- The Washington Times - Monday, February 13, 2006

The Prince George’s County school board yesterday introduced John Deasy as the first of three finalists for the position of chief executive officer of public schools.

Mr. Deasy, 45, has been the superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu, Calif., school district for the past five years.

“I want to dedicate the next phase of my career to urban areas,” Mr. Deasy said, explaining why he wants to take the helm of Maryland’s second-largest school system, behind only Montgomery County’s.

The school board is announcing candidates individually because of the sensitivity of the search for a replacement to Andre J. Hornsby, spokesman John White said. A second candidate will be announced today and a third tomorrow.

The school board has invited public officials, parents and students to meet and question the candidates.

Mr. Deasy has served as superintendent of the Coventry, R.I., school system, and has worked as a high school principal and teacher of biology, chemistry, calculus and English.

As superintendent in Santa Monica, he instituted teaching reforms that have led to a dramatic improvement in student achievement, he said.

The Santa Monica-Malibu school district has 19 schools. Prince George’s County has 199 schools and one of the most diverse student populations in the country.

The student bodies in California and Rhode Island that Mr. Deasy oversaw are considerably smaller than the 133,000-student system in Prince George’s County, but the educator said he is confident he can make the transition.

“I would lead by example,” Mr. Deasy said. “There are no problems in my background. I am very proud of that.”

Mr. Hornsby resigned in May, halfway through his four-year contract and amid an FBI investigation into accusations that he inappropriately awarded a $1 million contract for classroom equipment to a company that employed his live-in girlfriend.

Mr. Hornsby has not been charged with a crime, and the school system’s ethics panel cleared him of wrongdoing.

Howard Burnitt, a school administrator, has been serving as interim chief of the school system.

The school board in September hired national search firm Ray and Associates Inc. to help find a new chief. The firm received 66 completed applications from across the country for the $250,000-a-year position, Mr. White said.

Mr. Deasy pledged to reach out to the county’s various groups, retain current staff and meet federal requirements to the No Child Left Behind Act.

Mr. Deasy said he has dealt with gang violence and racial tensions, and promised to emphasize instructional technique more strongly than curriculum.

He also talked about creating “safety nets” to identify struggling students early.

“We must be seamless about mission and vision,” Mr. Deasy said. “When we say we are going to do something, we have to do it.”

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