2017 Distinguished Kansans: Pittsburg students’ work leads to resignation

High school journalists known as ‘Pittsburg 6’

Research by six Pittsburg High School student journalists revealed last spring that the school’s newly hired principal had falsified her credentials. She quickly resigned from the job. (Submitted)

They’ll always be known as the “Pittsburg 6,” the Pittsburg High School students who exposed their newly hired principal during the spring of 2017 for falsifying her credentials for the job from which she quickly resigned.

 

With the guidance of their adviser, Emily Smith, the students — Maddie Baden, Connor Balthazor, Gina Mathew, Trina Paul, Kali Poenitske, Patrick Sullivan — wrote several stories that questioned the education credentials of Amy Robertson, who had been hired by the Pittsburg Unified School District 250 board of education in March. The board ultimately accepted Robertson’s resignation after the stories appeared in Booster Redux, the high school’s newspaper.

Balthazor, a senior at Pittsburg High, recalled sharing their findings about Robertson with Destry Brown, the district’s superintendent.

“He was hoping we would write a nice story” about Robertson, Balthazor said during the Kansas Scholastic Press Association conference in Topeka this fall. “Three times he assured us there was nothing to see. Three times he was wrong.”

Balthazor said if the Kansas Student Publications Act, now in its 25th year, didn’t exist, their material would have been censored and “the community would have never known” about Robertson’s fraudulent educational credentials.

“Sometimes, the best stories are the ones that start off uncomfortably,” said Gina Mathew, another Pittsburg High senior. “If you pursue the truth, you cannot go wrong. The power of student journalism is active in schools all across the state.”

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