Empowered Students Unmask Fraudulent Principal

Credit: Emily Smith/Pittsburg High School

What happens when young people are empowered with the freedom to investigate someone who wants to manage their school?  Students at Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg, Kansas writing a profile piece on their new principal Amy Robertson discovered she had fraudulently misrepresented her credentials.  As the New York Times reported, four days after the students published their story in the student newspaper The Booster Redux the newly hired principal Amy Robertson resigned from her $93,000/yr position.

It’s a good thing the students actually investigated their new principal because she apparently managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the very people who were supposed to vet her in the first place – the Board Members of the Pittsburg Community School Unified School District 250.  According to the Board,  “District received multiple applications for this position, but Dr. Robertson’s diverse and extensive experience impressed district staff and leadership and repeatedly propelled her to the top of the candidate lists.”

How could this happen?  How could students be permitted to publish an unmasking of the newly hired principal in what most certainly was an embarrassment to the Board?  Well, thanks to a special state law students in Kansas have editorial control over the content of their student publications.  This is unusual.  In America students at public schools do not enjoy their full First Amendment freedom of speech rights and schools may, with the full blessing of the U.S. Supreme Court, censor student speech.  And, to her credit, the students received mentoring and encouragement from teacher Emily Smith.

At Sudbury students unquestionably enjoy the right to speak their minds.  This is the building block of the school.  Without an equal right to be heard and an equal vote, it’s not Sudbury.  In her role mentoring and encouraging interested students Emily Smith is the archetype of a staff member at Sudbury.  The students decided to write a story and came to Ms. Smith for direction.  This is how it works at Sudbury.  Not the other way around.

And who does the vetting and hiring at Sudbury?  The students and staff.  Every student has a vote on whether to hire someone.  Amy Robertson would not have survived the first round of questioning at a Sudbury school.  Sudbury staff are signed to a one year contract.  And those who wish to be rehired must submit to student vetting and questioning every year.  If a staff member is not contributing at Sudbury they have to answer to the very people whose lives they impact.  Now doesn’t this make sense?

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