School board votes to approve Devon Horton as next DeKalb superintendent

Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 12:11 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2023 at 2:30 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Devon Horton was voted in as DeKalb superintendent Wednesday morning.

Dr. Horton said he already has a list of priorities to tackle at the start of the new school year.

“There are a lot of foundational pieces that we have to work on,” said Dr. Devon Horton. “But the work has already started. Dr. Tinsley has done a remarkable job and I want to build on that.”

In response to the letter in support of Dr. Tinsely, Dr. Horton told reporters he plans to reach out to State Superintendent Richard Woods and feels confident they can work together.

“We’ve had a revolving door in our district for the last 10 years. We’ve had nine superintendents in 10 years and that’s not acceptable,” said Lance Hammonds, the president of DeKalb’s NAACP branch.

Right now, Dr. Vasanne Tinsley is the interim superintendent. She retired from the district in 2020 after 25 years of service and stepped into the role of interim superintendent almost a year ago.

The school board says they are still working out Horton’s official start date.

RELATED: State Superintendent urges DeKalb Co. to pause search for next superintendent

The back and forth continues over who should be DeKalb County’s superintendent, with the school board legally able to vote over the position as soon as this Wed

RELATED: DeKalb Board of Education names sole finalist for superintendent

“I’m here for the challenge and I’m here as I need to be in the interim to make things work for the students and staff and community of DeKalb,” Dr. Tinsley told Atlanta News First when she was first appointed as the interim superintendent.

Now, the school board has a new person in mind: Dr. Devon Horton. He’s named as the finalist for the role of superintendent. The school board even held a town hall so parents and teachers could meet the possible new leader.

“I understand there’s some challenges just in leadership in this district… at least perceived or reality, but I would also say I’m an experienced leader I don’t run from anything,” said Dr. Horton.

But State Superintendent Richard Woods is saying not so fast. In this newly obtained letter that he wrote to the DeKalb County School Board, he asked, ”I respectfully urge you to pause the selection process and afford Dr. Tinsley additional time to get the district on solid footing.”

A resident who spoke at the district’s board meeting on Monday night, agreed.

“...As a superintendent for Dekalb County you need to look at Dr. Tinsley,” said Phillip Parker, a resident.

DeKalb school board’s chair responded:

A school district spokesperson says according to Georgia law, no final agreements will be made as far as who the superintendent is until the minimum of 14 days of public input have passed. That means the school board could decide on a superintendent as early as Wednesday if they decide to call a board meeting, which they’d have to do by tomorrow to give the public 24 hours notice.

Some residents like Willie Pringle, who has lived in the county for over 40 years, say in recent years he feels like his tax dollars have gone to waste with the revolving door of superintendents in Dekalb County School District.

“Some of them hadn’t even done two years and they voted them out,” said Pringle who is also a community advocate and whose daughter went through the school system.

He says he believes the best people to lead the school district are those most familiar with it.

“Those are the people you want to reach out to, reach out to the people you already got in your system here to help you turn this system around, and it can happen,” says Pringle.

Other residents who spoke at the meeting also said they want transparency and consistency during the search.

“We believe in transparency as an alliance. We definitely want to make sure that, as you are making your decisions, that you are as transparent as the law will allow,” said Pastor Lee May, a resident of the County. “As you’re making your decision, we encourage you to look at it through the lens of consistent leadership, that’s going to be here with us, I believe for the next decade, and I think we need that as a school district,” he said.

“This board is responsible for the last three superintendents who have not worked out for the students, staff or the community,” said Debra Jones. “It leaves me as an individual to say, what makes this board think they are competent enough to choose a superintendent given your record,” she said.

On Monday night, DaCosta told Atlanta News First, the board has been as transparent as possible throughout the process. He also said the board followed recommendations set forth by the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA).

According to the district’s website, it stated after a nationwide search with 29 applicants, the board selected Dr. Horton as its sole finalist.

“The DeKalb County Board of Education collaborated with the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) to conduct a fair and robust selection process in which Dr. Horton emerged as the top candidate,” the website said.