- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

Andre J. Hornsby, one of the three finalists to replace Iris T. Metts as the chief executive officer of Prince George's County schools, has a history of clashing with school board members and parents and was forced to leave his last job as superintendent a year before his contract expired.
"He was not parent friendly," said Mary Ellen Winnicki, former PTA Council president of a 27,000-student school district in Yonkers, N.Y., where Mr. Hornsby served as superintendent for two years before his contract was terminated in June 2000.
"His favorite expression was, 'It is my way or the highway,'" said Steve Frey, head of the Yonkers teachers union. "No one could breathe around him you were always walking on eggshells."
The Maryland Association of Boards of Education, which conducted the search, this week named Mr. Hornsby; Barbara Moore Pulliam, superintendent of schools in St. Louis Park, Minn.; and John J. Keegan Jr., superintendent of schools in Sioux Falls, S.D., as the top three candidates for the position.
"I'm curious why those three made the top of the list," said Donna Hathaway Beck, a schools activist, who along with some parents lamented the lack of openness in the selection process.
"We are all doing our homework now. I am concerned about the two that have only been in small school districts. In this case, size matters," Miss Beck said.
Mr. Keegan's school district has 19,500 students, while there are 4,175 students in Mrs. Pulliam's. Local officials said both have served in much larger school districts previously and are qualified to head the 134,000-student Prince George's County school system.
"All of these applicants have worked in large school districts and have been very successful in addressing student achievement," said Bea Gordon of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.
Mr. Hornsby's last job was as supervising superintendent for executive leadership development in New York City schools. He previously served in the Houston Independent School District and is president of the National Alliance of Black School Administrators.
He was laid off from his job in January because of budget cuts, and just last month lost the job of superintendent for New Orleans schools by one vote.
In December 2000, the Yonkers inspector general, Phil Zisman, released a report saying Mr. Hornsby had violated state ethics laws by accepting an all-expenses trip to the 1999 Ryder Cup golf tournament from Xerox, which was bidding for a copier services contract with Yonkers schools.
Mr. Hornsby yesterday said that report was "bogus" and a result of his falling out with Yonkers Mayor John Spencer over a desegregation plan for the city's schools.
He said he made the trip to the Ryder Cup tournament to solicit funds from the chief of Xerox for the National Alliance of Black School Administrators and that school board members had been made aware of the reasons for the trip.
One staunch supporter, school board member Maria Chiulli, said Mr. Hornsby is "a wonderful educator who is an advocate for children and an advocate for education."
She credited him with improving test scores and dismissed parents' complaints, saying, "He never ignored a parent and he never disrespected them."
Even his detractors concede he had some good plans for the school system. "He was very bright and had some very good ideas," Mr. Frey said.
Doris Reed, head of the administrators' union in Prince George's County, is concerned that Mr. Hornsby couldn't get along with unions.
"And we are concerned the other two are coming from really small places. My immediate thought is: 'Here we go again,'" she said.
School board members yesterday said they have not yet made up their minds.
President Beatrice Tignor said she was pleased with the three finalists, but could look at other candidates.
"We will sit down at the table and do many background checks on these candidates, and if we don't get what we want we will just extend the process," she said.
She said the school board had discussed some of the issues in Mr. Hornsby's background with him and he appeared "very comfortable" while answering them.
The three finalists will meet with community members on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mrs. Pulliam has served as director of bureau support services in Chicago and as an associate superintendent for Rockford public schools in Illinois.
"The district that she is in, is one of the highest performing districts in Minnesota," said Charlie Kyte, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators in St. Paul.
"Historically, it was a suburban and Jewish community, which has evolved over the last 15 years into a district of significant diversity, [with] very high expectations for children," Mr. Kyte said.
"What Barbara Pulliam has done is to make sure the district is fully inclusive of all children and also keep the focus on academic excellence."
Mr. Keegan, who has served in the top position for Sioux Falls schools for nine years now, previously worked in Fulton County, Ga., and Salt Lake City.
"When he first arrived, he tried to push the system forward," Sioux Falls school board Vice President Sheri Meister said. "At first that caused growing pains because not everyone liked it. But he was able to work with the different parties to make it happen."
She recalled a recent controversy over opting out of a state cap in order to continue school programs.
Another success, she said, was Mr. Keegan's ability to "equalize" education programs and facilities across the school district.
"He's been a very positive force in Sioux Falls," said Sioux Falls PTA Council President Sharon Wollman. He "is a strong parent-involvement superintendent. I hate to see him go."
Mr. Keegan ran up against some trouble with the local teachers' union after he refused to yield in a contract dispute a few years ago. But teachers union officials contacted for this story said they held no hard feelings.
Denise Barnes and Jabeen Bhatti contributed to this article.


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