PITTSBURG — Questions swirling around the qualifications of recently resigned Pittsburg High School Principal Amy Robertson have centered heavily on degrees she allegedly earned from Corllins University.
The State of California has confirmed the claims made by staff at “The Booster Redux” — the PHS student newspaper — that Corllins was never accredited or approved in the state.
“The California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education is unable to locate any information on Corllins University ever obtaining or requesting approval in California,” California Department of Consumer Affairs Information Officer Joyia Emard said. “We researched records from 1987 to present. Had the school been operating in California, it would have been required to have some sort of approval.”
One of the main questions surrounding Robertson’s credentials involved her degrees from Corllins — which was supposedly located in Stockton, California. Robertson claimed to have a master’s degree and a doctoral degree from Corllins, and that the university was accredited in the mid-1990s when she received her degrees. There is no indication that this is accurate.
Robertson had been hired as the Pittsburg High School principal in March, but her resignation was accepted Tuesday night at a special Board of Education meeting.
When asked what would happen if it was discovered someone lied on their resume, USD 250 Superintendent Destry Brown said “They would be given the opportunity to resign or be terminated, if they had already been offered the job.”
Brown said that, on advice of the district’s attorney, he could not say if that was what had happened in this case because it would be information in the personnel file and therefore not public record.
He said the action the board took was based on the letter of resignation received from Robertson, and he could not answer whether or not the board asked for her resignation.
Brown said some changes have been made to the vetting process upon offering the candidate a job.
Going forward, candidates will have to pass a background check and drug screen, which have all been requirements to this point, and provide official transcripts from an accredited university. Previously those transcripts were only required by the district when paperwork for licensure began, but will now be required at the beginning of the hiring process.
Brown also said the district was aware of news articles overseas questioning Robertson’s credentials.
Questions about Robertson’s credentials have been raised in the Middle East going as far back as September 2012.
An article appearing in Gulf News — which claims to be the most widely-read English-language newspaper and online site in the Middle East — said the Dubai American Scientific School where Robertson served as principal had its license suspended by the United Arab Emirates Knowledge and Human Development Authority in 2012.
Then, in 2013 Gulf News posted an article stating the Dubai American Scientific School had closed down following several violations, including students with extended absences and charging parents double tuition fees.
The article also said the school had over 20 teachers without a formal contract, or approval from KHDA or the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Labour.
“We saw all of those articles and her response as well as her references was that it was all straightened out,” Brown said.
Brown pointed out there were no follow up articles, noting that the credentials of all the American teachers had been questioned.
“We were satisfied with the responses,” he added.
The Morning Sun is currently attempting to verify the statements in the overseas articles, but was unable to do so by press time because of time differences between the U.S. and UAE.
Brown said he cannot share who Robertson’s references were, as they are part of her application, which is not public record.
He said five references were contacted, all of whom gave glowing recommendations.
Brown said he never received word from the Kansas State Department of Education stating Robertson would not be able to attain an administrator’s license.
“They [KSDE] just contacted me when they saw the article questioning Corllins” he said. “They called me with their concerns.”
He added that it was Robertson’s responsibility to provide proper documentation to KSDE, which apparently did not happen.
The Morning Sun is attempting to find out what KSDE received from Robertson.
Robertson’s resignation letter read:
“With regret I tender my formal resignation for the post of high school principal at Pittsburg High School. I will not be moving to Pittsburg as originally planned and will instead continue to work internationally.
“I wish the school board, faculty, support staff and students all the best.”
When contacted for comment, Robertson said “On the advice of counsel I cannot comment on any accusations. A statement will be forthcoming.”
One of Robertson’s other claims revolved around checks done by the U.S. State Department. Robertson said the department of state verified her qualifications as recently as 2011, and that she has documents proving so signed by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The State Department works overseas in many capacities, including overseas schooling.
Office of Overseas Schools Regional Education Officer Mary Russman said the department of state does not operate schools in other nations, but offers assistance to schools and educators working abroad through small grants.
Russman oversees the region of Africa, but Dubai does not fall in her area. She said Robertson’s qualifications could have also been checked by the country in which she was teaching. Russman is currently working with colleagues to get to the bottom of Robertson’s claims and has promised a response within 24 to 36 hours.
The Morning Sun has also attempted to follow up with the Office of the Registrar at the University of Tulsa.
Editor’s note: This story is developing and will be updated as more information becomes available.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.