Exactly one month before he resigned, Prince George's County schools chief Andre J. Hornsby expressed confidence in his position in an interview with The Post in his office suite in Upper Marlboro.
But he also projected serenity about the possibility that events would lead him and the school system to part company. The question-and-answer session April 27 provided a window into Hornsby's state of mind eight days after the FBI entered his office and another school building while he was out of town, and seized records related to a $1 million educational technology purchase from LeapFrog SchoolHouse, and other matters.
Asked at the time whether he expected to serve out the remaining two years on his four-year contract, the chief executive officer of the 136,000-student system replied: "I believe that I have a contract. I believe I have a valid contract, and I plan to continue the work that I was brought here to do. If for some reason I do not complete that work, then that's why you have school boards and CEOs of companies this size. When two groups -- myself, representing the administration, and the board -- decide it's no longer appropriate [to continue], you sit down and have an intelligent discussion about what you want to do. I don't believe there has to be a contentious environment to make decisions. I believe we are all intelligent people, and you sit down and make those decisions."
Hornsby added, "I have a lot of respect for the people who serve on school boards across this country, and I would hope we would continue to maintain a respectful relationship as I continue to move forward in doing my job."
Subsequently, Hornsby, 51, at some point decided he could no longer move forward: He tendered his resignation May 27. School board members say he was not pushed out. But it seems quite likely that he got a signal from somewhere that it would be best for him to move on, sooner rather than later, as an ethics report commissioned by the school board was about to be made public. Huron Consulting Group Inc.'s report on Hornsby's management practices was released this week.
With his resignation, effective June 30, Hornsby will get a $125,000 severance payment -- worth half his annual salary, according to terms of his contract -- and a year of continued health benefits.
The school system, in exchange, received protection from a lawsuit. That is no small thing in a litigious society. School systems can burn quickly through taxpayer dollars defending themselves in court.
In retrospect, it also seems quite possible that Hornsby would have met the school system in court if he had not received a severance. He closed the April 27 interview with this response, when asked whether he had hired a lawyer:
"I have chosen not to comment on these topics since the beginning of what was alleged to be an investigation. One thing I do understand: I will always protect my rights under the Constitution that exists in America. I respect it. I know what my rights are. And I will always protect my rights."
Hornsby on the Web
Scroll back five days before that interview, to April 22.
It was a Friday at the end of a tumultuous week. The FBI had dropped in, unannounced, that Tuesday as Hornsby and some board members were at a educational leadership conference in San Diego. The school board had debated behind closed doors on Thursday night whether to put Hornsby on administrative leave. He survived that session, but board members made clear afterward he was not out of the woods.
What news, on that Friday, did the school system release under Hornsby's name and title as chief executive? Here was the headline:
"CEO ANDRE J. HORNSBY SALUTED BY 'THE HISTORYMAKERS'; Dr. Hornsby's Oral History Included in Priceless National Collection."
The release noted that Hornsby's biography and photo could be found at www.thehistorymakers.com, as part of a national archival collection of African American histories. It went on to state: "Dr. Hornsby was selected for his dedicated public service and vision as an outstanding educator for nearly 30 years. During the taping of his oral history, Dr. Hornsby shared details of his life growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Gary, Indiana. He also shared his educational experiences and the family influences that helped him succeed in school and led him to be an educator."
Anyone wanting to know about Andre Jose Hornsby, born on Oct. 7, 1953 to a seamstress and a carpenter/bricklayer, could find more on that Web site by clicking a button labeled "EducationMakers." But there's nothing about LeapFrog SchoolHouse, the FBI or the Huron report.
Huron Contract Stays Sealed
Regarding Huron, The Post sought last week to obtain or examine a copy of the signed contract between the school board and Huron Consulting to learn the terms of payment, date of hire and original scope of work. School system legal officer Shauna Garlington Battle and school attorney Andrew W. Nussbaum denied access to the document, citing attorney-client privilege. Nussbaum declined Saturday to elaborate on the decision in a brief encounter with a reporter as he was leaving a closed session with the school board in Upper Marlboro.
In addition, the school system has refused to grant any access to documents in its possession related to the FBI's April 19 search. In a letter to The Post, Battle cited an exception to the Maryland Public Information Act, under Section 10-618(f) of a state statute.