Discover more from FOIA Gras
News out of DeKalb County Georgia
And a defense of the people of Evanston, Illinois
FOIA Gras is a free newsletter run by Tom Hayden (FOIA GRAS LLC) that explores various topics in local Evanston Governance, especially around School District 65 (Evanston/Skokie). I publish and share all my data and reports. Subscribing is free, so please subscribe or share
Two new stories coming out of Georgia;
DeKalb school board approves hires with ties to new superintendent (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
DeKalb Board Member Joyce Morley had some comments in the Board Meeting that might be familiar to my Evanston readers. According to Decaturish,
“We need over 500 and some teachers,” Morley said. “This new superintendent, Dr. Horton, should be out with the human resources department trying to see what we’re going to do to pad these classrooms and get teachers into these classrooms.”
She claimed that Horton is trying to pad the central office with his friends during his first week on the job.
The reason for her criticism is Dr. Horton’s immediate hiring of some folks known to readers of this newsletter, such as:
Antonio Ross - Mr. Ross owned a company, Connecting the Dots Leadership Initiative and was a business partner of Dr. Horton. This was one of the companies documented in my story regarding the Dr. Horton steering no-bid contracts to his friends. It turns out, shortly after the story was published, Mr. Ross was terminated from CPS, where he was a principal.
Dr. Markisha Mitchell - Dr. Mitchell was District 65’s “Special Assistant to the Cabinet” according to their org chart but she lists her role as a “Chief of Staff” and was paid six figures, compensation more commensurate with a Chief of Staff than as Special Assistant. The job title thing was always odd to me, why tell the public one thing but privately use another?
Elijah Palmer - Mr. Palmer was a director of “Culture and Climate” in District 65 and I have documented his relationship to Dr. Horton dating back to the Academy for Urban School Leadership days.
Michelle Dillard - Ms.Dillard is a Superintendent in Jefferson County, Kentucky and has billed District 65 as “Dillard Educational Consultant” to the tune of $39,275 over the past two years.
I can understand why someone moving into a new leadership position would hire friendlies around them — that’s certainly what I would do — however the criticism is that the job titles listed are things like, “Associate Superintendent of Continuous Improvement / Accountability” or “Director of Organizational Effectiveness” which seem like unusual job titles.
One question my readers often as is, “why are there no consequences for bad behavior, such as awarding contracts to friends?” The case of Mr. Ross is the first one I’ve seen where there were consequences, he was terminated by CPS shortly after the FOIA GRAS story ran in March. It wasn’t his first time in trouble with CPS, Muckrock documented a case where he was sanctioned for knowing his staff was falsifying FAFSA forms.
The Exit Interview and Security
Vladimir Putin is a disruptor. So is the guy who was in the White House, trying to get back in, is a disruptor. Sometimes disruptors cause problems and what happens is corruption comes in, then destruction is in suit
While we’re on the subject of the interview, recall the following claim he makes in the interview, which is quite a bombshell - that a parent visited his house with a gun. This was a story never reported here or in any other news organization in town.
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.
I wish the interviewer had asked at least a follow up question such as “tell us more about what happened” - it could’ve still been a friendly interview, but a major claim like that requires at least a follow up question!
Anyway, I believe the claims regarding the parent with a gun to most likely be false.
I FOIA’ed the Evanston Police Department and the Skokie Police Department. Neither department had records responsive to his claim. I FOIA’ed both addresses he has lived at and found no records.
I guess it’s possible that an individual showed up at the house with a gun and the police were never involved. However, that seems pretty unlikely. I respect that the relationship between black folks and the police is not good. However, it’s just hard for me to imagine how the police don’t get involved in a situation like this, even if not right at the moment.
Second, the current Board and Dr. Horton’s administration are very keen to publicize stories such as this and use it for political messaging. Consider the email sent to parents in January 2021 or after the Deemar Lawsuit. I find it nearly impossible they could go all this time and not talk about this. In the words of Dr. Horton himself, “we can’t let a good crisis go to waste.”
Lastly, I have seen the restraining orders against at the parent I believe is the subject of this and the documents detail a case of electronic harassment only. I have not seen the harassing emails but my understanding is that they’re politically charged (like the emails in the Youtube video) but not specifically threats.
I asked the District and Dr. Horton for comment and did not get any replies.
