Exclusive: How one principal says he got sucked into the DPS kickback scandal by trying to help kids

Posted at 11:21 AM, Sep 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-09 11:21:27-04

One of the principals sentenced to prison for approving invoices for school supplies never delivered in exchange for kickbacks is speaking out.

Ronald Alexander first appeared on 7 Action News in January. He is one of several who spoke out against the district, saying it allowed his school to fall in such disrepair it became dangerous. 

He spoke out in defense of kids.  The story inspired action. Lowe’s and The Ellen DeGeneres Show promised to take action to repair Spain Elementary Middle School.

“I have given my life, 40 years, to a school district where I did nothing but good,” said Alexander after learning he is facing one year in federal prison.

Federal prosecutors say he took $23,000 from vendor Norman Shy, who charged the district for school supplies never delivered.

On Thursday, Alexander and several other principals learned their sentences today.

Former Principal of Osborn High School Tanya Bowman was sentenced to nine months in federal prison for accepting more than $12,000 in kickbacks.

Former Principal of Earhart Elementary-Middle School Gerlma Johnson was sentenced to one year in federal prison for accepting almost $23,000.

Former Principal of Jerry White Center High School was sentenced to six months in prison for accepting about $4,000 in kickbacks.

Alexander was sentenced to one year in federal prison for accepting $23,000 in kickbacks.

“I never saw it as kickbacks,” said Alexander.

All of the principals sentenced today told Judge Victoria Roberts they used the money they received to help kids and staff in their schools. Alexander said that the way the money was presented by vendor Norman Shy seemed more like charity than a kickback.

“He would ask me how I was doing and what was I doing for the school,” said Alexander.  “He would say let me give you a donation. Let me help you out. Little did I know that the law saw it as kickbacks. Had I known it was that I never would have done it. I am not a kickback person. My record in 60 years of life is impeccable. I don’t play like that.”

At the school where he worked, parents say they would welcome him back if given the chance.

“It went right back to the school,” said James McCutcheon.

“That man is a good man,” said Monique Wheeler, a mom to four students who went to Spain.

“I don’t know who is going to take care of my 87-year-old sick mother,” said Alexander as he teared up at the thought of soon serving his sentence.  “That bothers me more than anything.”

Judge Victoria Roberts, before delivering the sentence, told him she believes he did a lot of good, but is not blameless. She said there is evidence he spent some of the money on food, car repairs, and shoes for himself.

“For them to say I was doing it for myself, that was never the case,” said Alexander. "Everything I did was for those children.”

As for Norman Shy, so far he has the longest sentence. Judge Roberts sentenced him to 5 years in prison earlier this week.