Gina Mathew, Kali Poenitske, Maddie Baden, Trina Paul, Connor Balthazor and Patrick Sullivan prepare to Skype with newly hired principal Amy Robertson. (Emily Smith/Pittsburg High School)
One high school principal would’ve gotten away with lying about her credentials if hadn’t been for some meddling kids.
Here’s how it all went down: student journalists at the Booster Redux interview new members of the school as part of their welcome, and in interviews with Robertson that they discovered “inconsistencies in Robertson’s credentials.”
The case of the missing degrees
Robertson said she got her master’s and doctorate degrees at “Corllins University,” but when the students looked up the school, its website didn’t work.
Working through spring break, the students found out that Corllins University was a diploma mill that was not accredited by the U.S. Department of Education.
Putting Robertson’s name through a search engine, the student journalists found that she had been called out for this before: as principal of the Dubai American Scientific School, local papers had said she was “not authorized” to serve as principal.
After the students published their takedown, faculty held an emergency meeting where Robertson couldn’t even produce the transcript to her undergraduate school, the University of Tulsa.
Eventually people will ask questions
Students asked the questions the adults did not. The school district spokesman Zach Fletcher had said earlier that month that, “Robertson comes to Pittsburgh with decades of experience in education.”
Although this is embarrassing to the local board in the short-term, in the long-term, the teenaged journalists saved their community time and money.
According to The Kansas City Star, Robertson, with no educational background that could be confirmed, was due to make $93,000 a year.
Your past will catch up with you
You can talk about your past experiences and responsibilities in their most flattering light, but when it comes to skills, you better be able to back it up.
If you say you can manage a school, you better be able to manage a school. Robertson may have been able to get away with her lies for decades, but the truth eventually came out with some phone calls and cross-references.
This is one more cautionary tale against lying on your résumé. Interviewers can figure out lies by calling up past references and employers. Or if it doesn’t come out in the interview process, it will when you’re unable to do the job you said you could do.
And the bigger the stage, the more scrutiny those exaggerations and white lies will get. George O’Leary served as Georgia Tech’s football coach for two uninterrupted decades, but when he got a higher-profile job, so came the questions. O’Leary only lasted as Notre Dame’s head football coach for five days after a newspaper figured out he had lied about playing football in college and had never gotten the master’s degree he claimed to have.
Surprisingly, people who lie on their resumes can go pretty far, showing they do have basic competence to do the job even when they lie about how they got it. High-ranking executives at Yahoo, Veritas and Lotus have all been canned for lying about qualifications and degrees. What gets them canned is not their performance, but the dishonesty they perpetuated for years — and even strong relationships and strong performance don’t protect them.