Education groups call for DeKalb to pick new superintendent finalist

The Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center is shown at the DeKalb County Schools Administrative and Instructional Complex, Monday, February 13, 2023, in Stone Mountain, Ga.. Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

The Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center is shown at the DeKalb County Schools Administrative and Instructional Complex, Monday, February 13, 2023, in Stone Mountain, Ga.. Jason Getz /

Two education groups are calling on the DeKalb County school board not to hire the sole finalist for the superintendent job.

The board last week announced Devon Horton, superintendent of a K-8 school district with about 6,500 students near Chicago, as its finalist. He is scheduled to visit schools and attend nightly town hall meetings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The board will vote on whether to hire him at the end of a legally required 14-day period of public input.

But Horton’s impending hire has now drawn criticism both locally and nationally.

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

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Credit: DeKalb County School District

Verdaillia Turner, president of the DeKalb-based Georgia Federation of Teachers, asked the school board members to allow “more top candidates to be seen and heard” in an email Tuesday afternoon.

“DeKalb is beleaguered with unsound processes for choosing a superintendent. The board can hire a superintendent with only four votes,” she wrote. “Since our recent 15-year history is so checkered, our taxes are constantly rising, and the state has a weapon to take over school districts, I strongly caution this board per its selection and hiring of this candidate.”

Hours later, conservative grassroots movement No Left Turn in Education asked the DeKalb board in a press release to vote no on Horton.

“DeKalb needs a Superintendent that will promote an education that fosters intellectual and free-thinking, reason, discernment, and ultimately cultivates wisdom,” wrote Melissa Jackson, the group’s president.

DeKalb school board chair Diijon DaCosta has declined to share information about the board’s decision-making in naming Horton a finalist. But board member Allyson Gevertz shared a list of questions and answers on her Facebook page last week that shed some light on the board’s thinking. Board member Anna Hill also posted the statement on Monday.

“Board members were most impressed with Dr. Horton’s innovative approaches that have consistently led to demonstrated success in dramatically improving student achievement for all students,” the statement read in part. “Board members carefully considered all candidates, and we remain confident in our decision of Dr. Horton as the sole finalist for superintendent of schools.”

Conservative groups have been critical of Horton since early in his tenure in the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 in Illinois. He bills himself as a disruptor and an antiracist leader.

In their letters, both Jackson and Turner referenced a federal civil lawsuit against Horton and District 65, in which a white teacher alleges that the district discriminated against white people. Many of the allegations in the suit relate to events that happened before Horton’s tenure, which began in 2020, but the complaint references a statement he made to the Wall Street Journal shortly after he was hired in the district: “If you’re not antiracist, we can’t have you in front of our students,” he said. He also stated that every teacher would have to go through antiracism training.

Board members were aware of the litigation and said they conducted a thorough investigation of the lawsuit’s allegations, according to the statement on Gevertz’s and Hill’s Facebook pages.

“[T]he Board remains confident that it has made an exceptional, well-informed decision to move forward and name Dr. Horton sole finalist,” the statement said.