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DeKalb Superintendent Devon Horton presents update on his 90-day plan

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DeKalb Superintendent Devon Horton presents update on his 90-day plan

Superintendent Dr. Devon Horton attends DeKalb County School District’s annual Back-to-School Rally at James R. Hallford Stadium in Clarkston on Saturday, July 22, 2023. “Today is an amazing day for our students and staff, families and community to be able to come together and celebrate as we begin to embark on our first day of school. It’s exciting seeing the families and the community partners that have brought their businesses and resources to our families and it means a lot for us,” Horton said. “I am excited, and I really believe as we talk about leveling up its going to be a great year.” Photo by Dean Hesse.

DeKalb County, GA — This week’s Nov. 13 DeKalb Board of Education meeting marks roughly 90 days since DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Dr. Devon Horton started working for the district. 

During the meeting, Dr. Horton presented his “90-day” plan document, which can be viewed here

The document gives an overview of what Dr. Horton and his administration have accomplished and gives an outline for the “In-Progress” programs that have begun in his initial three months. 

The document lists around 120 programs, detailing how they fit into the larger MIRACLES framework. Programs range from technology integration and infrastructure upgrades to curriculum improvements and review of financial processes. Each program identified in the document includes details on its current status, specific steps taken or to be taken, with a general timeline and the people accountable. 

This document, while containing some similar material, is functionally different from the “90-day Entry-plan” Dr. Horton presented during the board retreat around when he began as superintendent. This initial document talks vaguely about initiatives but functionally serves more to just describe the approach Horton and his team would take.

Whereas with this updated expanded version, Dr. Horton stated that the goal is for anyone to be able to, “Go into this document, identify what the priority is in [an] area, see who’s on the hook for it, allowing you to contact them to see who’s accountable, who needs to be consulted and who needs to be informed. It gets you answers to your questions much quicker.”

The superintendent also talked about ThoughtExchange, a “survey platform” for gauging community sentiment, as playing an important and potentially expanding role in this process, by giving the community a clear way to share direct feedback. 

As of Nov. 13, Thought Exchange has 1475 posts and Dr. Horton mentioned the platform specifically as a way to potentially tap into student feedback on the state of the district. Thought Exchange can be accessed here.

Board Member Dr Joyce Morely was verbose in her critique of the presentation, as with most agenda items on the day, while the rest of the board was complimentary. 

“This is the real work that we need to be doing,” Board member Allyson Gevertz said. “It’s amazing to behold because [our departments] are out of silos, they’re collaborating. And talking about really important issues.” 

“This is a wonderful map for what our school district is doing, has done and will do” said Board member Anna Hill. 

In addition to going over programs, the document restates the bigger picture ethos of the district and guiding framework of the administration, as well as listing key accomplishments of Dr. Horton and his team from their first 90 days. Accomplishments cited in the document include visiting 83 schools, and hiring 61 new bus drivers and 886 new teachers since taking office.

Dr. Horton said that updates will be given on where he and his team are on the goals outlined by the document every six months.

In other school board news: 

— Cabinet member Dr. Markisha Mitchell presented graduation rates for the 2022-2023 school year. The district had a 75.77% graduation rate compared to an 84.4% State average. Based on the data given from the past six years, while this was a decrease from the previous year, it was not a significant one (“significant” defined as more than one standard deviation away from the mean).

 The data also showed graduation rates broken down by demographic: 

– Black students at 77% 

– Hispanic students at 60.73% 

– White students at 91.6% 

– Asian students at 80.61%

– Multi-Racial students at 77.78%,  

– Alaskan native/Pacific Islander students at 88.24 %

– Economically disadvantaged students at 73.6 %

– “English-Learner” students at 54.88%

– Students with disabilities at 62.63%

Most demographics did not experience a significant change when compared with performance over previous years. Black students had a marginally significant improvement in graduation rates, increasing by 1.01% since the previous year. Similarly, economically disadvantaged students, and Hispanic students had marginally significant declines, decreasing by 0.27% and  2.15% over the same period respectively. The Students with disabilities had graduation rates increase within expectation, but continued a six-year upward trend. The “Alaskan Native/Pacific Islander students” group has too few students to adequately control for fluctuations, based on the data given.  

Dr. Mitchell said, in response to a question from the board, that the administration is digging into the “Why’s” of the changes in graduation rates. 

– Cabinet Member Dr. Tekshia Ward-Smith presented the Human resources report for the month of November. As of this month, the district has 97% of its postings filled. There were 172 new hires: 24 teachers, 24 paraprofessionals (employees who work under the supervision of a licensed teacher), 31 Substitute teachers and 13 bus drivers. 

The board also approved:

— The second renewal of four of a contract with several firms to provide temporary staffing services on an as-needed basis for the DCSD Finance Department for a period of one year effective from December 17, 2023, through December 16, 2024, for an amount not to exceed $750,000.

— The award of an RFP, not to exceed $34,876,233, for general contractor services and HVAC & Controls Replacement to F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen & Associates, LLC. The work will be done at Chapel Hill Middle, Stephenson Middle, Druid Hills Middle and Columbia Elementary. 

— A Contract with Canty Consulting Services from November 13, 2023 to November 12, 2024 not to exceed $250,000. This contract is with a consultant to assist in ensuring compliance with wage requirements needed to access federal funds for facilities improvements. 

— The purchase of musical Instruments at an amount not to exceed $3,673,587.93. This expenditure will be paid for by funds from SPLOST V. There are several is

— The purchase of band uniforms for Chamblee High School, Clarkston High School, Redan High School, and Stephenson High School, not to exceed $315,000. 

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