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The High-school Principal Who Wouldn't Quit

For 13 years, Linda Spight was principal of Detroit's Mumford High School. That all ended when her contract was not renewed for 2009-10, my senior year.

But Spight stayed on because she has another title, one with a bond that is stronger than any contract. She is the mother of the Mumford family.

Because of her genuine love and dedication for us, she continued her constant support of us.

Even though she no longer works at the school, Spight feels it is her duty to attend every single Mumford event, whether it is school related or not. If she is aware of the event, she will come.

Teachers at Mumford, who know Spight well, constantly brag about how dedicated she was to Mumford students and the school itself. They also brag about how "she comes to everything." Of course, I didn't believe she really came to everything, because I was sure she had other important things to do.

At the beginning of May, I began to understand what all the teachers were bragging about. I told Spight about a speech competition I had the next day. She was there to support me. This was the second time this year she attended one of my speech competitions. Right after the competition, she congratulated me and told me she was on her way to a Mumford track meet. That week, Spight went to the Detroit Public School's Excellence Awards banquet, The Detroit Free Press and Ford Motor Co.'s annual journalism banquet, and Mumford's prom, which were back to back to back. Spight said that, as long as she is physically able, she will continue to attend events.

Spight has attended school concerts, pinning ceremonies, the Mumford Grammy Awards, Mumford's Halloween parties, scholarship luncheons, National Honor Society inductions and so much more.

"I believe students need to know that they are loved and supported," Spight said. "I want my students to know that I care and that I celebrate all of the gifts and talents they possess. I am extremely proud of Mumford students. I will keep in touch with them and continue to support them in their endeavors," Spight said.

Even though Spight is no longer Mumford's principal, she is still an authority figure. Students still show her respect and they do not question her corrections of their behavior in the hallway, their attire and their language. Spight says the continued respect is a "conditioned reflex."

Spight has always made it her mission to know her students. She knows my first and last names, my family by name and my journalistic aspirations, even though Mumford has about 1,700 students. Spight knows her students and staff personally. Spight is loved for her genuine love for her Mumford family.

She continues to show that she cares, even though she lost her job in the huge cutbacks engineered in May 2009 by Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, who did not renew contracts for 33 of the district's principals and reassigned 37 others.

"I have a passion for the staff and students," Spight said, "because Mumford has been a part of my daily life for so many years. Mumford will always hold a special place in my heart. I have spent more hours at Mumford than I have with my own family. I will always be available to assist any member of my Mumford family."

The class of 2010 is trying to have our former principal on stage at graduation on June 10. Either way, she will be there.

Taylor Ivana Trammell is part of the "TIME 11", a group of Detroit area high-school students working with Assignment Detroit. After graduation from Mumford High School, she plans to study journalism at Wayne State University.

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  • 1

    How does a principle with so much experience and dedication not get her contract renewed? I think Mr. Bobb has taken some of these things way too far. Its too bad what happened to DPS but its really too bad what is still happening.

  • 2

    Just a passing thought, as a Mumford High grad in 68 -- I could have sworn the beat cop in the halls back then was a guy named Spight. Any idea if they're related?

  • 3

    I graduated Mumford in 1965. Twenty years later the film I got a Grammy for, Beverly Hills Cop, brought well deserved notoriety to the school when Eddie Murphy wore a Mumford Phys Ed t-shirt throughout. (I wrote "Neutron Dance" and 'Stir it Up" on the soundtrack.) I live in LA but in 2008 when the musical I co-wrote, The Color Purple, came to the Fox Theatre I went back to Mumford for the first time since I graduated. I wasn't even sure if the principal, Linda Spight, was going to remember that we talked about me coming but when I walked in everything that could have been covered in purple was, there were posters welcoming me all over the school and there was a surprise lunch for me with 150 people in the library. There was actually no school that week but Linda made sure that all students who were studying music, dance or anything else related to what I did were there. It was a day I'll always remember and one of my brightest memories is what a fantastic relationship Linda had with both the staff and the students. I was also completely impressed by how well the school was kept up inside. Literally nothing had changed in the 43 years since I had been there, down to the fabric on the auditorium seats. Everything was in perfect condition and it was a sparkling clean. I was so blown away by everything and I was really excited about continuing to work with Linda to figure out some way I could stay involved with the students. Then she was fired. its very heartening - and not surprising - to hear that her loyalty has remained with the school despite not being compensated financially for it. It was an idiotic decision to fire her and I wish there was some way this could be reconciled. "We're cheering for you, Linda Spight!"

  • 4

    Kudos to Ms.Taylor for hitting the proverbial nail on its head. This article - written by a DPS student - should be required reading for all those who are making decisions for our children in Detroit Public Schools. The current Financial Manager continues to make decisions that may very well make sense from a fiscal point of view but the firing of Linda Spight made NO SENSE from the only point of view that really matters - the kids.

    Instead of remaining on the Bobb band wagon, folks need to look more critically at his random, broad brush stroke poliicies that will inevitably result in losing some of the best Educators among us. Does anyone know what kind of formula he used that resulted in such a dynamic Educator being fired?

    I love Linda Spights' spirit. Despite the disrespectful way she was treated, she is still an advocate for kids and their families. How many events does the financial manager attend when there are no journalists or cameras? How many students, parents, or teachers does the financial manager know by name?

  • 5

    To Principal Linda Spight, I say THANK YOU.

    You are truly an educator with a heart. Mumford has lost a great one. Or, have they? You are going above and beyond anything a salary could cause you to do. God Bless You.

    I am from Southeastern High School, Class of June 1969. I remember Mumford and knew some kids that went there. It was a good school then and I know you did more than your part to keep it that way.

    How sad that our schools have come to the place where we can no longer keep our teachers that have a desire to educate our young Detroiters, I'm sorry for that but I can not help but think perhaps, there is
    money somewhere. With all the "special" emergency directors with big fat salaries, is there not somewhere else to cut? Perhaps if dead beat jailbird politicians paid back what they took from the city, we would have money. No such luck.

    Someone told me that when bad things happen, the innocent always suffer. This is true in this case. The great principal and students are the innocent. We need to fix this, somehow. Until that happens, if it ever does, we still have people like Principal Linda Spight to thank for going above and beyond. A person who has students rise up to praise her.

    So, again, I say thank you to you, Principal Spight.

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