High school principal resigns following student newspapers’ probe into her credentials

ABC News(PITTSBURG, Kan.) — A group of high school journalists from Kansas are being applauded for their investigative work after the new principal of their school resigned following an article published by the students that questioned her credentials.

Gina Mathew, Kali Poenitske, Maddie Baden, Trina Paul, Connor Balthazor, Patrick Sulivan and their adviser Emily Smith appeared live on Good Morning America day to share how everything unfolded.

"First off, I was supposed to … introduce her to the community and I asked her if she could provide the information of where she got her Ph.D and master's degree and she would not give me that information," said Maddie, an editor at the school paper.

Maddie and her fellow students from Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg, Kansas, published an article last Friday in their school newspaper, The Booster Redux, that looked into the education credentials of their high school's new principal, Amy Robertson.

The article, titled “District Hires New Principal," stated that the new principal's background was "called into question after discrepancies" arose and questioned the legitimacy of Corllins University, the school where Robertson said she got her master's and doctorate degrees.

There are no institutions named Corllins University on the U.S. Department of Education’s database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs. The school is also not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, which states that the school's physical address is unknown.

"We searched Corllins University to find more information about it and the first thing we found was a website and...it didn't work at all," Maddie aid. "We tried clicking on things and it would not take us to anywhere. It would just leave us on the same page and there was no physical address or phone number. And then also, whenever you search it has a bunch of articles that say it's a degree mill, accreditation mill and a bunch of other factors that kind of state that it's a false university. So that's what sparked our interest to get this story going."

The Pittsburg Community Schools’ Board of Education announced that Robertson had resigned on Tuesday, saying, “In light of the issues that arose, Dr. Robertson felt it was in the best interest of the district to resign her position.”

Robertson told the Kansas City Star that “the current status of Corllins University is not relevant because when I received my M.A. in 1994 and my Ph.D. in 2010, there was no issue.” She added to the local newspaper, "I have no comment in response to the questions posed by P.H.S. students regarding my credentials because their concerns are not based on facts.”

Maddie said Robertson's response didn't bother her or her peers.

"We knew that we had so much support in our community and we knew that we did the research that we needed to do and that the information that we needed to provide to the community was in there," she said.

The students' work soon made national headlines, after Todd Wallack, an investigative reporter for the Boston Globe's famed Spotlight team, tweeted out their story, applauding their work.

"We were glad that we were able to impact change at the high school as young journalists," said Gina Mathew, another editor at the paper.

The students' journalism adviser, Emily Smith, said she is incredibly proud of the work they've done.

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