Tags: journalism | students | kansas | amy robertson | corllins university

How Student Journalists Busted a Fake Principal

How Student Journalists Busted a Fake Principal

Thursday, 13 April 2017 04:03 PM Current | Bio | Archive

It’s a sign of our times – and a story that begs for the Lifetime TV movie treatment: Incoming Pittsburg, Kansas High School principal Amy Robertson listed some questionable experience and credentials on her resume and promptly got busted by vigilant student journalists.

Over 3,000 colleges in the United States alone, one would think Ms. Robertson would have been able to get away with a questionable resume entry listing a phony Masters degree and Doctorate degree. But evidently, after living in Dubai for 20 years, she didn’t know that the first thing American teens do when they meet someone new is Google them.
That’s exactly what happened.

Robertson was hired in early March, which is when school newspaper co-editor Maddie Baden began poking around into her background. It didn’t take long for Ms. Baden to find out that Robertson’s previous gig as the principal of the now-defunct Dubai American Scientific School ended in ignominy. In fact, under Robertson’s leadership, the school’s license was suspended for “illegal hiring of teachers, violence on school premises and non-compliance with safety regulations.” I doubt that bit of clarifying information made it onto her resume.

And then there were her academic credentials. Robertson listed both a Masters and Doctorate degree from somewhere called Corllins University, which a rudimentary search revealed to be a questionable institution. For one thing, the Corllins domain name is a .org not a .edu. The copyright on the website shows it was last updated in 2015 and – most damning – there’s no school of education (from which Ms. Robertson claimed to have earned her degree) listed as existing at Corllins. In fact, the whole site is a single Web page with no functional links; among its other oddities, it prompts you to sign up for its mailing list, which means you’ll get “Exclusive offers! The latest news! Inspiration & styling tips!”

No wonder Ms. Baden was suspicious. She and her fellow student journalists arranged for a phone interview with their new principal. On that call, Ms. Robertson “presented incomplete answers, conflicting dates and inconsistencies in her responses”, according to the subsequent report the students published in a Booster Redux news story.

Robertson’s defense that she’d attended Corllins before it lost its accreditation, but it takes only a few seconds of research to locate reputable sources describing Corllins University as a so-called diploma mill, an unaccredited “school” where you could buy your desired credentials. Want a Master’s in Education? You can get that. Want a Ph.D. while you’re at it? That was also on the menu.

The students’ investigation ultimately led to Amy Robertson’s resignation from her position as principal of the Kansas high school. (She was lucky that’s all that transpired. As the FTC warns about diploma mills: “If you use a so-called “degree” from a diploma mill to apply for a job or promotion, you risk not getting hired, getting fired, and possible prosecution.”).

While news stories about the student investigation have correctly highlighted the kids’ journalism skills (which do offer a ray of hope that younger generations will produce serious journalists interested in serious stories as opposed to Twitter jockeys compiling click-bait and listicles), the real question is why the Kansas Board of Education didn’t catch Robertson’s lies during the interview process. Perhaps those high school journalists could launch a new investigation?

This article first appeared on Acculturated.com.

Dave Taylor is a long-time media commentator and writer, with a focus on consumer electronics and technology. He holds a Masters degree in Education and an MBA and has published over twenty books. A single father to two teens and a tween, he also moonlights as a film and media critic and calls Boulder, Colorado, home. Read more of his reports — Go Here Now.

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Incoming Pittsburg, Kansas High School principal Amy Robertson listed some questionable experience and credentials on her resume and promptly got busted by vigilant student journalists.
journalism, students, kansas, amy robertson, corllins university
Thursday, 13 April 2017 04:03 PM
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