Devon Horton.

Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Superintendent Devon Horton Monday was named the sole finalist to head the DeKalb County School District near Atlanta, Georgia.

The DeKalb district has more than 93,000 students and 131 schools, making it more than 10 times the size of District 65.

A news release from DeKalb schools calls Horton, “a disruptive leader with an unwavering belief in the potential for success of all children” and someone with “a proven track record of transforming educational institutions into sustainable, high-performing organizations.”

The DeKalb school board is expected to confirm Horton’s appointment later this month.

Horton, in a statement on the District 65 website, said, “I believe we have made great strides in furthering educational outcomes for all students.”

“It’s bittersweet for me to share that my next professional step will take me elsewhere,” He added. “I am excited by the opportunity and, while difficult, know this is the right decision for my family and me.”

Last March, the District 65 school board extended Horton’s contract, and gave him a 5% raise, to $262,500 for the current school year.  

The contract was supposed to run out in June 2023, but the board changed the end date to June 2026.

During his tenure, Horton has been a focal point for both praise and criticism.

Supporters cheered his role in getting the Board of Education to approve construction of a new, $40 million school in the 5th Ward, and the ongoing redrawing of school attendance lines.

Also applauded are the district’s teacher residency training program, to bring new “home-grown” educators to District 65, and the school system’s Academic Skills Centers, a tutoring program to help students recover from learning loss during the COVID pandemic.

But Horton has also been criticized for a nearly $500,000 private bodyguard contract, details of which were not made public until uncovered by Evanston Now.

District 65 enrollment has continued to decline, with Horton opponents saying some of the district’s academic policies have driven parents to leave for other school systems, or private or parochial schools.

Horton’s relations with the teachers union got off to a rocky start, particularly due to some veteran educators being transferred from one school to another.

There were also angry complaints about discipline problems, particularly at Haven Middle School.  However, lately, union-administration dealings seem to have improved.

District 65 says more information about the transition process and search for Horton’s replacement will come later this month.

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

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. So he used his tenure here to leverage leading a bigger district. What are we left with? Declining enrollment, bloated administration spending, exodus of teachers and admin talent, questionable spending, and $40 million in lease certificates for a school that hasn’t been built yet.

    What did we learn?

    1. “What did we learn?”
      Absolutely nothing since the incumbents were re-elected. This town is happy with the trajectory it’s on and therefore wants and deserves what’s coming.

  2. This is great news, but it hasn’t been approved yet.

    Interestingly, the DeKalb search was non-transparent just like the search that was done by District 65 when Horton was hired here. So they are just now in a position to learn about Horton’s background.

    Unlike what happened in District 65, Georgia law requires that there is a minimum two week period of public consultation before the board actually hires the superintendent. We are in that period now.

    Thus, the citizens from DeKalb could see what happened here and try and block the appointment.

    I remember that when I first learned Horton had been hired, I googled his name and saw the NBC report that he owed tens of thousands of dollars in fees and fines to the City of Chicago stemming from his real estate business. Of course by that point he had already been hired.

    Things could be different with the transparency in Georgia.

    Horton’s note to the community was clearly not a resignation letter, so if the DeKalb job falls through we could still have Horton around. Unless the board showed some independence, of course.

  3. So…. how much work did he miss interviewing for this role? I hope the
    board exercises greater care in the next selection process, because the last three years certainty haven’t seemed like a success.

    Unapologetically, Haven Parent

  4. Well our school board hired him and extended his contract in spite of declines in test scores and declining enrollment. If the next applicant mouths the same ritualistic platitudes …..” equity” , “ closing the achievement gap” “ transformational change” and no one bothers to go beyond that well we are in for another decline. Find out why the candidates are leaving their present job. What do the teachers in their school district say about them. How many side gigs do they have going What do they see as the challenges in District 65. Interviewing candidates requires more than listening to the same old rhetoric

  5. Assuming this goes through — and I don’t quite understand how he legally signs a three-year contract extension and then abruptly leaves, but I’m not a contract lawyer and don’t play one on the inter webs — it should be interesting to see how the Republican-led government in Georgia deals with this guy. Look for a slew of legislation a la what DeSantis has passed in Florida. Pass the popcorn.

    1. I was a former resident of Dekalb County. The demographics and politics of that county are very similar to Evanston. He will feel quite welcome there.

  6. With luck, Evanston voters will have selected a somewhat more independent school board to help shepherd D65 through the process of finding a new superintendent. I won’t miss Horton’s histrionics, self-dealing, defensiveness and indifferent-at-best leadership in the slightest.

    I hope this time we get a transparent, thorough, search process. All Evanston students deserve better than what we’ve seen over the last three years.

  7. Good riddance to this Grifter.
    Hopefully enough Evanstonians came out to vote so that there just may be a chance to turn the D65 school board around. Just maybe they can focus on the fundamentals of their service. School board members and the administration are to be honest and upstanding stewards of the education and well-being of our students. This chapter with Horton, his bloated administration and weak board is a disgrace.

  8. From a D65 teacher since Murphy, I say good riddance, Horton! Please, PLEASE take all the stooges and other FRIENDS you INSTALLED in brand new six-figure administration positions with you. Hopefully the new superintendent will quickly RIF all the new jobs you gifted your friends, trim the rest of the waste you’ve saddled our District with, and encourage staff to focus on giving ALL STUDENTS an education based on reading, writing, and math!

  9. Another D65 teacher and taxpayer here. Y’all need to quiet down. We WANT DeKalb to take him. And ALL the mediocre (at best) folx he brought in and gave $$$ to for doing absolutely nothing (without appropriate credentials). As taxpayers, we need to ask for some receipts for work these folx did to justify 6 figure salaries. What did they actually accomplish besides nominating themselves for awards on the backs of a few colleagues who actually earn their salaries? Some of these folx don’t even live here and are collecting paychecks. Head of HR is complicit. ASC tutors supervise students doing online work, taking them out of classroom learning opportunities, and no 5th ward school is actually built. How many Create teachers were adequately prepared and stayed in the program? Y’all give this dude TOO much credit. And stop calling folx racist when they call it out or leave the district. This person used this district to boost his, and his friends, resumes and CVs. Point blank. Period.

  10. $500,000 in private security fees and 50 sick days. Horror’s legacy: Declining enrollment and test scores.

    And school board president Sergio Hernandez announces “It has been an honor and a privilege to work alongside Dr. Devon Horton to advance the racial equity systems work in Evanston/Skokie School District 65.”

    I’d hate to meet the educator Hernandez isn’t “honored” to work with.
    Evanston: how low is our bar, when it comes to our children’s education? Maybe Hernandez should be exiting, too.

  11. Amazing and enlightening comments, particularly from those close enough to really know. Only positive comment here is by reference to Hernandez. What we really need is a qualified school board. Serving is time consuming, thankless and Payless so it’s no wonder we have a Board that loved Horton.

  12. Dr. Horton came from a school district of 96,000 students and will be going to school district with 92,000 students. He was always going back to a big city, big budget district. District 65 was a quick stop where he could make a name for himself by implementing extreme, unproven “equity” policies that are only acceptable in Evanston and San Francisco. I look forward to him eliminating middle school advanced math in DeKalb County Public Schools. Somehow I don’t think he’ll ever propose it, no matter how equitable it would be…

  13. I been saying he needs to go and need to take his co worker’s with him.what a waste of tax payer money’s Just saying. Been saying

  14. Too bad we are stuck with the same incompetent board that only cares about being saying yes’s to everything while the academic level declines at an alarming speed.

    But place your bets… another incompetent superintendent chosen by the incompetent board is coming.

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