After nepotism accusation, DeKalb school board approves relative hire

Joyce Morley was the only DeKalb County school board member to vote against the hiring of the husband of one of DeKalb's highest-ranking administrators. (Jason Getz / AJC file photo)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Joyce Morley was the only DeKalb County school board member to vote against the hiring of the husband of one of DeKalb's highest-ranking administrators. (Jason Getz / AJC file photo)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

The DeKalb County school board ratified the contract of a new employee — the husband of a division chief — almost two months after he was hired.

Board member Joyce Morley argued that the hire violated the district’s nepotism policy, Channel 2 Action News reported in October. But she was the lone no vote at Monday’s meeting. The rest of the board upheld the hire.

DeKalb Superintendent Devon Horton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the original hire complied with the district’s policies, but didn’t follow its long-standing practice.

“You gotta honor the practice,” he said. “Policies and past practice is what carries the district.”

Michelle Dillard was hired in July as the district’s associate superintendent of leadership and schools, which in August became the chief of schools position. Her husband Donald Dillard began working in the district on Sept. 29, according to documents from his personnel file obtained by the AJC via an open records request.

Donald and Michelle Dillard both worked with Horton in Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky.

The DeKalb school district hired Donald Dillard as a student engagement coordinator. His supervisor is Markisha Mitchell, the district’s chief of continuous improvement. Upon his hire, Donald Dillard also filled out a relative disclosure form that stated the relationship.

DeKalb’s policy, as written, prevents high-ranking employees from hiring their relatives to other high-ranking positions or directly supervising them. But typically in DeKalb, the board votes on the hire of relatives of any current high-ranking employee — even if the relative is not being hired for a leadership role, Horton explained. In this case, the board did not publicly vote on Donald Dillard’s hire, but was notified of it in a regular personnel report, Horton said.

Other board members did not comment on the issue publicly, but Morley stated that she felt like the hire was part of a larger scheme to bring people in from outside the district to fill new jobs.

“There’s a way for things to be done,” Morley said at Monday’s meeting. “There was no way on God’s green earth that this was not part of a setup all along.”

In the Louisville district, Donald Dillard was a principal and supervisor, according to his resume. Michelle Dillard was an assistant superintendent.

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