Devon Horton.

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, the answers to “who” Horton just hired are Elijah Palmer and Markisha Mitchell, a couple of top administrators Horton brought with him to District 65, and is now taking away.

After just three years at the helm of Evanston/Skokie schools, Horton resigned to become superintendent of the much larger DeKalb County School System in Georgia, effective July 1.

And it did not take long for Horton to reach back into Evanston to build his administrative team in Georgia.

Mitchell was with District 65 for only a year. A Horton hiree from Joliet, she left Evanston as chief of staff, a position that will not be re-filled.

Palmer and Horton go back a decade, to when Horton was the principal of Phillips High School in Chicago, and Palmer was an administrator. At D65, Palmer was dean of culture and climate, from 2021 until now.

Elijah Palmer, at a District 65 board meeting in February.

District 65 spokesperson Hannah Hoffmeister issued a statement saying the system is “grateful for … [Palmer’s] contributions and wishes him well in future endeavors.” A search is under way for his replacement.

It’s not unusual for a new boss to hire from a previous employer in any business.

In fact, another Horton hire for DeKalb County (Michelle Dillard) is from the Jefferson County (Louisville) Kentucky system, and was there while Horton was chief of schools, his job before joining District 65.

Besides directly hiring two of his former Evanston colleagues, Horton also played a role in another Evanston administrator leaving District 65.

While still on the District 65 payroll, Horton was consultant for a search firm that ended up placing Assistant D65 Superintendent Andalib Khelghati as superintendent of the Oswego, Illinois district.

Andalib Khelghati, former D65 assistant superintendent.

District 65 has said Horton’s consulting gig was permitted under his contract, as he had informed the school board of the outside work, and the board did not see it as conflicting with his D65 duties.

District 65 is now looking for an executive director of human resources, something Khelghati had been handling on an interim basis.

The falling dominoes of job shifts has led to changes here. You might want to take notes. It’s kind of complicated.

Former Assistant Superintendent Angel Turner is now Interim superintendent until a permanent replacement for Horton is chosen.

Lydia Ryan, former chief of schools for D65 has been named interim assistant superintendent, filling Turner’s position for now.

Ryan, in turn, is replaced by Charmekia McCoy as interim chief of schools. McCoy had been principal at Willard Elementary.

And now class, what’s missing? Why, an interim principal at Willard, to temporarily replace McCoy, of course.

And so, the D65 board, during a special meeting Thursday, hired Nataly Lopez for that position.

Nataly Lopez, named by D65 Board as interim principal at Willard Elementary.

She had been an assistant principal in the Bensenville elementary schools, and told Evanston Now she hopes to see the “interim” removed someday from her title at Willard.

District 65 is searching for a permanent Willard principal, and Lopez said she expects to apply.

“I hope to have a long tenure here,” she added.

Devon Horton’s tenure here was short.

Despite the District 65 board extending his original three-year contract through 2026, he headed for a larger district and larger paycheck ($325,000 vs. $262,500).

In the final action in the special meeting, the D65 board voted to pursue the $25,000 Horton owes the district by contract, because he left before that contract expired.

Evanston Now had first reported on the existence of that payback segment in Horton’s employment deal.

It’s not a buy-out.

It’s more of a “bye, out.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation


  1. So consulting to hire people away from the firm for which you work is not a conflict with your duties? Did I really read that comment from our D65 school board?

    1. In corporate it’s called poaching. I would expect better from our District 65 board. Let’s take each search as trying to find the brightest and best for our kids, not who is loyal to the newest Superintendent.

      1. Expect better, from THIS board? This board has been actively complicit with every choice and action made by Horton and his cronies. Someone with access to the data should do a point by point comparison of the state of the district before and during Horton. I’m sure the differences would be shocking. I’m the end, what has Horton improved for the betterment for all our children?

  2. I understand virtually all school principals fled under Horton’s watch. Will any of those competent principals return upon the hiring of a new principal?

    1. Let’s not kid ourselves. The core board members who hired Horton were all re-elected in the last two elections.

      Nobody running as a reformer won.

      From the day he was hired It was clear as day that Horton was unqualified and had so many red flags (like the tens of thousands of dollars NBC reported he owed to the City of Chicago) that it was clear from the beginning he was going to be a disaster.

      Yet we re-elected the people who hired him.

      At this point they are emboldened to run another secretive superintendent hire. I am expecting nothing less than Horton 2.0. So we are not likely to see talented educators running back to the District. We can expect the exodus to continue.

    2. Teachers who’ve left often took pay cuts or loss of service time towards retirement from their new district. One can only imagine how bad the working environment is at D65(which is also our Childrens learning environment) for a person in this economy to take a lesser paying job just to be done with this district. So once again, any board members wish to chime in about how much things have improved during Horton’s tenure?

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