Devon Horton.


Devon Horton’s contract with the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 was terminated before it even ran out. But for Horton, that was good. Very good.

With one year left on his original three-year agreement, set to expire in June 2023, the Board of Education ripped up that contract this month and signed Horton to another that runs through June 2026.

“You’ve been incredible,” said Board President Anya Tanyavutti.

She praised Horton for “excellent early childhood outcomes,” and for developing the now-approved decision to build a 5th Ward school, “righting some wrongs,” the board president stated, “that some people told me was impossible.”

The board’s unanimous new contract vote took place March 14, but terms of the agreement were not released.

So Evanston Now obtained the contract via a Freedom of Information request.

Under the new agreement, Horton’s salary remains at $250,000 for the current school year, then goes up 5% to $262,500 for school calendar 2022-23.

In subsequent years, the superintendent receives a 2% annual salary increase or a raise equal to the increase in the consumer price index, whichever is greater (with a maximum annual hike of 6%).

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. Illinois public school educators do not pay into or receive Social Security, but are part of a teachers’ retirement system.

Horton’s first contract was “performance based,” as is the new one.

Some of the goals outlined in the original agreement were rather vague.

For example, one was “Improve student achievement for Black and Latinx students and significantly reduce the achievement gap related to college and career standards for reading and mathematics.”

But there was no definition of how “significantly reduce” was measured.

The new contract, however, does have targets which can be quantified.

“At the end of each school year,” the agreement states, “there will be at least a 3% increase in the number of Black and Latinx students making expected gains in reading and math” on a particular standardized test.

Another goal which was not in Horton’s original deal is “at least a 2% decrease in the number of students experiencing bullying” annually.

Horton, who came to Evanston from the chief of schools position for the Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, had previously been deputy superintendent in East St. Louis, Illinois, and a principal in the Chicago Public Schools system.

When the contract extension was approved, Horton told the board, “I’m just excited,” and “it means a lot to be on this team.”

Tanyavutti recalled when Horton was being interviewed for the District 65 position.

She recalled telling him, “We have some very big stuff for you to do and very little money to do it with, but you still came,” she laughed.

Of course, the very big stuff and needing money have not disappeared.

Budget cuts, potential school closings, building renovations, and, of course, the 5th Ward school are still out there.

And there is some wiggle room in the contract just in case the peformance goals are not met (there was similar wording in Horton’s original agreement).

The language states that “circumstances beyond the control of the Board and/or the Superintendent may prevent attainment, or require modifcation, of any of the goals.”

And yes, that can happen. Right about when Devon Horton began at District 65, something beyond his or any school official’s control took place and had a huge, negative impact on students and teachers — COVID-19.

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

5 Comments

  1. It would be beneficial if the contract had an outline of more specific goals and aims for the short term and long term. Pay raises for the top job while knowing that there is not enough money to do the business of managing the schools financially seems to be acting with utter lack of fiscal responsibility. Why is such lack of accountability tolerated? How are we going to tackle the elephant in the room? We have to have the money to pay for everything including capital improvements. How can this district continue to kick that reality down the road at every opportunity? Maybe a mission statement revisited would be helpful which includes all of the objectives of District 65, so that we don’t veer off course. And maybe the mission needs to expand to include the reality that the real estate we own needs some care, and that has to be a part of the budget. I’m not sure how you offer someone a raise without assessing affordability, from monies available for wages. Taking money from the maintenance and capital funds needed will only drag us deeper into debt. Why not hire an accountant with no political bias?

  2. He will also be able to keep his side hustle, his consulting business. D65 will also continue to hire every consultant they see. Good that he got another 50 sick days! He can cash those out and get paid even more. All based on this idea that this 5th ward school is going to happen through “miraculous” funding and on a magical timeline. Wait until they ask for a referendum on building repairs. He will continue to hire kush, non academic based positions at the top for communication and community engagement people that seemingly do nothing but make 6 figure salaries. They’ll cry poor when it’s time for teachers to get what they deserve on the next. That being said, they’ll probably be a lot of open positions because a lot of your kids’ favorite teachers are going to quit due to the toxic environment created and perpetuated by Horton, so they’ll save some money there.

  3. We know about his consultancy that Gene brings up, which raised eyebrows at the time it was revealed.

    But I am curious if anyone on the Board has gotten an explanation of the time he spends on his real estate investment firm, St. Chi Enterprises, which he set up in Missouri a few weeks after he began his position as Superintendent?

    Maybe it is me, but it seems unusual that someone who is supposed to be running a school district would have time to start a business and why is he incorporating it in Missouri?

    https://opencorporates.com/companies/us_mo/LC1730037

  4. District 65 board, please take a step back and think about what you are doing. You are placing an enormous amount of trust in one man, paying him many times more than those below him, and calling anyone who disagrees with his administrative decisions a name that has tremendous historical meaning. This is a school board. Not the start of some movement. Just give our kids a quality education they can use as they choose.

  5. Saying he has a limited budget is absolutely insane. Evanston’s property taxes are already beyond the pale, and the portion of those that go to schools or adjacent ‘equity’ programs, etc. are beyond that. This entire article reads of people back patting one another and keeping their preferred mask/CRT mandater in power.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.