On Threats vs Distasteful Political Expression
Lastly, I want to talk about threats. Every time this comes up, there is someone in the comments or on EvanstonNow decrying that there were no threats and this is all just theater. I disagree.
The Board and District got a lot of angry emails after a story about the District aired on FOX News in August 2020 about the absurd and technically impossible race-based return to school plans discussed by Dr. Horton nationally. He even published the emails to his Youtube channel:
Most of the emails published fall into the bucket of “distasteful but legal political expression.” It is creepy and I certainly would be freaked out if I got a postcard that says “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” However, I am not an arm of the state, I’m just a guy.
Listen closely, tik tok, [REDACED], because something wicked is coming for you next.
I realize, after the fact, the cops ruled the author was out of state and it was not a genuine threat. But let’s be reasonable - this was absolutely a creepy email and nobody deserves to get stuff like this. However, people are entitled to their political opinions, no matter how shitty you think they are, and the authors do have the right to petition the government. Dr. Horton and the Board are representatives of that government, whether they like it or not.
In my capacity writing this newsletter, I’ve received a handful of emails that are not specifically threatening but definitely make me feel unsafe. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and have 5 super long emails or comments from the same person. I got a lot of vaguely creepy comments and emails after I made this post, disclosing my own personal politics.
Are any of these things worthy of a call to the EPD? No. Do I feel totally safe? Not really. I’ve bought cameras for the exterior of my apartment and I’m a little more careful with the building’s buzzer than I used to be. But do I lose sleep at night over this? No. Do I exercise privilege as a 6’2” white guy with biceps of steel? Absolutely yes.
Back to Dr. Horton, the question is: did these emails require 24/7/365 $650,000+ personal security for more than a year? I would say no. But did it require some level of security for a period of time while the cops work through the threats? I believe it absolutely did and no matter how you feel about his politics or honesty, we have a duty to offer our elected and appointed officials feel a reasonable amount of safety.
In Defense of Evanston
Evanston has always been a town where people have strong political opinions. It literally dates back to the Methodist founding of the town. The park by the lake is named after Cornelia Lunt, one of the most interesting people that Orson Welles hung out with! You should read her book, it’s fascinating: “Sketches of Childhood and Girlhood, Chicago, 1847-1864.” It was Evanstonians (among others, I’m sure) that chided President Lincoln for not moving quicker on emancipation.
It was one evening at the supper table, that, with one or two distinguished guests, I heard him discussing the Emancipation Proclamation, and condemning the President unqualifiedly for his delay in giving it to the world. "It ought to be proclaimed from the house-tops, blazoned forth with a flourish of trumpets", he added, after dwelling on the subject, "Delay is disastrous — I can't condone it in Mr. Lincoln — It seems almost cowardly." He continued thoughtfully, and with a slow emphasis, "I have urged on him that Proclamation, as have so many others of our best thinkers, and I am puzzled and disappointed over his dilatory attitude."
One of our schools is named after Frances Willard, someone who had complex political thought and was wrong about a lot of stuff. Political innovation requires risk taking and making arguments and frankly, some ideas are not very good. Political risk taking should not involve physical danger, but there is definitely some “thick skin” required to be part of the political process here. Evanston is a community that has always been on the bleeding edge of political innovation. This was true in 1865 and remains true today. I consider it a perk of living here. With that said, the “innovations” don’t always work out, consider the fact that the local distillery, FEW Spirits is named after .. noted prohibitionist Frances E Willard.
I initially didn’t want to write about Dr. Horton’s claims about the parent with a gun - it seems obviously like just a 🖕 on his way out. I think I found it so upsetting because his short participation in Evanston politics was not about the politics or equity, and instead was about himself. The political innovation he brought was never about Evanston’s children, it was about helping him find his next higher-paying hustle. To that end, he was successful.
To suggest that some person in our community is sanctioned to threaten officials with weapons and to further suggest that the media are somehow hiding with zero evidence to back it up, is frankly, pretty shitty behavior. It just drives our community further apart and gives us permission to assume people we disagree with are violent threats to our safety, instead of our literal next door neighbors.
I did not redact the addresses from the requests since he no longer lives in Evanston.
The Supper Guest I believe was Bishop Simpson (of Simpson St)
Her opinions on black men and alcohol prohibition are racist, to say the least.
Consider the Reparations Program or the Equity programs of D65/D202. District 202 has been doing DEI Training since at least 2007.