Administrators, teachers, parents and students put their faith in veteran educator Jeffrey Hubbard in 2006.
FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version incorrectly stated that Newport-Mesa Unified School District Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard is accused of giving Nora Roque an illegal bonus. He is accused of giving her an illegal pay raise.
Charismatic, articulate and outwardly warm, he brought to Newport Beach and Costa Mesa schools a doctorate and a great work history, last serving as schools chief in one of the most prestigious districts in Southern California, Beverly Hills Unified.
"I know you, as a board, and the community have entrusted me to take care of children," Hubbard said at the time. "That is a tremendous responsibility, and I promise I'll never let you down."
The school board and many administrators would argue that he kept his word.
Test scores rose districtwide, high school dropout rates were nearly slashed in half under his leadership, nagging lawsuits were settled and services to students were largely kept afloat when the economy tanked and districts nationwide were laying off teachers.
But then in late 2010 and for much of 2011, the promising superintendent found himself in an unlikely position for someone running a 21,800-student school district ranked highly by U.S. News & World Report: the defendant's chair.
Hubbard, 54, has been charged with three felony charges of misappropriation of public funds related to his time in Beverly Hills. Jury selection in his trial in Los Angeles Superior Court is set to begin Tuesday, and trial could begin as early as Thursday, prosecutors said.
Hubbard has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has told the Daily Pilot that he will not publicly comment until after the trial. He has said in emails to the school board and other administrators, however, that he feels he is being wrongly prosecuted.
Prosecutors, though, contend that their case is solid.
Though not related to Hubbard's actions in Newport-Mesa, the harsh spotlight of scandal touched on the community as well. Evidence released in the case included emails laced with sexual innuendo sent from school district accounts between Hubbard and a former subordinate, who has been convicted of related charges in a separate trial.
And the damage increased when the teachers union took a vote of no confidence in their own superintendent last year. Though there are critics, a majority of Hubbard's bosses on the school board stand squarely behind him, and some have argued they are sure of his innocence. Those who were here when he was hired say they definitely made the right choice.
During Hubbard's trial, Deputy Supt. and Chief Business Official Paul Reed will again run the district, as he did when Hubbard took a paid leave of absence last year to prepare for trial.
District spokeswoman Laura Boss said Hubbard is using personal or vacation days for the trial.
No district administrators will attend the trial, but a paralegal from the district's law firm will provide daily, confidential reports to the school board, Boss said.
"Obviously there are decisions and other things they need to decide, and they need to have the best information," she said.
'Willing to look at new ideas'