Three weeks into the school year at Spain Elementary-Middle School in Detroit, the teachers are starting to get used to their new classes. Students are starting to get back into the swing of things.
And now it’s time for something unexpected: A PR blitz.
Last year, the school in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood became a symbol of everything that was wrong with Detroit Public Schools. Photos of its dangerously buckling gym floors ricocheted around the world when teachers throughout the district started calling in sick to protest deteriorating conditions, freezing classrooms, and filthy bathrooms. Major news outlets like CNN came to document Spain’s shuttered gym, its unsafe playground, and its musty smells. And when Mayor Mike Duggan took a tour, he spotted a dead mouse on the floor.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. Just as the school started getting some good news, just as it got a shout out from the comedian Ellen DeGeneres—who partnered with Lowe’s to lavish the school with $500,000 to repair the leaky roof and damaged floors in the gym—the school’s beloved and dynamic principal, Ronald Alexander, was hit with bribery charges. He was among 12 Detroit Public Schools principals charged with taking bribes from a corrupt school-supply vendor. He was ordered this month to spend a year in prison after pleading guilty to pocketing $23,000 in bribes.