In April, FBI agents paid a surprise visit to the headquarters of Prince George's County schools to seize records for an inquiry into possible abuse of federal educational aid for needy children. The investigative action rocked the school system. In late May, the schools chief who was a target of the probe, Andre J. Hornsby, abruptly quit.
More than six months have passed since the search of Hornsby's office and another school building. As of this week, no charges have been filed against him, and it is unclear where the case stands.
An ethics review, separate from the FBI probe, raised questions about Hornsby's management actions in connection with, among other matters, a $1 million purchase of reading equipment in 2004 from California-based LeapFrog SchoolHouse. Hornsby lived with a LeapFrog saleswoman at the time of the purchase.
Hornsby denied legal and ethical wrongdoing before he submitted his resignation May 27 and, through an attorney, continued to do so afterward.
In response to questions about the status of the probe, Hornsby attorney Robert C. Bonsib last week wrote in an e-mail: "Nothing to report." FBI spokesman Barry Maddox also declined to comment.
Although Hornsby has dropped out of public view, LeapFrog has not. The president of LeapFrog SchoolHouse (a division of LeapFrog Enterprises Inc.), Jessie Woolley-Wilson, was in Washington last month to discuss a partnership with the National Head Start Association to help boost reading skills among preschoolers. Woolley-Wilson took over the post after the LeapFrog-Hornsby controversy emerged last fall.
Woolley-Wilson said that LeapFrog has cooperated with authorities. She added that the FBI has not interviewed her. "To my knowledge, they have not called us recently," she told The Post. "Like you, we're waiting for the final disposition."
In federal court in Norfolk, an unrelated legal matter is unfolding for a former county school official who served under Hornsby. Pamela Y. Hoffler-Riddick, who had been an regional assistant superintendent in Prince George's and an education official in Montgomery County and elsewhere, was found guilty this month of laundering money for an illegal drug ring based in Virginia. A jury rendered the verdict after a two-week trial.
A federal charge of witness tampering is still pending against Hoffler-Riddick, said Frank R. Shults, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Her sentencing for the money-laundering conviction has been scheduled for Jan. 23. She faces possible prison time. Hoffler-Riddick's attorney, Steven D. Goodwin, based in Richmond, declined to comment.
Schools Come Through
Hurricane Katrina prompted an outpouring of aid from Prince George's schools. More than 190 students displaced from storm-battered schools in the Gulf Coast have enrolled in the county, and some displaced teachers also have found work here. Students, parents, teachers and others from Prince George's also gave to school-sponsored relief drives, which will be forwarded to the American Red Cross in a ceremony Nov. 17.
"Many schools demonstrated their compassion and creativity while raising funds to contribute to the relief effort," interim schools chief Howard A. Burnett said in a statement.
The total raised so far: $118,196.94.