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Superintendent Devon Horton presents vision for DCSD, including new ways to recruit teachers

DeKalb County Trending

Superintendent Devon Horton presents vision for DCSD, including new ways to recruit teachers

Dr. Devon Horton was sworn in as superintendent during a ceremony on June 29 at the DeKalb County courthouse. Photo courtesy of DCSD.

DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb Schools Superintendent Devon Horton laid out his immediate plans for improving the way DeKalb County schools function, which include 70 new jobs and teacher training programs. The plan will cost the district $12 million.

“I want to be clear, this is not about stacking the central office with administrators for fluff and for fun. This is about putting the resources in place so that our schools can have what they need,” Horton said. 

Horton said that while the most recent Milestones scores showed movement in the right direction, more work needed to be done.

English language arts and math coordinators will be available throughout the district to help improve literacy and math skills. Tutors will be available during the school day for students in Horizon (lowest-scoring) schools. 

Family and community engagement liaisons will also help to cultivate relationships with students and families in the most marginalized schools, while culture and climate coordinators will help address ongoing mental health and behavior issues.

“We know that our students are not ok. Many of them are dysregulated. We want to get out of the model of being punitive,” Horton said.

Horton called his approach “disrupting for excellence,” saying that he was trying to disrupt the norms of how DeKalb schools have been operating in the last few years, but disrupt it in a constructive way.  

Horton said that it was important to humanize the way that the district is dealing with students while remaining professional. Horton said that he would ask for respectful, professional interactions from the entire community, not only from staff but also from parents.

In the midst of a national teacher shortage, DCSD has gone from over 300 vacancies last year to just short of 400. Horton said that in addition, over the next few years 25% of DCSD’s teaching staff will be eligible for retirement. Meanwhile, so few people are choosing to go into the profession that some colleges have shut down their teacher training programs.

Horton will be starting a teacher residency program called Ignite DeKalb which will pay a stipend to student teachers during a two-year cycle that will prepare them for certification.

The state of Georgia has an alternative certification program called the Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy, or TAPP.  That program allows people with appropriate subject matter education but no teaching certificate or education coursework to take jobs as teachers while earning their certificate. Consequently, a TAPP student may walk into a classroom initially with little or no experience.

Interim Human Resources Director Dr. Tekshia Ward-Smith said that Ignite DeKalb will allow candidates to be student teachers in a classroom with a lead teacher, and gain classroom experience that way before taking charge of a classroom.

Another program called Teach for DeKalb will support current paraprofessionals in gaining the education and certification to become lead teachers. 

In addition, the school district will be paying bus drivers during training for their commercial driver’s licenses, to attract enough drivers to fill those vacancies.

Other measures will enhance and increase the quality of school safety, including a “panic button” system for teachers called CINTEGIX Crisis Alert and EVOLV Express, a nonintrusive way to see who is coming and going and to check for weapons.   

There will be a demonstration of the new systems at Columbia High School on Thursday, Aug. 3 at 11:30 am.

“I want to close out by saying this. Students do not fail. It is the systems we have created that fail the students,” Horton said.

“We can’t keep doing things the same way. That’s what disrupting for excellence means,” Horton said.

To see video of the press conference, click here.

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