3 takeaways from the DeKalb superintendent finalist’s job application

Devon Horton is the sole finalist to become the next superintendent of DeKalb County's school system. (Photo Credit: DeKalb County School District)

Credit: DeKalb County School District

Credit: DeKalb County School District

Devon Horton is the sole finalist to become the next superintendent of DeKalb County's school system. (Photo Credit: DeKalb County School District)

The DeKalb County community is getting the first glimpse of the man who could become its next school superintendent.

The school board announced Tuesday that its sole finalist for the job is Devon Horton, the superintendent of an Illinois school district with more than 20 years of education experience.

School district officials on Tuesday released Horton’s 17-page application, which includes his resume and answers to more than a dozen questions about all aspects of education. Here are three key takeaways from the documents.

1. He’s currently superintendent of a K-8 district

Horton became superintendent in Evanston/Skokie School District 65, a smaller district just north of Chicago, in June 2020. The district only serves students who are in pre-K through eighth grade. It has roughly 6,500 students and 1,500 employees.

The DeKalb County School District is massive by comparison, with about 93,000 students and 14,000 employees.

The change in size is what drew him to DeKalb, Horton wrote in his application.

“My reason for seeking a new Superintendent position is based on wanting to lead a full kg (sic) to 12 school district,” he wrote.

Prior to becoming superintendent in the Evanston/Skokie district, Horton was chief of schools for Jefferson County Public Schools, a district with more than 100,000 students.

2. He’s committed to equity

Horton’s application emphasizes a commitment to helping marginalized students.

“‘Students do not fail, it’s the systems that we create that fail our students’ is my value system,” he wrote. “We must all be persistent in our pursuit of not allowing a student’s zip code to dictate his or her future.”

The Chicago native notes that he was affected by redlining — the practice of labeling predominantly Black neighborhoods “undesirable” and denying residents in those areas home loans and insurance. He wrote about the importance of being vigilant about policies and practices that allow inequities to persist.

“There have been many efforts in place to derail the equity work across the country,” he wrote. “It’s clear that the inequities really live within the system and not so much by an individual or group. So our strongest strategy has to be to dismantle the systems that continue to plague our school systems.”

Horton said that the Evanston/Skokie school district has one of the largest achievement gaps in the country and he was tasked with helping to close it. His efforts to give historically marginalized students first priority for in-person learning in the early months after the pandemic were criticized by some national conservative groups.

He also noted that most of the students in the Jefferson County Public School district are minority students, like DeKalb. During his two years there, Horton said he helped the district fulfill a corrective action plan from the state related to poor performance at schools.

3. He’ll likely get a raise

Horton reported on his job application that his current base salary is $262,500. If hired for the DeKalb role, he will likely receive a sizeable boost in pay.

Interim DeKalb Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley has a base salary of $325,000, which reflects what former superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris was being paid.