It was a bigger year than most for Hesperia in 2007. Despite being a gap between election years, the Hesperia Unified School District school board found itself in the headlines on a regular basis and it was an especially bad year for one of Hesperia's most prominent political families.

1. Tad Honeycutt indicted, charged with misappropriation of CCA funds
Two and a half years after he was mentioned more than three dozen times in an audit of the failed California Charter Academy, Councilman Tad Honeycutt was arrested on September 4 and charged with 34 felonies.

If the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office succeeds in its prosecution of the two-term city councilman, Honeycutt will spend up to 20 years in prison. District Attorney Michael A. Ramos charges Honeycutt was involved in the mismanagement of $5.5 million in taxpayer funds.

Honeycutt is charged with 15 counts of Misappropriation of Public Funds, 15 counts of Grand Theft, three counts of failure to file a state tax return and a single count filing a false tax return.

Once the largest chain of charter schools in California, California Charter Academy closed its doors in August 2004, leaving thousands of school children without a classroom on the eve of the new school year. Founded in 1999, CCA was once a string of 60 campuses serving 4,500 students.

The charges Honeycutt and CCA founder C. Steven Cox face specifically relate to 37 cases of funds being transferred from the non-profit CCA to for-profit entities intended to provide school services for a lower cost.

In an audit report commissioned by the California Department of Education and released in April 2005, Honeycutt was mentioned 38 times in the 107-page document, second only to Cox. The audit report accused CCA officials, and officials in spin-off operations, like the for-profit subsidiary Everything For Schools, headed up by Honeycutt, of misusing $23 million in taxpayer funds. EFS was specifically alleged to have marked up schoolbooks by 57 percent before reselling them to the CCA schools. The theoretical purpose of setting up the for-profit subsidiaries had been to save CCA schools by enabling them to buy in bulk, something auditors said didn't happen.

Honeycutt was booked into Victor Valley Jail, with bail set at $500,000. A trial date has not been set as of press time. He has ignored calls from some of his fellow council members to step down.

2. Recall effort launched against three school board members
Hardy Black, Robert Kirk and Lee Rogers were elected to the HUSD board in November 2006, and almost from the beginning, things have been contentious, with the new controlling majority of the school board facing angry parents -- and former board members -- over a possible change to the school's calendar, the transformation of sixth grade only schools into subject-focused "choice" schools and who would build the district's third comprehensive high school.

Things came to a head in late July, when the three newly elected board members were served with Notices of Intention to file recall petitions. Recall proponents will have to gather almost 7,000 signatures on each of three petitions to get a recall election scheduled sometime in 2008.

After a dramatic beginning, the recall process hasn't been quick out of the starting gate: The petitions, which include written responses by Black, Kirk and Rogers, have to follow a very precise format, and proponents have gone back and forth with the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters getting their petitions just right. After weeks of this, proponents missed a deadline in late October, forcing them to start over from scratch.

Finally, on December 7, the registrar approved all three petitions and proponents began printing them up. According to spokeswoman Lori Nielson -- a former HUSD school board member herself -- the group will begin gathering signatures from the public after the holiday season.

And then there's one final and most important deadline: The completed signatures must be turned into the registrar of voters by April 7.

Black, Kirk and Rogers have all expressed their confidence that recall proponents will not be able to gather the needed signatures necessary to force a special election.

3. Former councilman Theron Honeycutt jailed for child rape
One of the city's first councilmen walked out of a Vancouver, Washington jail on January 16. Theron Honeycutt, the father of Tad Honeycutt, had served 153 days in jail after he made a plea agreement and plead guilty to one count of assault in the third degree and one count of child rape in the first degree.

Honeycutt, 67, was convicted of crimes against two of his younger relatives, who were 10 and 11 at the time of his arrest. The abuse reportedly occurred in 2004 at his home in Vancouver as well as at a previous home in Columbia City, Oregon, and included multiple forms of sexual contact between Honeycutt and the younger girl.

According to Vancouver Police Department documents, Honeycutt admitted to the abuse in a phone call to the father of one of the girls. In the call, which was recorded by the father and turned over to police, Honeycutt claimed the girls were "starved for attention" and that he had never intended to hurt them.

Sentenced to 180 days in jail, his sentence was reduced by 27 days due to good behavior.

Honeycutt will have to register as a sex offender, spend three years in a sex offender treatment program and has a 10-year suspended sentence hanging over his head. He is also forbidden from any contact with one of the victims for the rest of his life and cannot make contact with the other girl for five years.

Honeycutt was a Hesperia City councilman from 1991 to 1995.

4. Oak Hills High School groundbreaking
The High Desert's largest school district broke ground on its third comprehensive high school in October. Oak Hills High School is planned to open in August 2009.

More than 3,500 of the HUSD's almost 22,000 students are crowded into Hesperia High School, and Oak Hills will immediately draw off a large portion of Hesperia's underclassmen when it opens.

But the road to the groundbreaking was a bumpy one, with the board's first decision -- to have Rancho Cucamonga-based WLC Construction Services oversee the construction using a construction management model -- drawing fire from critics and not-so-veiled legal threats from other companies passed over in favor of a less-experienced, more expensive and slower company.

On advice from legal counsel, the school board reversed course on WLC and discarded plans to use a construction management system on the Oak Hills project. Instead, Riverside-based ASR Constructors will be handling the project as general contractors.

And on a sunny October day, High Desert dignitaries gathered to witness the groundbreaking. The HUSD will be the only school district in the High Desert to have three comprehensive high schools when Oak Hills opens in two years.

5. Hesperia High School brings home the key, breaking four-year losing streak
It has been a very good year for the Hesperia High School varsity football team. The Scorpions played a full season at their new football season and had their best season ever, including their first-ever playoff victory.

Perhaps the highlight of their season was beating cross-town rivals Sultana High School in the annual Key Game, 24-10, breaking a four-year losing streak. Sultana still leads the series, 9-3.

But the Scorpions' post-season run ended in the second round of CIF playoffs, when they were beaten by M. L. King High School of Riverside, 21-14.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.