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.