These high school journalists investigated a new principal’s credentials. Days later, she resigned

By Samantha Schmidt for The Washington Post

Connor Balthazor, 17, was in the middle of study hall when he was called into a meeting with his high school newspaper adviser.

A group of reporters and editors from the student newspaper, the Booster Redux at Pittsburg High School in southeastern Kansas, had gathered to talk about Amy Robertson, who was hired as the high school’s head principal on March 6.

The student journalists had begun researching Robertson, and quickly found some discrepancies in her education credentials. For one, when they researched Corllins University, the private university where Robertson said she got her master’s and doctorate degrees years ago, the website didn’t work. They found no evidence that it was an accredited university.

“There were some things that just didn’t quite add up,” Balthazor told The Washington Post.

The students began digging into a weeks-long investigation that would result in an article published Friday questioning the legitimacy of the principal’s degrees and of her work as an education consultant.

On Tuesday night, Robertson resigned.

“In light of the issues that arose, Dr. Robertson felt it was in the best interest of the district to resign her position,” Pittsburg Community Schools announced in a statement. “The Board has agreed to accept her resignation.”

The resignation thrust the student newspaper staff into local, state and national news, with professional journalists nationwide applauding the students for asking tough questions and prompting change in their administration.

“Everybody kept telling them, ‘stop poking your nose where it doesn’t belong,’” newspaper adviser Emily Smith told The Post. But with the encouragement of the superintendent, the students persisted.

“They were at a loss that something that was so easy for them to see was waiting to be noticed by adults,” Smith said.

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