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After Making Plenty of Changes, Hornsby Says He's Not Finished Yet

By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page PG05

Few would dispute that Andre J. Hornsby has shaken up the Prince George's County public schools since he took charge in June 2003. As of last week, he had hired at least 87 new principals for the 196-school system.

In a brief hallway interview at the county government center, Hornsby ascribed much of the turnover to attrition or other factors outside his control. But he made it plain that he relished the chance to put his stamp on the organization.


SCHOOLS CHIEF ANDRE J. HORNSBY

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Full Report

"Personnel is the key job I have," Hornsby said. "If we don't select good people, we're not improving the organization."

Some recent job shifts are drawing fresh attention to a leader whose formal title -- chief executive officer -- is more businesslike than is customary in public schools.

Susan Hubbard, wife of Del. James W. Hubbard (D-Bowie), resigned as supervisor of business outreach after working more than 10 years for the district. Her husband is a well-known critic of Hornsby, but she said she left voluntarily, and the schools chief himself denied forcing her out. "It was time for a change," Susan Hubbard said.

In addition, Hornsby was advertising on the school district's Web site last week for new directors of budget and management; purchasing and supply; and financial services. The current holders of those positions -- Jonathan Seeman, Eugene Thornton and Timothy Champ, respectively -- did not respond to telephone messages left at their offices. Hornsby spokesman John White said no one had been fired, but he acknowledged that changes were underway.

The personnel moves in key financial posts come as the school system awaits the results of a long-overdue annual audit -- from the second auditor hired within the past year -- and of a separate review of certain purchases made under Hornsby's leadership, including a controversial $1 million deal for software and other gear from LeapFrog SchoolHouse.

White denied any connection between the personnel moves and the audit or purchase review. "He is a CEO, not a superintendent," White said of Hornsby. "His perspective is that he is operating a large business, and he needs to continue to make it more efficient."

Neither he nor Hornsby would comment further.

County Council member Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel) said he was surprised at the financial personnel moves. "I'm very curious as to the rationale," Dernoga said. He said the subject is likely to arise at upcoming county budget meetings.

Analyze This

In February, The Post reported that Montgomery County high school seniors had achieved high marks in Advanced Placement exams, with minority students making significant gains. The report cited College Board and school district analysis of AP scores achieved by students during their entire high school career.

The data showed the percentage of seniors that had passed an AP test at some point before graduation, including tests taken in the senior year, junior year and earlier. Experts call that figure the "mastery rate."

At the time, Prince George's officials said they could not provide comparable data.

In response to a recent follow-up Post request, county school officials provided a summary of AP results that showed the number of exams that received a passing score last year (scores of three or higher on a demanding five-point test).

Leroy Tompkins, Prince George's chief accountability officer, said the county could not calculate a mastery rate for its high school seniors. Tompkins said the annual passing rate sufficed, and he called "bogus" the suggestion that the mastery rate is a superior benchmark .

So what were the AP scores for the county's public schools?

Overall, 38 percent of exams earned a passing mark in 2004, down from 43 percent in 2003 and 49 percent in 2002. The passing rate for black students, who make up the majority in the public schools, was 18 percent in 2004, compared with 22 percent in 2003 and 27 percent in 2002.

Tompkins ascribed the drop, at least in part, to a positive development: More students are taking the test. In 2004, 3,546 AP exams were administered in the county, up from 3,354 in 2003 and 2,643 in 2002. Many experts believe AP coursework helps students even if they don't pass the test.


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