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Second day of DeKalb School Board retreat reveals first 30 days of 90 day plan, additional goals

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Second day of DeKalb School Board retreat reveals first 30 days of 90 day plan, additional goals

Superintendent Dr. Devon Horton presents update on his 90 day plan for DeKalb County Schools. Photo by Sara Amis

DeKalb County, GA — On the second day of their retreat Aug. 24, Superintendent Devon Horton presented an update on his 90-day plan for the district and said that he intends to provide periodic updates as the plan is executed and completed, as well as a follow-up at the 120-day mark.

“Day 30 was Monday,” Horton said.

During the retreat, the school board approved hiring six executive administrators:  Dr. Beth Kyle, Venessa Bines-Truitt, Dr. Kia Billingsley, Bridgette Allen, Dr. Lisa McGhee, and Terri Brown.

All of their job descriptions include instructional and curriculum support and are part of Superintendent Devon Horton’s reorganization plan. All are also internal hires.

So far, Horton has visited 12 elementary schools, four middle schools, and eight high schools, spending about an hour at each. Horton joked that he’d lost weight from the amount of walking he’d been doing. A schedule of six school visits per week will continue and include spending time with some staff members and parents.

Horton also plans weekly check-ins with board members and teacher organizations, as part of an ongoing process of meeting with staff and community members as well as the board to seek feedback on current changes and plans.

Horton emphasized the importance of data in decision-making.

“Not a single decision is the Devon Horton show. It’s all based on what is best for our students,” Horton said.

Horton said he had already secured agreements from some higher education programs to enable professional development for all staff who need it, not just certification. At the same time, he is working on developing teachers from within existing staff and members of the community, rather than only relying on recruiting already certified teachers.

Board Chair Diijon DaCosta said later that staff development also included things like improving benefits. In some cases, that will require change on the state level. Currently, the retirement formula for bus drivers only gives them $600 per month.

“They can’t retire,” DaCosta said, adding that changing that was a legislative priority for the district.

Horton offered a series of concrete short and medium-term goals for the district, including improving Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) scores by next spring, creating a common teaching framework and improving instruction, increasing the amount of time that school leadership spends on instruction, lowering the number of suspensions necessary, and raising graduation rates by next June and beyond.

He outlined specific steps he is taking to realize each goal, including academic support centers at each high school, and a graduation push plan for seniors at schools with graduation rates below 80% to ensure that each student who graduates has a concrete plan to attend college, go into the workforce, or join the military.

“There’s nothing like setting an expectation. When you set these expectations culturally, students respond,” Horton said.

Board member Vickie Turner asked about ongoing funding for some programs that are currently drawing on ESSER funds.

“I’ve talked with [Chief Financial Officer Byron] Schueneman, and we have some Title 1 and 2 funds that have remained untapped for whatever reason,” Horton said.

Board member Allyson Gevertz praised the amount that Horton has been able to do so far and said that she felt it was because of the time he spent learning about the district before he was even hired.

“It’s just beyond my wildest dreams,” Gevertz said.

Turner also praised Horton’s diligence.

“Your willingness to go the extra mile to get it right, it’s quite comforting,” Turner said.

Board member Whitney McGinnis said that it’s easy to make plans, but she was impressed with his execution of them.

DaCosta praised Horton’s commitment to carrying out his promises made in the interview process.

“You’ve done every single thing you told us you were going to do,” DaCosta said.

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