District 65 community says goodbye to Devon Horton, board discusses superintendent search


Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek

Board members discussed hiring an interim superintendent by the July 1 deadline and going forth with a more intense process for finding a permanent person to fill the role later.

Shannon Tyler, City Editor

At Monday’s school board meeting, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 parents and teachers extended their appreciation to Superintendent Devon Horton, who will be leaving the district to head Georgia’s Dekalb County School District next school year. 

During public comment, seven district community members thanked Horton for his efforts to improve districtwide diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Evanston resident Oliver Ruff said he applauds Horton for advocating and providing leadership for racial equity, integrity and improvement of standards and accountability. 

He went further to say while some community members criticized Horton for actions he took during his three years with the district, he thought Horton improved standards, not raised them — an important distinction, Ruff said. 

“Dr. Horton, your audacious spirit was refreshing, your creative insights were a blessing, your willingness to get this done was a lesson,” Ruff said. 

Public comment speakers spoke about Horton’s contributions in his three years with the district including work on getting a 5th Ward school, an overdue curriculum audit, better tutoring services and greater financial sustainability, among others. 

Robin Brown said Horton created a “culture of belonging” for District 65 students, noting that the reimagination of school discipline is one of the biggest impacts Horton has made. 

She said District 65 has had a long history of racial disproportionality in discipline rates that impact students and engender the “school-to-prison nexus.” 

She said under Horton’s leadership, the district implemented developments of family collaboration, increases in restorative practices and better bullying and crisis prevention.

“Like most things in this world, the changes implemented are not a perfect solution, but they’re absolutely on the right track to affirming every student’s dignity and belonging in our community,” Brown said. 

The last action item the board discussed was the search for a new superintendent. The board discussed hiring an interim superintendent, finding a hiring firm and engaging the community in the search process.

The board wants to find someone to fill the role by July 1, according to board member Joseph Hailpern, which he said gives them a short timeline to find someone. He suggested hiring an interim superintendent by the deadline and going forth with a more intensive process for finding a permanent person to fill the role.

“It’s really important that no matter what, we operate with urgency and really think about how we can efficiently and also effectively make sure we have someone in that position, because it is so important,” board member Maya Wilkins added. 

Board member Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan said finding an interim superintendent would help make sure the district does not “lose momentum” on the important work Horton helped kick-start. 

Several other board members said the search process needs to be intentional and well thought-out, and a hiring firm would help with that process and with transparency.  

Board President Sergio Hernandez noted the board may want to call special sessions in the next couple of weeks to begin the process. 

“One of the biggest responsibilities that we have as board members is the appointing and the hiring (of) and then managing (the) superintendent,” Hernandez said. 

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Twitter: @shannonmtyler

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