DeKalb’s Newest Superintendent Dr. Devon Horton


Superintendent Dr. Devon Horton. Photo Courtesy of DCSD

Monserat Olivera, Staff Writer

DeKalb County’s previous superintendent, Cheryl Watson-Harris, was fired in late April 2022. Since then,  the DeKalb County School District has been on a nationwide quest to find a replacement. Unfortunately, this is nothing new for DeKalb County, over the past decade there have been 6 different superintendents. 

On April 4th, 2023, Dr. Devon Horton was named the Sole Finalist for the DeKalb County School District Superintendent position. The district followed up by providing a minimum of 14 days for public input before he became the official superintendent. Furthermore, the Dekalb County Board of Education held three Town Hall Meetings, in three different locations to foster a better understanding between the people and Dr. Devon Horton. The first Town Hall Meeting was held at Chamblee High School on Wednesday, April 12, 2023, from 6 to 8 pm.  

As Dr. Devon Horton and Principal Gail Barnes take their seats on the auditorium stage, Horton introduces himself as a man of humble beginnings. He is from Chicago and was raised in the largest urban housing facility in the nation. Yet, he describes how his mother emphasized school and academia. Furthermore, he grew to understand the difference the economic background of a child makes a difference in what the kid could be.  Therefore, he lives by the motto, “Students do not fail, it’s the systems that we create as adults, that fail our students.” 

Many have criticized Dr. Devon Horton’s lack of experience, as the Evanston/Skokie School District is 14 times smaller than DeKalb. Even so, we have worked with diverse student populations. 

The main topics of discussion that came up at this town hall meeting were: teacher recruitment and retention, aging buildings, and communication with parents.

Aging buildings were a major problem during former superintendent Watson-Harris’ incumbency. As seen through the controversy from a video filmed at Druid Hills High School exposing the neglect of building care went viral. Even our own buildings have been hit with insect infestations, plumbing issues, and air conditioning issues. Horton only pointed to the previous existence of a “master plan” and insisted that he hoped to prioritize general health and safety. Second he hopes to update the exterior of buildings, including windows and roofs. 

Chamblee High School is also one of the many schools in the district that suffer from a lack of teachers/ assistants. Throughout the years, the number of teachers who have left increases while the number of new teachers decreases. In Horion’s old district, he was criticized for spending excessive money ($45,000) on teacher residency programs (CREATE65 in 2020 & Cohort 1: School Year 2021-23). For the DeKalb District, he says he will work towards increasing the retention of teachers. In particular, he suggested education training and mental health support (social work liaisons and “face liaisons”). 

Horton wants to create a special education parent advisory group and one for parents in general. Furthermore, he wants to create communication opportunities between parents and staff. This could be like face-to-face events where people would be able to talk in a casual ambiance.  Transparency is what he hopes to accomplish between parents and staff. 

It can be noted that the questions are these town halls were prewritten. However, toward the end of the meeting, Horton opened the floor for unscripted questions. A few were about the case against him, as the previous superintendent of Evanston/Skokie School District 65, Horton was accused of violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Just north of Chicago, lies the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 which is composed of 7,254 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students. Stacy Deemar, a white drama teacher, filed a lawsuit claiming Horton’s race-conscious training, policies, and curriculum Furthermore, she believes District 65 has discriminated against her through “segregated staff meetings, imposing hiring quotas based on race, hosting racial affinity groups for staff, forcing teachers and students to undergo frequent race-based programming and maintain general policies and practices that classified individuals based on race.” Deemar’s attorney came from a conservative firm, she claimed the lawsuit is about what the district is telling students to think through the depiction of white people dressed as devils and spreading anti-white rhetoric to children. According to the lawsuit, examples include, “What it means “to be white but not be a part of whiteness, White people play a large role in the problems of racism today and throughout world history, Colorblindness helps racism. Colorblindness helps racism. And Encourage students to sign a pledge to be anti-racist.”

Parents at the town hall meeting questioned Horton on the case, and whether Dr. Horton would implement critical race theory to the curriculum. He responded by saying it was up to the community whether more gender and race-related lessons should be taught. 

On April 17th, the school board approved the current superintendent, Dr. Vasanne Tinsley’s contract through June 30 which will help the district with the transition to Horton’s power. 

On April 19th, the school board voted (6 to 1)  in favor of having Dr. Devon Horton as the newest superintendent. He will therefore start his new job on July 1.