District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton might be said to be jumping from the frying pan into the fire with his move to head the DeKalb County Schools in Georgia.

While Evanston’s District 65 has had two superintendents since 2013 and controversy over a variety of issues, the DeKalb district has burned through four superintendents in that time — including two who were terminated by the board.

That’s according to a report last fall from Cognia, a non-profit accreditation organization — and doesn’t count interim appointees.

After interviews with each of the DeKalb school board’s seven members, the report indicated that “board members are not working collectively in support of the mission” of the school district.

In reporting on the Cognia accreditation review, local news site Decaturish summed it up as concluding the board “is still a dysfunctional body pursuing individual interests instead of working for the district as a whole.”

Administrators interviewed by the accrediting group said board meetings are “hard to watch, very combative” and “board members are disrespectful to each other.”

Several administrators reportedly said they were “determined to continue to lead their schools and support high-quality learning and teaching ‘in spite of’ the Board.”

The DeKalb district — like Evanston — has faced declining enrollment and disappointing test scores.

Horton is scheduled to be in DeKalb County next week for a series of town hall meetings

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. I’m not going to believe Horton is gone until the ink is dry in DeKalb.

    This reporting in the Atlanta Journal Constitution is something else. Apparently Horton was not even in the top five of the candidates by the search firm. The interim person was deemed highest qualified by the search firm and is supported by the teachers.

    There is clearly a significant contingent on the board who did not want Horton. Why else go to the press with this sort of stuff other than as a last ditch effort to scuttle the appointment?


  2. I found it interesting (although not uncommon) that when asked “can we contact your current employer” on his application for the DeKalb superintendent, Dr. Horton ticked the “no” box. With him already pulling the trigger and expressing his desire to leave Evanston with many of his initiatives unresolved, unmet, or in limbo, all with financial strings still attached, what happens if the fickle DeKalb school board rescinds their offer? Would our equally fickle board welcome him back with open arms to fulfill the remaining years of his contract? Would Parents?

    1. You get the sense that Dr. Horton can do no wrong in the eyes of the D65 Board, so they would probably celebrate a rescinded offer as a win for Horton’s friends… I mean D65’s kids and families.

    2. Horton’s email announcing this was decidedly NOT a resignation letter.

      Given the size of the District in DeKalb it is really unbelievable that they would hire Horton. He wasn’t really qualified to head District 65 having never run a school district before. He didn’t accomplish anything in Evanston in his three short years to demonstrate he could run a much larger and more complex district.

      Given that Horton said what motivated him to apply to DeKalb was that it is a K-12 district, under normal circumstances it would not be tenable for him to stay in Evanston if DeKalb ultimately rejects him.

      Of course, the District 65 board seems so feckless and ideological that they would probably be fine with keeping him on while he has his eye on other jobs.

      At some point the enrollment trends plus the financial mess that he put the district in with the new school construction is going to catch up with the District. He clearly doesn’t want to be around when that happens.

      1. Horton accomplished plenty! Driving out 20 pct of a districts students and destroying the reputation of Evanstons schools in just 3 years is quite impressive.

    3. Whether the board or community is pleased or not, Dr. Horton has a contract. If the DeKalb opportunity falls through, then the board might consider some options. If they want them out then they would have to buy him out of his contract, which might not be worth it. Horton can point out that the much larger school district was an advancement opportunity for him, and if the district is going to have an ambitious superintendent then they are going to have one who will likely take a shot at a big professional advancement opportunity.

      The previous city manager of Evanston was pursuing opportunities to move to the Pacific Northwest. This was public knowledge and the city council kept working with him.

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