US & Canada

Kansas school head quits over student newspaper probe

The newsroom as they prepare for a conference call with the newly-hired school administrator Image copyright Emily Smith/Pittsburg High School
Image caption The Booster Redux team has drawn praise from journalists around the US

A newly appointed high school head in Kansas has resigned after the student newspaper cast doubt on her qualifications.

The investigation by the Pittsburg High School publication, the Booster Redux, started as an introductory profile of the new head.

But after three weeks they found that a college attended by Amy Robertson lacked accreditation.

The six-student news team has drawn praise from journalists around the US.

Ms Roberston was hired by the Pittsburg Board of Education on 6 March.

Image copyright The Booster Redux
Image caption The newspaper's front page on Friday

The school district met on Tuesday night to accept her resignation from the $93,000-a-year (£74,500) post.

In a statement, the board said that "in light of the issues that arose, Dr Robertson felt it was in the best interest of the district to resign her position".

Trina Paul, editor of the Booster Redux, said: "She was going to be the head of our school and we wanted be assured that she was qualified and had the proper credentials.

"We stumbled on some things that most might not consider legitimate credentials."

During a conference call with the students, Ms Robertson "presented incomplete answers, conflicting dates and inconsistencies in her responses", the student newspaper reported.

"That raised a red flag," 17-year-old student reporter Maddie Baden told the Kansas City Star.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Professional journalists, like this member of the Boston Globe's Spotlight Team, have praised the students

"If students could uncover all of this, I want to know why the adults couldn't find this."

The students discovered that a private for-profit school in Dubai where Ms Roberston served as principal had its licence suspended in 2013 by the United Arab Emirates government, following years of "unsatisfactory" ratings.

The Booster Redux also found that a Corllins University, where Ms Robertson received her master's and doctorate degrees, was not accredited by the US Department of Education.

The college - which does not appear to have a physical address - has been accused of being a diploma mill, where people can buy degrees.

Ms Robertson told the Kansas City Star: "The current status of Corllins University is not relevant because when I received my MA in 1994 and my PhD in 2010, there was no issue."

Of the students' questions about her credentials, she said: "I have no comment in response to the questions posed by PHS students regarding my credentials because their concerns are not based on facts."

The district superintendent said he would meet the newsroom on Wednesday to thank them.

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