- The Washington Times - Friday, May 27, 2005

Prince George’s County Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Andre J. Hornsby submitted his resignation yesterday 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.

Mr. Hornsby’s resignation is effective June 30, but he will be on administrative leave beginning June 4.

The announcement came after an executive session of the county Board of Education. A joint statement issued by Mr. Hornsby, and board members said the decision was Mr. Hornsby’s.

“He made this decision to prevent external distractions from interfering with the significant academic progress now being made by the system,” the statement said.

The statement also lauded school system improvements made during Mr. Hornsby’s tenure, and said it is “unfortunate that questions regarding the propriety of certain operational issues” continue to detract from that progress.

Board member Dean Sirjue, a supporter of Mr. Hornsby, said the schools chief appeared to have voluntarily resigned without pressure from the board. He said Mr. Hornsby did not attend the special closed-door meeting.

Mr. Hornsby was a “good leader,” he said, who understood the issues affecting minority students and implemented programs in Prince George’s County that held promise of closing the achievement gap for minorities.

“I thought he brought the right credentials for academic improvement,” Mr. Sirjue said.

He said the board will now turn its attention to organizing a search for a new CEO.

“We have to make sure we get a good leader for the school system,” Mr. Sirjue said. “It is unfortunate that this happened.”

County Executive Jack B. Johnson last night said, “I have always believed Doctor Hornsby was doing a good job.

“I regret he was not able to complete the work he began to improve public education in Prince George’s County.”

The FBI began investigating Mr. Hornsby’s handling of a June 2004 contract in which he purchased $1 million in educational software and other materials from LeapFrog SchoolHouse, a division of LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. of Emeryville, Calif. Mr. Hornsby’s live-in girlfriend, Sienna Owens, was employed as a sales representative for the company. FBI officials have declined to discuss specifics of the investigation.

Mr. Hornsby, 51, failed to disclose the relationship but said later that it had no effect on the sale. The school system’s ethics panel has cleared him of wrongdoing.

LeapFrog President Bob Lally resigned after an internal review raised questions about the commission on the deal, company officials also said.

The ongoing FBI investigation intensified April 19 when agents arrived at Mr. Hornsby’s office building and another county building looking for information about the $1 million deal.

School officials commissioned the Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group in December to audit the handling of the contract. School board members said last month they would wait for the audit findings before taking any action.

Mr. Sirjue said the board has not seen the Huron report and still expects to receive it next week.

“It was important for the school system to do its own investigation, and it is still important to see the report,” he said.

Mr. Hornsby’s four-year contract, which expires June 30, 2007, includes an annual base salary of $250,000 and a clause stating that the school board can terminate his employment with a buyout.

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

Mr. Hornsby had a history of clashing with school board members and parents at his prior job in the 27,000-student school district in Yonkers, N.Y., and he was forced to leave his last job a year before his contract expired.

In December 2000, the Yonkers inspector general, Phil Zisman, released a report stating 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.

Howard Burnett, chief administrator for human resources, will serve as interim CEO for Prince George’s 136,000-student public school system until an acting chief is named.

S.A. Miller contributed to this article.

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