Two sources knowledgeable of the situation confirmed that Ross has declined the job. The sources would not go on record because they are not authorized to speak on behalf of the district. Other sources working within the district heard the news as well. The district confirmed the news following the publication of this story.

A spokesperson said, “Mr. Antonio Ross respectfully declined his appointment, citing personal reasons.”

The district’s full announcement is at the end of this article.

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.

Morley spoke at length during the July 10 meeting about her opposition to Horton’s hires, and singled out Ross during her remarks.

“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.”

Here is the full announcement from DeKalb County Schools:

(STONE MOUNTAIN, GA) – The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) is pleased to announce the appointment of several highly qualified leaders by the Board of Education earlier this week. These individuals bring unique experience and expertise to their respective positions, further enhancing DCSD’s commitment to providing excellent educational opportunities for its students.

“These exceptionally talented leaders join an already outstanding District leadership team. I am confident that together, we will swiftly and strategically work to enhance academic achievement and revolutionize our processes and structures to best ensure the success and well-being of our students,” said Dr. Devon Horton, DCSD Superintendent.

The new leaders and their positions are:

– Chief of Community Engagement & Innovative Partnerships, Dr. Yolanda Williamson

– Associate Superintendent of Continuous Improvement, Dr. Markisha Mitchell

– Associate Superintendent of Leadership and Schools Ms. Michelle Dillard

– Director of Organizational Effectiveness Mr. Elijah Palmer

Dr. Horton pointed out that these leaders are filling previously vacant District positions. He added that their willingness to join DCSD will help advance the District’s commitment to designing and delivering a world-class education across its 138 schools, centers, and programs.

The four leaders will assume their new roles soon, although their start dates are still to be determined. One individual, Mr. Antonio Ross, respectfully declined his appointment, citing personal reasons.

The biographical professional experience and educational backgrounds of the appointees include:

— Dr. Yolanda Williamson was approved as the Chief of Community Engagement and Innovative Partnerships, which is responsible for overseeing a comprehensive strategy and implementation of all community partnership and engagement initiatives on behalf of the District. Since 2020, Dr. Williamson served as the DCSD Executive Director of Board Operations. Her previous experience includes being Superintendent of Calhoun County Schools (GA), DCSD Principal at The Champion School, Candler Elementary, and Kingsley Charter School, in addition to her positions as an assistant principal and teacher at multiple schools in DCSD, City Schools of Decatur, and Newton County. Dr. Williamson holds a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Sarasota, a Master of Arts from Clark Atlanta University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Georgia State University.

— ·       The Associate Superintendent of Continuous Improvement is Dr. Markisha Mitchell. In this role, Dr. Mitchell will plan and monitor student assessment programs, federal programs, research assessments, grants, leadership development, accreditation, and standardized testing services following applicable federal, state, and local requirements. Professionally, Dr. Mitchell served as Dr. Horton’s Chief of Staff in the Evanston-Skokie School District before her DCSD appointment. She’s also served as a middle and high school principal, assistant principal, and teacher. Dr. Mitchell holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from National Louis University, a Master of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University, a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Concordia University, and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Illinois State University.

—  Ms. Michelle Dillard is appointed as the Associate Superintendent of Leadership and Schools, which is charged with providing oversight, leadership, and direction for the efficient operation and academic management of schools in accordance with Board policy and strategic initiatives. Most recently, Ms. Dillard served with Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, KY, as an assistant superintendent since 2013. Prior to that, she was a high school principal, principal intern, assistant principal, and teacher. Ms. Dillard holds multiple degrees from Western Kentucky University (Master of Science and Rank I- School Superintendent), a Bachelor of Science from Murray State University, and an Associate Degree in Business Administration from Career Com Business College.

— Mr. Elijah Palmer is the new Director of Organizational Effectiveness, which oversees the design and execution of organizational effectiveness programs and district-wide key initiatives. Most recently, he was the Director of Culture and Climate with the Evanston/Skokie School District and a high school Culture and Climate Coordinator. Mr. Palmer holds a Master of Science in School Business Management from Northern Illinois University, a Bachelor of Arts from Duquesne University, and an Associate of Arts degree from the Kennedy King City College of Chicago.

Mr. Antonio Ross, appointed as the new Director of Continuous Improvement and Accountability, has declined to join DCSD, citing his decision to pursue another opportunity that better aligns with his immediate needs and priorities.

Reporter Zoe Seiler contributed to this story. 

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