Monday, April 10, 2023
High school student reporters reveal their new principal’s graduate degrees were from a diploma mill
|Student reporters learned investigative reporting first hand.
(Photo by Emily Smith, Pittsburg High School)
What began as a routine school newspaper interview “to introduce the new principal to the community” ended in an investigation and resignation.
“Days after student reporters at Pittsburg High School in Kansas dug into the background of their newly hired principal and found questionable credentials, she resigned from the $93,000-a-year job,” reports Mará Rose Williams of The Kansas City Star. “Student journalists published a story questioning the legitimacy of the private college — Corllins University — where Robertson got her master’s and doctorate degrees years ago. Department of Education officials, contacted by The Star, confirmed student reports; the federal agency could not find evidence of Corllins in operation. The school wasn’t included on the agency’s list of schools closed since 1986. Robertson earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tulsa.”
Trina Paul, a senior and an editor of the Booster Redux, the school newspaper, told Williams, “She was going to be the head of our school, and we wanted to be assured that she was qualified and had the proper credentials.” Williams reports, “Students found, and The Star confirmed, the existence of several articles referring to Corllins as a diploma mill — where people can buy a degree, diploma or certificates. And searches on the school’s website go nowhere.
After the students’ story was published, an executive session ensued. Then Brown issued a statement: “In light of the issues that arose, Amy Robertson felt it was in the best interest of the district to resign her position.” Williams reports, “The board agreed with that decision and said it would reopen the principal position.”
Williams sums up: “Six students worked about three weeks looking into Robertson’s past work and education. Pittsburg journalism adviser Emily Smith said she is ‘very proud’ of her students. ‘They were not out to get anyone to resign or to get anyone fired. They worked very hard to uncover the truth.'” Supt. Destry Brown told Williams, “The kids had never gone through someone like this before. . . . I want our kids to have real-life experiences, whether it’s welding or journalism.”