Ex-Detroit Spain Elementary principal Ronald Alexander sentenced in DPS bribery case

Alexander appeared on 'Ellen' show to accept $500,000 donation to school

DETROIT – A former Detroit Public Schools principal who appeared on the Ellen Show was sentenced Thursday for his involvement in the DPS bribery scandal.

Ronald Alexander was sentenced to 12 months in prison and two years of supervision when he gets out.

Alexander pleaded guilty to the charges in June.

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of 19 to 24 months. Alexander asked for leniency because he is the sole caregiver of his 87-year-old mother who suffers from diabetes.

"I didn't pad my pockets," Alexander said. "The only time I used (gift cards) was to help my children. Mr. Shy did me wrong. He said they were donations for that school."

But the judge said some of the money was spent at restaurants, Nordstrom's, for car repairs and new carpeting in his home.

"You are not blameless. You had everything under your control. Norman Shy didn't make you commit a crime," Judge Alexander Roberts said.

Investigators say the district was cheated out of $2.7 million. Bogus invoices were submitted for chairs, paper and other supplies, some of which were never delivered. In return, gift cards, cash and checks were given to school employees.

Alexander teamed up with the owner of AllState Sales, Norman Shy, to receive kickbacks totaling about $23,000. He was part of a group of 12 other principals accused of scheming with Shy's company.

Worst physical building in the district

Spain Elementary-Middle School was renowned as the worst physical building in the entire district. The condition of the building had parents supporting the teacher sick-outs.

The gym was roped off and closed down because of mold. The building was infested by mice and other rodents.

Donation from Ellen

In February, Alexander shed tears when his school was presented with $500,000 check from the Ellen Show.

"I couldn't breathe," Alexander said at the time. "I started crying. I didn't know what to do."

Students and staff at Spain Elementary-Middle School thought they were staying after school to be a part of a documentary on the problems plaguing Detroit Public Schools. Instead, they were surprised with the massive gift. Students and staff were also given gift cards.

READ: Ellen donates $500,000 to Detroit's Spain Elementary-Middle School

The school was allowed to keep the donation from the Ellen Show, which had partnered with Lowe's to make the donation.

New charges possible in DPS bribery

A federal judge said a whole lot of new charges could be on the way.

"The illegal vendor kickback scheme was a sophisticated fraud," Judge Victoria Roberts said while sentencing DPS vendor Norman Shy and Deputy Superintendent Clara Flowers. "To call it serious is a gross understatement. More principals are involved. Twenty-two other current and former principals are involved." 

She didn't say when it would happen, but made it clear that another principal parade is headed to the federal courthouse.

READ: New charges possible in DPS bribery scheme

Federal Complaint against Alexander