- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Prince George’s County public school officials said yesterday the search to find a new chief executive officer will employ the same background checks as those used to hire outgoing CEO Andre J. Hornsby, though the checks did not pursue unanswered questions about Mr. Hornsby’s ethics in a previous job.

“We will use the same process,” said Beatrice Tignor, chairman of the Prince George’s County Board of Education. “It will be the same background checks.”

Mrs. Tignor defends the process, saying the county school board that hired Mr. Hornsby in 2003 for $250,000 per year “never received” a 2000 report stating Mr. Hornsby violated state ethics laws while serving as superintendent of the Yonkers, N.Y., school system.

The Yonkers inspector general’s office said Mr. Hornsby violated the law by accepting an all-expenses-paid trip to the 1999 Ryder Cup golf tournament from Xerox, which was bidding for a copier-services contract with Yonkers schools.

“That was never in the background checks that it was proven,” Mrs. Tignor said. “They were allegations, and that [information] was never given to us. … It was never in the background checks that [the accusations] were proven.”

Mr. Hornsby said he made the trip to solicit funds from the chief of Xerox for the National Alliance of Black School Educators.

He submitted his resignation Friday amid an FBI investigation and days before the expected release of an independent audit focusing on assertions he inappropriately awarded a $1 million contract to a company that employed his live-in girlfriend.

The audit by Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group is expected Friday. With Mr. Hornsby voluntarily stepping down, the report’s chief impact might be whether the schools receive $40 million in state aid withheld because of overdue financial audits. Yesterday, the school system missed another deadline for the audit.

School board member Robert O. Duncan said board members knew about the accusations concerning Mr. Hornsby but were more interested in his record of closing the achievement gap for minority students. However, Mr. Duncan defended the process by saying extensive background checks are needed, but gauging a new hirer’s integrity “is always going to be a judgment call.”

“I don’t think we are going to use lie-detector tests,” he said.

Mr. Hornsby was forced to leave the 27,000-student Yonkers school district a year before his contract expired, after clashes with school board members and parents.

He will receive $125,000 in severance from Prince George’s County Public Schools, and June 30 will be his official last day with the county’s 136,000-student district — the 18th-largest in the country.

Mr. Hornsby was hired to replace embattled Superintendent Iris T. Metts about two years ago and three years after the state disbanded an elected school board tainted by scandal. The school board was appointed by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening and then-County Executive Wayne K. Curry. It will return to being an elected school board next year.

State Sen. Ulysses Currie, a Prince George’s Democrat, said Mr. Hornsby’s success with minority students seemed to have outweighed other considerations. But he was confident the school board would not do that again.

“I am almost sure that with the recent experience the board will be more vigilant,” Mr. Currie said. “When looking for the next [CEO], they will be more critical.”

The national search will take eight to 12 months and will include community input, Mrs. Tignor said. Howard Burnett, chief administrator for human resources, will serve as interim CEO until an acting chief is named.

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