DeKalb County school board hires Devon Horton as superintendent

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

The DeKalb County Board of Education hired Devon Horton for the superintendent position in a 6-1 vote Wednesday morning.

The vote came after a tumultuous 14-day period of public input after the school board announced Horton as its finalist over spring break. Critics questioned whether Horton — superintendent of a small school district near Chicago — would be a good fit to lead Georgia’s third-largest school district. Horton is the district’s ninth leader since 2010.

Joyce Morley was the lone vote against the hire.

She said he was unqualified to lead a district as large as DeKalb. She wanted the board to stay with its interim leader, Vasanne Tinsley.

The board is always looking outside the district to hire superintendents, she observed, before growing dissatisfied with its choice. “What we find out is that when we look for that green grass, it’s artificial turf.”

Horton has been superintendent of the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 in Illinois, which has 6,500 students and no high schools. Prior to taking that job in 2020, he was the chief of schools for Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky. Horton pointed to his experience in that district, which has more than 100,000 students, at town hall meetings last week. He also said he would prioritize transparency and community input as superintendent.

Board members have said they were impressed with Horton’s track record related to improving student achievement and championing equity.

“I know that the decision that we are making is in the best interest of our children,” board member Vickie Turner said.

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

In a brief gathering with reporters after the vote, Horton said he hopes to have a contract, which is still being negotiated, signed by July 1. He said, board willing, he’d like to start work before that, meeting with anyone in the community who wants to. It would be a continuation of the “chat and chews” he holds at restaurants back home.

“I’m overwhelmingly excited,” he said, calling the new job an “unbelievable opportunity.”

The board did not publicly discuss any details about Horton’s contract, including a salary.

Critics have questioned decisions Horton made related to creating equity for marginalized students, as well as financial decisions he’s made in Illinois.

Horton was one of about 30 applicants for the superintendent position. Morley told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the board was split between naming Horton or Tinsley its finalist.

After the vote, board Chairman Diijon DaCosta commended his board members, saying they did a “magnificent job” following the hiring process.

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

The board began searching for a superintendent last year, after the board fired Cheryl Watson-Harris from the role in a split vote in April 2022. She had been on the job for less than two years.

Tinsley will stay through the end of her contract in June to help Horton transition into the role, DaCosta has said.

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.