Andre 7 signed off the Prince George's County public school e-mail system with a prediction of "great" test scores to come, a reflection on his "difficult" decision to quit and a parting exhortation to his employees to focus on teaching, learning and children.
"It has been a great two years and our accomplishments are too many to list," the writer, aka outgoing schools chief Andre J. Hornsby, wrote in his first public communication since resigning May 27.
But he nonetheless cited some in the three-paragraph farewell read late last week by many of the roughly17,000 full-time employees in the state's second-largest school system. There were, he wrote, improved payroll systems; increased communication with principals, teachers and the public; new employee contracts with "great raises"; and new instructional materials that helped raise standardized test scores in the 2003-04 school year.
With an eye to 2004-05 test results, due out any day, Hornsby wrote in an all-capitals burst, "SCORES WILL BE JUST AS GREAT." He added, "I won't be there to celebrate, so ONE LOUD CHEER FOR OUR EXTRAORDINARY WORK!"
The farewell, sent shortly before 7 p.m. Thursday, made no reference to an FBI investigation into such matters as a controversial $1 million purchase the school system made last year while Hornsby lived with a saleswoman for the vendor, LeapFrog SchoolHouse of Emeryville, Calif.
Nor did it allude to an ethics report the Board of Education commissioned to examine Hornsby's management practices in light of that deal and other issues that have raised questions. Another topic, board members have said, was his handling of money related to the federal telecommunications and technology fund known as "E-rate."
An oral summary of the report from Huron Consulting Group Inc. was given to the school board yesterday during a closed-door meeting in Upper Marlboro that lasted nearly five hours.
After the session, all nine board members declined to discuss details. Several said the report would be released to the public tomorrow, adhering to a deal struck with Hornsby to allow him at least two days to prepare a response.
Board member Robert O. Duncan (Laurel) said the findings gave him new information, including some that was "a little" surprising.
"The report was extremely informative," said board Vice Chairman Howard W. Stone Jr. (Mitchellville).
Meantime, jockeying has begun over potential successors to Hornsby, who is on administrative leave until his resignation takes effect June 30. He is receiving a $125,000 severance payment and one year of continued health benefits.
Howard Burnett, named interim chief, has said he plans to retire in a few months and is not in the running to become a longer-term replacement. Some school system observers have touted the county government's second-ranking official, Chief Administrative Officer Jacqueline Brown, for schools chief.
Brown, a former Howard County school official who has been mentioned in previous years as a contender to lead the Prince George's system, could not be reached for comment late last week. County spokesman James P. Keary said Friday she was out of town.
Also mentioned is former school board chairman Alvin Thornton, an associate provost and political scientist at Howard University and an expert on school funding. Asked in a television appearance last week on NewsChannel 8 about whether he would consider the post, Thornton did not rule it out.
In a subsequent telephone interview, Thornton said: "It's unfortunate we're talking about a leadership transition. It causes me great concern." Asked whether he would be a candidate for the post, he said: "I'm willing to play a role, but it would be presumptuous of me to say I or somebody else should be selected."
School board leaders said speculation about a successor to Hornsby is premature. Board Chairman Beatrice P. Tignor (Upper Marlboro) said the board must first discuss a search process and several transitional issues, including 2006 board elections.
On Friday, Hornsby, who has not responded to repeated interview requests since his resignation, forwarded to a reporter 46 e-mails he had received from teachers, principals and others in praise of his two-year tenure as chief. They landed in an in-box, one by one, from 2:54 p.m. to 3:29 p.m.
"In closing," Hornsby wrote in the farewell, "the decision to move forward is always difficult, especially once you've invested so much. However, it is the one I will live with forever. God bless each of you and, remember, teaching and learning is the only core business we should continue to focus on -- THE CHILDREN NEED EACH OF US."