“If I could sing,” said Devon Horton on Monday night, “I’d sing ‘End of the Road’ by Boyz II Men.”
But, admitting that his singing voice was not necessarily of choral quality, the about-to-become-former superintendent at Evanston/Skokie School District 65 spoke, rather than sang, about what he called “three amazing years” at the helm of the preK-8 school system.
Horton will become superintendent of the DeKalb County Schools in Georgia on July 1, but Monday was the final scheduled D65 board meeting before his departure.
Horton thanked the board, saying, “I would challenge any community to go against this board in taking action on what they believe in.”
Board president Sergio Hernandez, who was on the board when Horton was hired away from the Jefferson County, Kentucky schools, called Horton a “dream come true” for working on a “broad systematic transition” of District 65 and moving towards greater equity.
Horton’s legacy will no doubt be highlighted by upcoming construction of the 5th Ward school, putting a neighborhood school back into a minority-majority part of town which has been without a community school for decades.
Other significant accomplishments include attendance boundary restructuring (once the 5th Ward building opens in 2025), the teacher residency program where the district “grows its own” educators who are then hired once a training period ends, and the Academic Skills Centers, a tutoring program that the district says has improved student performance for those below grade level.
Horton also thanked his administrative team, teachers and other staff members, the community, and District 65 students.
Horton noted a “partnership with our unions,” where the two sides were able to disagree from time to time “in a very friendly way.”
Those management-union relations apparently improved significantly over the past 18 months, as in late 2021, sign-toting teachers packed a school board meeting and cited a letter their union had written, that said administrators had “destroyed morale in our schools and allow[ed] for a toxic climate to continue unchecked.”
Lately, however, union leaders have been quite positive about Horton.
Horton’s tenure was not without controversy, including the above-mentioned dispute with the teachers. There was his almost $500,000, round-the-clock private bodyguard contract, details of which were revealed by an Evanston Now investigation.
And, of course, there was Horton’s surprise departure for Georgia, not long after the District 65 board had extended his original three-year contact here, from a 2023 end-date to 2026.
Horton praised Angel Turner, the interim superintendent named recently to fill Horton’s position while a nationwide search takes place for a permanent successor, or at least as permanent as can be hoped in the high-turnover business of school leadership.
And while Horton is clearly looking forward to his job in Georgia, he also said he will look back with pride on his days in Evanston.
“I will still carry the District 65 flag loud and proud.”