It was the next to last day of school on Tuesday at Cedar Middle School, and as in schools across the nation, the students were thinking of the summer vacation just a little more than 24 hours away. There was a field day planned for the latter half of the day, with classes essentially done for the year.


For Principal Dave Olney, it was the last time he'd be part of this ebb and flow cycle of the school year that he'd experienced every year of his life since childhood, except for a brief window between graduating college and embarking on a career in education.


Olney, the principal who opened both Cedar Middle School and Cypress Elementary School before that, is leaving the Hesperia Unified School District to accept a job working for the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, working with individual school districts on their AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) college preparatory programs.


"I've been in education 22 years," 18 years of it in the HUSD, "and of all the things I've seen, AVID was the thing that was everything that I was all about," Olney said.


The AVID program, he said, doesn't just focus attention where so many academic programs do: On either the lowest-achieving or the highest-achieving students. Instead, he said, it focuses on the middle of the bell curve, on students who are held back mostly by a lack of exposure to "academic language" and an environment geared toward getting kids into college.


But his staff and students weren't going to let him off without some ribbing: Ever since he'd announced his departure to the school a month ago, Olney has been the victim of a series of pranks. A fan of the Dodgers, Olney had to put up with a day of the school being overrun with Angels fans and Angels paraphernalia.


"For our second prank we had a country/western day as Dave can't stand country music!" teacher Rose Soares said in an e-mail. "Our health tech brought her farm animals from home. She parked her horse [trailer] in Dave's spot for when he arrived at work and put live chickens in his office as well as hay, saddles, and everything else country you can image! We had country music on loop in his office and we played it out in the quad during both lunches! All the staff dressed up in country western attire as well! The girls in the office also hung up wanted posters of Dave all around the school."


The fond feelings between Olney and the school community are apparently mutual.


"If you're ever having a bad day, you go out and hang out with the kids for 20 minutes," he said. "You can't help but laugh."


And it's good that he enjoys a laugh, because the pranks kept on coming: During his interview Tuesday, various teachers had faked chaos in their classrooms when Olney stuck his head in, from Soares having her middle school students nap, to other teachers selling candy, to others forcing students to wear dunce caps.


"Mr. Olney is well loved and respected by all the staff and students here at Cedar!" said Soares. "It really is a shame he is leaving us! He will be missed more than even he knows. And since he is the biggest practical joker we all know, we thought this would be a fitting send off for him."


"I feel like the Michael Jordan of Hesperia," Olney said. "I'm walking out of here with a championship ring, because of the staff we have [here]."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star