Devon Horton.

Devon Horton might have to help pick up the tab to find his replacement.

The soon-to-be-former superintendent of Evanston/Skokie School District 65 is heading to Georgia, to become superintendent of DeKalb County Schools effective July 1.

While Horton still has three years remaining on his District 65 contract, that agreement contains a clause allowing him to “unilaterally terminate” the deal.

But that clause also says Horton has to pay $25,000 in to the school board for pulling out of the contract with less than six months’ notice, which is the time frame here.

The actual language states that “In the event of unilateral termination with less than one-hundred-eighty (180) days’ notice or an effective date not at the end of the school year, the superintendent shall pay to the Board, as liquidated damages, TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND AND NO/100 ($25,000) DOLLARS….”

If he gave at least 180 days’ notice and left at the end of the year, the penalty would be reduced to $15,000.

In either case, the contract states that the payment relates “the aggregate costs to the Board of the search to obtain the Superintendent’s successor and any interim replacement.”

There is a chance, however, that the District 65 school board could let Horton leave without paying the penalty at all.

The contract says that the relevant “liquidated damages” paragraph “does not apply if the parties mutually agree to end this Contract.”

Evanston Now has sent a request to top school board leaders, asking if they intend to waive the penalty.

Update 4/22/23: School Board President Sergio Hernandez said on Saturday that Horton will be required to make the penalty payment as specified in the contract.

(The termination language is on page 11 of the contract, which is page 16 of the FOIA response included below.)

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

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  1. D65 has, literally, nothing to lose in enforcing this liquidated damages clause and should absolutely seek to do so prior to Horton’s last couple paychecks.

  2. It’s a contract and the penalty must be enforced. He was even willing to start work early in Georgia while still on D65 payroll!
    If the shoe was on the other foot and he had been terminated by D65 without cause, of course HE would seek a payment or buyout.

  3. When they gave him a new contract a year ago, he was given 50 sick days. Is the District going to have to pay that out or is that going to be used to fund the buyout? Yet one more example of how little regard the Board has for guarding the resources the taxpayers provide.

    1. Not sure. The Evanston Now article RE: Horton’s extension says: “The new agreement also provides some new benefits: a $30,000 annual annuity contribution, and a one-time granting of 50 sick days (on top of the standard administrator’s sick time). Unused sick days can be applied to help qualify for pension vesting.”

      If he does get paid out for the 50 sick days (which I think is IL law typically), that certainly would be more than $25k penalty, so he comes out ahead. Just not totally sure it can be used after his official end date. I am not a contract attorney certainly.

  4. I’m sure the fan club, I mean, the school board will find a way to accept the blame and let him walk away without paying.

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