A Bronx principal has always been praised for her hard work at Harry S Truman High School, but now it is revealed that she has been coaching students to give positive marks on an annual student review for her own benefit.
Sana Nasser, the principal of the school, has been earning a salary of more than $100,000 for receiving glowing ratings. Now, many are questioning the veracity of these ratings after a teacher leaked a memo sent by Nasser to the Daily News, which instructed teachers to influence the children to give high ratings.
Nasser is now being investigated by officials for violating ethics rules.
“We feel it is important for students to fill these surveys out not by the preconceptions that exist in their minds but by accurately reflecting what is happening at Truman,” Nasser said in the letter sent to teachers last Wednesday.
She reminded students that “when people criticize a school, they are really demeaning the students who attend it.”
Instructors were also told to remind students of the school’s safety record and tell them that the school has “facilities that most other schools dream of,” like a planetarium and swimming pool.
While some teachers refused to follow her rules, others followed her instructions, using two class periods on Friday to convince students to give the school good ratings.
“They basically tried to show the pro and keep out the cons,” Hamed Dembele, a senior, said. “They told us Miss Nasser told us to write good things.”
Calistro Roman, 17, said it was like a pep talk.
“I saw some kids brainwashed who didn’t know what to put on the survey,” he said.
Teachers who received the letter were fearful they would get in trouble if they didn’t follow her instructions.
But some thought it was too unethical to go forward with.
“I felt that it was unethical, so I ignored it,” a teacher said. “She was trying to influence how kids answer the survey, which isn’t right.”
The surveys aim to assess public schools from the point of view of students and parents. They also use the results of the surveys to determine which schools to shut down and which principals should receive bonuses.
The high school has consistently scored well on the surveys, earning an A in 2012, and B’s in 2011 and 2010.
But officials would not say whether Nasser, who earns $154,295 a year, received one of the bonuses.
She has been principal of the school since 1998, and soon drew the attention of media after the school seemed to improve.
She was praised by The New York Times last year, and the New York Post awarded her with “Educator Liberty Medal” in 2011.
Officials are now investigating whether she violated city ethics rules prohibiting school leaders from trying to influence survey results.
“The school survey code of ethics explicitly states that it is inappropriate for school staff to influence or suggest how respondents complete the survey,” city Education Department spokeswoman Erin Hughes said.