DeKalb approves two-year contract for incoming school superintendent

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

The DeKalb County Board of Education on Wednesday approved a two-year contract for Devon Horton, who was hired last month to be its next superintendent.

Horton will start July 1. The contract ends June 30, 2025, with an option to renew another year.

His base salary was set at $325,000, which matches the compensation for interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley’s and former superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris.

Horton’s compensation also includes the full-time use of a driver and a vehicle for business-related travel, according to the signed contract. Watson-Harris’ contract allowed the option to drive her own car and be reimbursed for up to $600 in related expenses a month, or drive a district vehicle herself.

Additionally, Horton will be reimbursed up to $20,000 in moving expenses and receive a $2,000 per month housing allowance for the first two months of employment or until he secures permanent housing. Watson-Harris was allowed $10,000 for moving expenses and the same housing allowance for the first four months. And Horton’s contract sets up a supplemental retirement plan for $15,000 per contract year, compared to $12,000 for Watson-Harris.

Horton will be eligible for 12-18 months of severance pay if his contract is terminated early without cause, similar to Watson-Harris’ contract.

“At the end of the day, we picked and selected an outstanding visionary and also compassionate leader to serve DeKalb County School District,” board chair Diijon DaCosta said after the contract was approved. “Without any question, Dr. Horton has a proven track record that is needed here — the right person at the right time.”

Board members voted 6-1 in favor of the contract. Joyce Morley was the only member to vote against the contract. She also voted against hiring Horton in April.

The contract gives the board until Sept. 1 to establish performance goals to evaluate Horton’s performance. Horton’s contract also includes a section about communication and working relations with the board.

Horton, who was not in attendance Wednesday, is currently the superintendent of the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 in Illinois. His base salary is $262,500. His contract, which extends to 2026, includes a clause that requires Horton to pay $25,000 to the district if the contract is terminated early to cover the cost of a search for a replacement. Sergio Hernandez, the school board chair in District 65, has said Horton will be working until June 30, and will be required to pay the $25,000.

The board’s sole finalist for the position, Horton was hired after a tumultuous two-week period of public comment in DeKalb. Critics questioned whether Horton would be a good fit to lead Georgia’s third-largest school district, noting in part the Illinois district he leads is much smaller. Board members have said they were impressed with Horton’s track record related to improving student achievement and championing equity.

At town hall meetings with the community, Horton said he would prioritize listening sessions with different community groups.

“I want to make sure that academics and our social emotional priorities elevate to levels where we can be seen as a model district in this country,” Horton said at those meetings. “I believe in my bones that the tenets to do that exist in this community.”

Horton will be the district’s ninth leader since 2010.

He will succeed interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley, whose contract extends to June 30. The board began searching for a superintendent last year, after it fired Watson-Harris from the role in a split vote in April 2022. She had been on the job for less than two years.

Devon Horton

Hometown: Chicago

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education, Jackson State University. Master’s degree in educational leadership, Chicago State University. Doctoral degree in educational leadership from Chicago State University.

Career: Superintendent of the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 since July 2020. Previously chief of schools for Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky. He’s worked in the Chicago and East St. Louis school districts.

Sources: DeKalb County School District, Evanston/Skokie School District 65, The Evanston Roundtable.