Dekalb County Schools’ sole superintendent finalist answers questions and critiques at town hall
By: Christina Norris
Last Tuesday, The Dekalb County School Board announced three town halls for parents, students, and stakeholders to get to know Dr. Devon Horton, the sole finalist for its superintendent role. The Board held the town halls at Chamblee High School, Dr. Ronald E. McNair Middle School, and the Administrative & Instructional Complex. It also live-streamed the Town Halls on Dekalb Schools TV.
These buildings filled up with people in the district during their town halls. After a Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and a Presentation Of Colors, a student introduced Horton. A moderator managed the meetings once he stepped on the stage with them. While Horton was onstage, attendants got to ask him about his strategic plans.
During the Town Hall at Dr. Ronald E. McNair Middle School last Thursday, several parents and teachers discussed problems they found with the district and asked how Horton would combat them.
“My one question that I want to ask you is how you’re going to bridge the gap between the North and the South.” said Dr. Moore, a retired teacher from the Clark County School District. “I know about a difference being in school and living in the district because I follow everything. So I know there’s a big gap. And it’s time for that to stop today. It should have stopped many years ago, but it really needs to stop now.”
“I’ve heard concerns about North and South,” said Horton in his answer. “I’ve heard this consistently. It’s been communicated with me in many spaces. But I would say before I could come up with a solution. I have to get the right people in the darkness and it sounds like you’d be one of them. And so I don’t know how familiar you are with processes like repression, or trigger where I want to bring individuals from all sectors of this county into a space. And I’ll tell you it works because we have a real instance. You know, COVID uses compression, and it’s a process that takes time because this issue that you just pointed out didn’t happen overnight. Right? It took time. So I would love to form a community superintendent advisory group, where one of the first things we tackle is the concern about this, this issue that you’re just describing between the North and South, whether it’s perceived again or reality, it’s some people’s reality because this is how they feel and I have to honor and respect that.”
Stakeholders asked how Horton would help improve the district and make innovations happen.
“What can we do though, for other parents who may not be on board yet?” said Professor Latasha Adams at Clayton State University. “I know that DeKalb County has the ability to be great. We have been great in the past. And there are great teachers and great people in this county. What can we do for those private school parents, families, homeschoolers, to say let’s come back to the schools?”
“Our parents have to be able to trust that, in our schools, there’s competency,” said Horton. “There’s connection to the community that we’re going to show compassion, we’re going to be able to connect with those families, and then the last thing is its choice. I never want to look at a school system and say that, well, you know, parents should be in our schools. We love that, but also I think parents’ choice has a role in that. So we want to make sure that we can create the culture where they choose us.”
Dr. Loukisha Walker, principal of Dr. Ronald E. McNair High School and the meeting’s moderator, asked questions submitted. The final one for the evening was, “What are your plans for your first actions?”
“First business for me is that I want to work with the school board and also work with the cabinet and review a 90 day entry plan. And in that 90 day entry plan, I have no desire to come in and bring ideas and recommendations. What I would like to do is to look, listen and learn, hear from you – all the constituents and every single corner that we possibly could. Right? It’s important that myself and the team that we’re hearing from you, even if the team members aren’t from the district, it’s important that we give you the time and the respect to really lay out your concerns.”