A SECOND OPINION, The Hutchinson News
Two things it seems people love to complain about is "kids these days" and "the media," yet is was the combination of those two that helped keep an unqualified principal off of the payroll — and in charge of education — at Pittsburg High School in Southeast Kansas.
The story about the student newspaper "The Booster Redux" has gained national attention, as it well should. Students who began their work on a feature story about incoming principal Amy Robertson, who had been hired on March 6, quickly realized that some of the information regarding Robertson's credentials didn't quite add up.
Instead of accepting blindly what they had been told, the students pursued their search for the truth - and pressed Robertson for answers about her background. Her statements ran counter to some of the information found by the students, and they published their findings on March 31. Faced with revelations from the students' work, Robertson resigned her post on April 4.
The much celebrated article raises two worthy topics for discussion.
First, how did such an unqualified candidate make it through the hiring process for a public school? Typically, schools employ a hiring committee that screens and evaluates candidates, then makes a recommendation to the school board - which is tasked with another level of scrutiny to ensure the school is hiring the most qualified candidate for that district and its children. It's clear that the district failed in its due diligence on this front - and that policy changes should be put in place to protect the district in the future.
Secondly, and far more important, is a recognition of the importance of healthy skepticism, critical thinking, and the pursuit of truth.
In an environment in which it is easy to blame the messenger or find information that conforms to a certain way of thinking, these students have shown the value of questions and answers, and the difference between statements and facts.
These students were told to "stop poking their nose where it doesn't belong," when asking questions about Robertson's background. It's a good thing they didn't listen.
Had these students not been skeptical, and had they not done their work to verify Robertson's credentials, the district would have employed not only someone who wasn't qualified for the job - but someone who seemingly had no problem misleading the district about her background.
Not exactly the sort of influence one wants to lead students on their way to adulthood.
The journalists at the Booster Redux deserve all the credit and praise that's being sent their way - as well as administrators who encouraged their work rather than attempt to silence the students' questions. They have demonstrated the sort of tenacity and dedication to truth that's critical for a strong democracy, a vibrant community and hopeful future.