First it was school superintendent Richard Bray who quietly left the district. Then Rob Challinor, a former school principal who had become one of the top administrators at the Hesperia Unified School District office, announced he had accepted an out-of-the-area position.


That's about the time that I started hearing rumblings of a supposed "hit list," a seemingly mythical document that itemized which district employees were being targeted by the newly elected board members and a handful of educators from the teachers' union. I discarded the hit list assertion as rumor. But more tried-and-true, longtime district employees continued to leave their positions.


Bray's replacement, Hank Richardson, who previously served as the HUSD's head of personnel, "retired" within his first year. Then I heard that Lime Street Elementary principal Irene Lopez was leaving for a job in Los Angeles.


Hmmm. What's going on here?


Some people who appeared to be excelling in new positions were put back in their former slots. Deb Baker, who was serving as the district's public information officer, was reassigned to her former position as the superintendent's executive secretary. And Robert McCollum, who seemed to be a good fit as Sultana principal, moved over to Hesperia Junior. Later, Bob Mosley, who for several years had served as chief of the district's police department, mysteriously stepped down.


"There is a war upon all administrators in Hesperia today," Kingston Elementary School principal David Long wrote in a resignation letter last July. "As of the writing of this letter, 13 administrators have chosen to leave our district this year. That is an alarming number, perhaps more have left than in the last five years combined."


Maybe, I began thinking, this hit list is for real.


Meanwhile, the new board members - Robert Kirk, Hardy Black and Lee Rogers - were served with recall notices. Recall proponents gave four key reasons: the board's awarding of a contract to a lesser experienced bidder, hiring a consultant that duplicates the job of district managers, eliminating of sixth-grade schools, and an alleged unnecessary expenditure of thousands of dollars on a survey for an "unpopular calendar change." Nine months after the recall movement began, however, the drive unceremoniously ended when proponents failed to gather enough signatures to put it on the ballot.


That occurrence prompted me to write these words in a commentary:


"With the failure of the recall drive, the three school board members get a do-over. Let's give them ample opportunity to do what they believe needs to be done. After weathering the last nine months, Robert Kirk, Hardy Black and Lee Rogers have earned your support."


Privately, I was thinking, surely these three have learned to mellow out a bit and stop their micro-managing of our highly regarded school district. They're not going to continue to force key people out of the district, I thought.


But I was wrong.


During last Monday's school board meeting, George Landon, who has served as the district's assistant superintendent of business services, stood before the five-member board and a sizable audience and read his resignation letter. But Landon isn't just any man. Besides enduring the unusually high stresses of his position, he meets demanding personal challenges as well. He has wonderful daughter, Emilee, who as a Hesperia Junior eighth-grader two years ago was on an award-winning science team. But Emilee has special needs, which the Landons tend to daily. Landon is a man capable of rising to tough challenges.


"I know him professionally as well as personally," one teacher commented on hesperiastar.com, "and he is one of the most kind, patient and honest people I know. The real deal."


Another district employee wrote, "The loss of Mr. Landon is a great loss to our community and to the district. He made wonderful contributions to our district, was pleasant and respectful, and was very approachable when he was needed for something."


But Landon apparently had enough, as his letter indicated:


"I will be resigning in order to maintain my integrity and morals," Landon wrote. "I can no longer be associated with a district where differing views, opinions and issues are not discussed and respected. Lack of respect has been shown to my fellow colleagues, as well as a lack of trust for staff to perform their responsibilities. Directions have been given by individuals who have not involved all necessary stakeholders in order to gain a full understanding of the issues in order to make an informed decision."


We don't know if George Landon was on a hit list, or if such an document has ever existed, but what has become painfully clear is that Robert Kirk, Hardy Black and Lee Rogers are over-confident and meddlesome. The leader of the pack, Robert Kirk, has a doctorate degree. Certainly that should earn him respect, but it doesn't qualify him to dictate every single, little detail, alienate qualified personnel and shatter the structural integrity of the school district.


If there is a list of people who the three board members want gone, I can't help but wonder who is next. The new superintendent, Mark McKinney? A popular school principal? Or perhaps a coach or teacher the three board members don't like?


Judging from the last 18 months, no administrator - even one who has proven himself or herself to be supremely competent - is safe.


And that's a shame.