High school journalists in Kansas are being applauded for their investigative work after the new principal of their school resigned in the wake of an article the students published that questioned her credentials.
Pittsburg High School students Maddie Baden, Connor Balthazor, Gina Mathew, Trina Paul, Kali Poenitske and Patrick Sulivan and their faculty adviser, Emily Smith, appeared live on "Good Morning America" today 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 Baden, an editor at the school paper, The Booster Redux.
Baden and her fellow students published an article last Friday in The Booster Redux that looked into the education credentials of their new principal, Amy Robertson.The Real 'Spotlight': Meet Team That Inspired the Oscar-Winning FilmCardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley Recognizes 'Impact' of 'Spotlight'
The article, titled "District hires new principal," stated that Robertson's background was "called into question after discrepancies" arose and questioned the legitimacy of Corllins University, where she said she got her master's and doctorate.
There is no Corllins University in 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," Baden said. "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, "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 ... I have no comment in response to the questions posed by PHS students regarding my credentials because their concerns are not based on facts."
Baden 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," Baden said.
The students' work soon made national headlines after Todd Wallack, an investigative reporter for The Boston Globe's famed Spotlight team, tweeted their story, applauding their work.
"We were glad that we were able to impact change at the high school as young journalists," said Mathew, another editor at the paper.
Smith, the students' journalism adviser, said she is incredibly proud of the work they've done.