These High School Journalists Deserve an 'A' for Taking Down Their Principal

Pittsburg High School students
The Washington Post

Students often set out on the road to academic excellence in order to learn and sharpen tools they can later use in life. But sometimes, their actions can teach adults a thing or two. Connor Balthazor, Maddie Baden, Trina Paul, Gina Mathew, Kali Poenitske, and Patrick Sullivan are Kansas high school journalism students who caused their new principal to resign one month after her hiring when they discovered her credentials didn't seem to match up -- or make sense.


Amy Robertson signed on to be the new principal at Pittsburg High School on March 6 and was soon after interviewed by student writers and editors of the Booster Redux, the school's student-run paper, for a feature story about who she is and her background. (Sounds pretty harmless, right?)

The problem was Robertson's answers didn't seem to add up and "presented incomplete answers, conflicting dates, and inconsistencies," the investigating students told the Huffington Post.

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One of the biggest issues student writers and editors working on the feature had was trying to confirm their principal's credentials, as Robertson told them she earned her master's and doctorate from Corllins University -- which happens to be an institution not accredited by the US Department of Education, and known for being a "diploma mill" that enables people to buy their degrees instead of earn them. There's even speculation that Corllins University uses photos from other institutions as their own -- plus, the students found Corllins U doesn't have a functioning website.

Even Emily Smith, adviser of the Booster Redux, had difficulty gathering information, as she was unable to obtain a copy of Robertson's bachelor degree transcripts from the University of Tulsa. (Another red flag.)

This, however, was just the starting point of this rabbit hole of controversy, as the six high school students involved conducted online searches and found Amy Robertson ran a private school in Dubai without a license, resulting in a (temporary) license suspension.


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Needless to say, these journalists had all the receipts they needed and published this front-page story in the Booster Redux after a three-week investigation.

The Booster Redux high school paper

Amy Robertson resigned from her position April 4, but told the Kansas City Star in an interview, "I have no comment in response to the questions posed by PHS students regarding my credentials because their concerns are not based on facts."

Interesting. Next she'll give some "alternative facts," right?

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Superintendent Destry Brown also confirmed Robertson's resignation and said in a statement, "In light of the issues that arose, Dr. Robertson felt it was in the best interest of the district to resign her position. The Board has agreed to accept her resignation." Admitting he thought Robertson was "the best fit" for the high school, Brown also owns up to hiring Amy Robertson, telling the Kansas City Star, "I felt like she is very knowledgeable about what is going on in education today in college and career readiness, she is very familiar with Common Core, she knows about how a building works and about maintaining a safe environment."

".... I do feel it is my responsibility. As superintendent I feel like I let the teachers and the students down. I publicly admit that."


Kudos to these students for working so hard together to get to the truth -- and for uncovering truths that the very people who gave Amy Robertson this job seemed to miss.

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In a world where we have such instant access to technology, it's hard to imagine someone becoming a principal with such a sketchy background. As Maddie Baden, one of the awesome students involved, tells the Kansas City Star, "If students could uncover all of this, I want to know why the adults couldn't find this ..." 

So true!

I don't know what these kids' plans are for the future, but some institution or company (an accredited one, *Wink*) should consider giving them a scholarship -- a job, or something! This is so amazing and just goes to show that kids aren't the only ones who need a bit of schooling.

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