- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

One of the three finalists to lead Prince George's schools yesterday laid out his vision for the low-performing system and denied reports that he was unable to connect with parents and board members in his last job as superintendent.
At a meeting with reporters, Andre J. Hornsby, former superintendent of Yonkers public schools in New York, also produced a letter addressed to The Washington Times, written by a parent who lauded his achievements.
The Times last week quoted sources who said Mr. Hornsby had not been open to suggestions made by parents and teachers.
"He was not parent-friendly," said Mary Ellen Winnicki, former PTA council president in Yonkers. Teachers union chief Steve Frey said Mr. Hornsby was not open to suggestions from others.
The parent who wrote the letter, Cicely Greaves-Vega, said however that Mr. Hornsby was parent-friendly in "many more ways than one."
Mrs. Greaves-Vega, who was appointed to various committees by Mr. Hornsby, credited him with dramatically improving achievement at her low-performing school.
Mr. Hornsby, who met separately with board members and parents at multiple sites yesterday, said he was a "most accessible" administrator who believes parents play a crucial role in improving schools.
He also envisioned a harmonious relationship with the board.
"Boards hire superintendents, and the superintendent has a responsibility to work with them," he said, adding that successful districts manage to retain superintendents.
In Yonkers, board members voted to terminate Mr. Hornsby's contract before it expired something he blamed on his soured relationship with Yonkers Mayor John Spencer.
He said he "had to step on people's toes" in Yonkers over a desegregation plan that he had to implement within a month of taking over the district.
Mr. Hornsby's decision to implement block scheduling in schools without reaching an agreement with the teachers union prompted a four-day teacher strike.
Mr. Hornsby, who has previously served in the Houston school district, said his immediate goal in Prince George's would be to work on the system's finances and on instruction.
In the long term, he said, he would focus on the system's gifted students "to produce the next generation of scholars," as well as take a close look at why some students fail to perform well.
"There is no urban school district in America not facing the challenges here … we are all challenged by the same obstacles," he said, about his interest in serving in a county that faces severe problems, including some of the state's lowest-performing schools.
He also promised to focus on improving reading skills to raise test scores something the current PG chief executive, Iris T. Metts, could not achieve during her four years here.
"There is a serious literacy problem" in Prince George's County, he said, pledging to direct resources to the problem.
Mr. Hornsby presented himself as an administrator with an "open" management style, who would not mind cutting "sacred cows" if he had to.
In Yonkers, he said, he eliminated jobs that duplicated work already being done, saving the system hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The two other candidates for the job, Barbara Moore Pulliam, superintendent of St. Louis Park schools in Minnesota; and John J. Keegan Jr., superintendent of Sioux Falls schools in South Dakota, will meet with board members and the community today and tomorrow.
Board members said the candidates offer a "wealth of experience."
"They have shown progress in areas we have been concerned about in Prince George's County," said member Charlene M. Dukes.

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