Exit Interview with Dr. Horton
"I'm going to call them the haters -- the haters to be the haters. It is what it is."
Edit: I cleaned up some of the quotes post facto on this article, especially removing some of the “uhs and uhms” left from the transcription service in the quotes.
A reader posted a link to a Youtube video of an “Exit Interview” with Dr. Horton. His last day on the payroll was yesterday, so I’m sharing this here.
Below the video I share some interesting snippets from the interview.
On Private Security
Below he is referring to the $659,883 spent with Phoenix Security in years 2021-2022 alone. I am not aware of any public reporting or police report indicating this story is true. I recently FOIA’ed the Evanston Police Department for information relating to this story and was told there are no responsive records.
Edit: I removed the initial link because I may have FOIA’ed the wrong police department (Evanston vs Skokie/Skevanston). If this story is true, it seems like a huge deal and something we should be talking about. Threatening someone in this fashion is not okay. If this parent threatened Dr. Horton with a gun, we should be sending them a bill for $659,883.
Interviewer: So, you know, those parents -- I mean, you were getting death threats, people were vandalizing your car. I'm like, where are we? What city is this that we live? You know we're supposed to be some of --"
Dr. Horton: "Well, on the record, and, like, 'cause the media did not cover this. And that's ok. There was a parent who came to my house -- my home, threatening me --"
Dr. Horton: "-- with a gun, right? Like all of these things. Oh yeah. It was -- they got arrested and then [indiscernible 9:55].
"All these things happened, right? But the media will say it didn't or they'll not mention that. See, you didn't know it.
"But I don't -- I don't say this because I want sympathy. I'm saying these things so when I have that security, that's why the security was there.
Interviewer: "Yes. And I love your response to some of those really -- I don't even want to call them angry parents -- crazy parents that show up to your door with a gun, and also sorts of other things that I knew, you know, that you and the board were going through. One of the complaints was that you were taking focus away from their children and I loved your response to that. You were like look, my job, my role is to help all the children not just advance your children."
Dr. Horton: "Right."
On his Critics
I’ve been critical of Dr. Horton many times, relating to giving contracts to friends, kickback schemes, illegal PAC donations, and skipping background checks for his felon friends. I guess you can call me a critic.
Dr. Horton: “Even attempts to create some kind of nonsense for me-- it's been really -- it's been really great to have the board that I worked with to understand the work that we're doing and just letting the -- letting the, I'm going to call them the haters — the haters to be the haters. It is what it is. And so, I'm just excited about where this district is going to go. I'm even more excited about what's going to happen for the students and the families in DeKalb county schools as well when we partner with that phenomenal board there."
On the Fifth Ward School
I have written extensively about the creative financing which will likely, cost the taxpayers money because of the creative $3.25 million savings in the lease certificate.
"That's exciting to -- once again, to see that an idea and a dream came together. And we were able to put together a funding plan that, many -- well, not many -- some, said that it's a crazy call, but it was creative to be able to get it funding where it doesn't cost our tax payers any additional dollars. We don't have to raise taxes. No referendums, no anything like that.
"And we -- we took advantage of just -- really we didn't want to let a good crisis go to waste. We just came out of a situation, the pandemic the year before.
On District 308 - Oswego
I’ve documented that Dr. Horton was compensated for recruiting away Dr. Khelghati in District 308 while also being paid by District 65.
"We built a system of leaders. And we have some really strong leaders on our team and the investment in them was extremely intentional. It's about succession planning. With our school leaders, with our APs, with cabinet, our central office leaders. The goal was to uplift them and give them the opportunity to grow and -- and -- and fall into these spaces.
"And that’s what has happened. The other thing --- I don't know if you're aware, Meleika, but Dr. Angel Turner is -- she got promoted to the interim of D65. But are you aware that, also one of my other sister superintendents Dr. Andalib Khelghati just got the superintendent job in Oswego 308. So that's -- came in with one superintendent. We're leaving with three. That talks a lot about leadership. He’ll be starting July 1st. He just got announced. He got voted Wednesday night.
Final Thoughts: Simpson’s Monorail Episode
It’s hard not to look back on his tenure like the classic Simpson’s monorail episode.1 He came into the District selling a big plan - closing the achievement gap. What did we get? No change in test scores or the achievement gap, a new school without a single brick laid but with loads of debt, 17%+ of families leaving the District, a teacher residency program burning over $1.4m in federal money generating almost no teachers2, and a community only further divided than it was before. At the end, he moves onto the next town, selling the same hustle.
Written by Conan O’Brian
One resident described this program to me as, “the worst year of their life.” Also recall that almost 1/4 of the funds from that program went to friend and former colleague of Dr. Horton.