A group of reporters and editors of the Booster Redux, the newspaper of the Pittsburg High School, is getting some worthy praise for their efforts. The team of youngsters – consisting of five juniors and one senior student – decided to investigate their new principal who started at the school on March 6. What they discovered led to her resignation.

Researching the principal's credentials

The team had a meeting about Amy Robertson, their new principal, and started researching her background. They quickly uncovered several discrepancies in Robertson’s education credentials.

One aspect of their research was Corllins University, where Robertson had said she got a master’s and her doctorate degrees several years before. However, they instantly found the private university’s website wasn’t functioning and they could find no evidence that it was, in fact, an accredited university.

What the students did discover was that Corllins University was portrayed in a number of articles online as being a diploma mill, where people can buy themselves a diploma, degree or certificate. The university was certainly not accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. They also found no physical address existed for the university in the Better Business Bureau’s website.

Speaking to the Washington Post, one of the students, Connor Balthazor, 17, said there were several things that didn’t add up.

They then began an investigation that lasted several weeks, resulting in an article published in the School Newspaper on Friday last week. The article put into question the principal’s degrees and her experience as an educator. On Tuesday, Robertson handed in her resignation. The Pittsburg Community Schools then said in a statement that in light of some issues that have arisen, the principal thought it was in the best interest of the school district to resign.

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Student journalists in the nationwide news

After the article, followed by the Principal’s resignation, the student newspaper staff got into the local, state and even national news. Reportedly professional journalists from all over the country applauded the students for their work, saying they asked some tough questions and ended up prompting change in the school administration.

The newspaper advisor, Emily Smith, said that people kept telling the students to stop poking their nose in where it doesn’t belong, but they persisted anyway. However, Smith did note that the students couldn’t understand why something that was easy for them to spot hadn’t been noticed by adults in the school district. According to Barthazor all that information had been overlooked and he said you would expect authority figures to notice this.

Reportedly Robertson was living in Dubai for over 20 years before getting hired at the school. She was allegedly the chief executive of an education consulting firm there. According to the students, the principal gave them incomplete answers, along with inconsistencies and conflicting dates when she spoke to them in a conference call.

She also reportedly said she attended Corllins University prior to its losing accreditation.

After the publication of the article and Robertson’s resignation, she was reportedly contacted by the Kansas City Star. She told that newspaper that all her degrees were authenticated by the U.S. government. However, she would not comment about the students’ questions relating to her credentials, saying their concerns were not based on fact. However, according to Smith, during an emergency faculty meeting on Tuesday at the school Robertson could not produce a transcript to confirm her University of Tulsa undergraduate degree.

As for the students themselves, Balthazor said that in the beginning, it was exciting, like a movie where a journalist is chasing down a lead. However, as things progressed, they realized there was much more to the story. When the story broke nationwide, Balthazor was amazed at so many people paying attention to a school journalism story from southeast Kansas.