It should probably come as no surprise that Devon Horton is leaving Evanston/Skokie School District 65 after just three years on the job.
Despite getting a pay raise to $262,500, and a contract extension from a 2023 end-date to 2026, Horton is now the sole finalist for superintendent of schools in DeKalb County, Georgia.
It should probably come as no surprise, because, in Horton’s own words, he’s always wanted to lead a large, diverse school district.
District 65 is certainly diverse, but large is another story. DeKalb schools have 93,000 students, more than ten times the number in the Evanston/Skokie system.
In Horton’s application to the DeKalb system under “Reason for Leaving” (as in reason for leaving District 65), Horton responds: “I have enjoyed serving as Superintendent in Evanston Skokie 65. My reason for seeking a new Superintendent position is based on wanting to lead a full kg [kindergarten] to 12 school district. My current district is kg to 8th. I am now fully aware of where my true passion lies and it lies with communities that have been marginalized and desire to be supported through true transformation.”
It should also probably come as no surprise that Horton is leaving because he has tried to obtain superintendencies before.
According to media reports, after being chief of schools in Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky, for only about a year (chief of schools is a high level position, but not superintendent), Horton was a finalist for superintendent vacancies in Rochester, New York; Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Indianapolis, Indiana in 2019.
He did not get any of those positions, and was hired by District 65 in 2020.
Horton’s departure from Evanston also does not come as a surprise to one of the people who voted to hire him, Board President Sergio Hernandez.
Hernandez had strong praise for what Horton implemented in District 65, but also said “we [in Evanston] say we’re progressive, but for leaders of color, we have a history of making it hard for them to lead.”
“We can’t seem to fully trust leaders of color,” Hernandez added, “and certain members of the community try to discredit them.”
But a school board candidate for school District 65 who lost on Tuesday sees things differently.
John Martin trails Hernandez by 153 votes, and could, at least in theory, pull out a victory if enough mail-in ballots break his way over the next two weeks, when they can still be counted. Martin, a Horton critic, told Evanston Now that it feels like the superintendent “is leaving us in the lurch. Everything is half-baked, and he’s taking off.”
In its announcement that Horton is their sole finalist, DeKalb County Schools called Horton “a Disruptive leader.”
Presumably that does not include the new disruption to District 65, which now has to find a new superintendent.
Good riddance. Let’s find a superintendent who cares more about education quality, student achievement and teaching excellence than spraying tax dollars into his own and his friends pockets.
Good luck, Georgia.
Please, please, please Evanston Now, ask each member of the school board the following: “Before hiring a superintendent, will you follow the open and transparent model used to hire Superintendents Murphy and Goren where you reveal the names of the finalists and invite a shortlist of 3 finalists to come to Evanston to participate in public forums, like the ones that Horton participated in when he was a finalist for the Rochester job?”
Hernandez, Soo La Kim, Hailpern, and Lindsay-Ryan all gleefully participated in the last, closed search. So it does not look promising. Some good journalistic work needs to get the entire board on record for how they intend to conduct the next search.
I think it is telling that Horton can only seem to get the head gig when there is a closed search.
“ We can’t seem to trust leaders of color and some in our community try to discredit them” says Mr Hernandez. For the President of the school board whose job is to have a level of collegiality uniting all the people who work together to have said that astonishes me. I guess he values disruptive policies instead of the basics of academic excellence
Tuesday’s results, where we the citizens of District 65 returned the same disappointing members to the Board and failed to elect the very rational John Martin, unfortunately means more of the same. I fear in a year those of us who are not supportive of Horton may be back on this comments page wishing we could go back to when it was only as bad as him.
Someone please show me. Besides skewed student achievement metrics, expansion of middle managing administrators, alienation of teaching staff & some parents, a ticking time bomb in the form of a “creative work-around” to finance the building of a new school during an unprecedented time of falling enrollment and crumbling infrastructure , and self awarded accolades, what exactly is Dr. Horton leaving behind? I buy the disruption part, but I challenge the board and his supporters: what is Dr. Horton’s legacy now that he’s quit for a larger district and a sizable increase in salary? Where do we go from here?
Horton has skated almost his entire career. A couple years here, a couple there, never long enough to be held accountable. In retrospect it is clear his entire tenure here was simply a resume buffering exercise, on the backs of Evanston’s KIDS and FAMILIES. Absolutely shameful.
Also, shame on the Board for not only hiring him, but for the process and their endless equivocations and excuses for his miserable performance. This isn’t even factoring in the shameless nepotism from board members and district staff that greased his process to hire.
I will take a lighter tact than what I wanted to post here.
Mr. Horton’s tenure is a cautionary tale Evanston can benefit from with this opportunity to hire a new superintendent. Disruption vs. balance.
I hope the hiring process will screen for and identify candidates that have balance … to focus on the whole child with a return to core curriculum as the priority while also addressing ideology as needed, yet not as heavy handed.
Former D65 superintendent Paul Goren was essentially bullied out by a school board who scapegoated him for virtually everything. They found Horton, extended his contract under the radar, and now publicly are espousing his stellar career here? Ever heard of gaslighting? Meanwhile with such dismal voter turnout, we are (still) dealing with the same old-same old when it comes to the D65 board. That is on all of us – every single resident who didn’t vote or didn’t pay attention. What a bummer.
I worked in D65 for years. Many of them under Horton’s tenure. The expansion of central office is baffling because not once was ANY professional development offered on any topic. What useless central admin! No vision, no desire to move toward science of reading curricula (instead keeping Culkins which is garbage for foundational skills.) Horton will jump, skip, and bop around districts for his career. Beware!
Investigate if cancelling that $43 million new building (should have gone on referendum) is more financially astute – no one has even YET mentioned the
additional costs to all the taxpayers for filling that new building with salaries.
I raised my daughter (and granddaughter) elsewhere so my concern about
these two school districts is totally financial.
Sadly, I agree with John Martin. I feel Dr Horton is leaving us in a lurch. Completion of the 5th Ward School should have been a top priority for Horton. After the many consultants hired during his tenure, test scores have not improved, morale is not good, and the ACC at Oakton Elementary School continues to be ignored. With a school board that seemed to support him, he should stay until his objectives have been met. An employee of ETHS shared with me that the quality of AA students has not been met since the tenure of Dr Hardy Murphy, who by the way, predicted all the financial ills future boards would face if they didn’t address funding issues. They didn’t, we did!
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