Hornsby Approved For Md. Tutoring

By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 20, 2006

Andre J. Hornsby, the former Prince George's County schools chief who quit last year after he became ensnared in an ethics controversy and an FBI investigation, has won approval from Maryland to operate a tutoring business in a taxpayer-funded program for needy students.

Hornsby's company won state approval in January to provide tutoring to children from high-poverty schools in Prince George's, Baltimore City and elsewhere, starting this year. His unexpected reemergence as a player on the educational scene has provoked anxiety in the school system he led from 2003 to last year.

The school board just hired Hornsby's successor, John E. Deasy, who will take office May 1.

"The timing is wrong," said board member Judy Mickens-Murray (Upper Marlboro). "I'm just disappointed that this will become yet another distraction. It continues to take us back to the past."

But Hornsby said he simply aims to help kids.

"I got into this business because I know how to improve student achievement for children," Hornsby said last week. "And I've demonstrated that across the country, everywhere I've been."

With a company called Quality Schools Consulting Inc., which he launched six years ago, Hornsby is targeting a market created by the four-year-old No Child Left Behind law.

The federal law requires certain public schools to offer free tutoring for low-achieving children when the schools fall short of standards three years in a row. Federal dollars subsidize what are called "supplemental educational services" -- after-school instruction for students, one-on-one or in small groups.

Hornsby received mostly praise for an academic overhaul that was considered a factor in rising student test scores. But he also was beset by questions about his ethics and hard-charging leadership style that ultimately shook public confidence in the school system.

In fall 2004, it emerged that the school system had purchased about $1 million worth of equipment from LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. of California while Hornsby lived with a company saleswoman. Hornsby had not disclosed the relationship to the school board.

The revelation prompted the school board to seek an independent ethics review of Hornsby's role in the LeapFrog purchase and other matters, including activities related to Quality Schools Consulting Inc. The review raised questions about whether the consulting company was dormant during Hornsby's tenure as chief, as he claimed. The school board declared that the review had found evidence that Hornsby might have violated conflict-of-interest policies -- a conclusion Hornsby stoutly disputed.

In addition, the FBI opened an investigation into Hornsby's handling of federal funds related to the LeapFrog purchase and other matters. Agents seized records from school headquarters in April 2005 and subsequently interviewed school system employees and board members.

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