Apr 17, 2023 - News

DeKalb prepares to select next school superintendent

Devon Horton

Dr. Devon Horton is the sole finalist for DeKalb County superintendent. Photo: DeKalb County School District

The DeKalb County Board of Education is poised to consider hiring its third superintendent since the start of the pandemic.

Driving the news: Dr. Devon Horton, superintendent of Evanston/Skokie School District 65 in Illinois, was named a finalist on April 4 by the school board.

  • The board will be able to take action after a 14-day period allowing the community to learn more about him.

Flashback: DeKalb board members last April voted to fire former superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris, who was hired in 2020. The move sparked criticism from parents and other community members.

  • Dr. Vasanne Tinsley was named the interim and has been serving in that capacity for roughly a year.

Context: If hired, Horton would be the eighth superintendent DeKalb County schools has had since 2010 when Crawford Lewis, the former district leader, was fired during an investigation into how the district awarded school construction contracts, reports the AJC’s Maureen Downey.

What they’re saying: “You don’t want to come here,” one resident told Horton at a town hall last week at Mcnair Middle School. "Our school board is the problem. The clique…will not let you run it.”

Lauren Taylor, a community stakeholder who advocates for greater awareness about dyslexia in children, told Axios that Horton did not shy away from the tough questions about topics such as teacher retention, students’ ability to read and improving the graduation rate.

  • "My hope is that the board will actually listen to the stakeholders and that the board will actually let him do his job," she said.

The intrigue: The days following the district’s announcement that Horton was the finalist have been mired with discussions about his qualifications and whether he has the support of the entire board.

  • On Friday, State School Superintendent Richard Woods wrote a letter to the board, urging them to keep Tinsley as superintendent, according to Decaturish.
  • Board member Dr. Joyce Morley told the AJC that she and her colleagues were split and that Tinsley — not Horton — was among the top five choices.
  • Other issues raised in an editorial by Decaturish include a lawsuit over anti-racist initiatives and concerns that the Evanston district awarded a contract to Horton’s business partners.

Yes, and: Some have also raised concerns that Horton is not prepared to manage a district with about 92,000 students since he runs a system that has about 7,300 students enrolled.

  • His supporters counter the fact that Horton has previous experience as chief of schools in Kentucky’s Jefferson County Public Schools, which has around 97,000 students.
  • "These professional experiences provide a unique perspective on how to navigate the complexities of varied school populations," Board member Allyson Gevertz said on her Facebook page.

What we’re watching: Board members could vote as early as this week on whether to hire Horton.


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