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Oakland Gdns. school principal focus of probe

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The city recently began an investigation of a longtime principal at PS 203, a top elementary school in Oakland Gardens, after she is alleged to have brought in students from outside her district to raise the school’s test score average, sources said.

Carole Nussbaum, principal of PS 203, is being investigated by Special Commissioner of Investigations Richard Condon in a recently launched probe, spokeswoman Laurel Wright−Hinckson said.

“It may be a couple of months before it concludes,” said Wright−Hinckson, who would not confirm the nature of the investigation.

But the New York Post reported last week that the city was investigating whether Nussbaum, who has been the school’s principal for 16 years, had made arrangements with parents of top students outside the community in which her school is zoned to allow the pupils to attend PS 203.

Randi Blecher, a former parent coordinator at the school, said she was not shocked by the allegations.

“I know she registered out−of−zone students and I know of one parent who gave a substantial donation,” said Blecher, who once headed the president’s council in northeast Queens’ District 26. “But I don’t know where the money trail went — possibly for school things and events rather than the principal’s pocket.”

Blecher claimed that Nussbaum occasionally told students from out of the district to use the addresses of PS 203 employees as their own in order to allow them to attend the school.

“She was obsessed with high test scores in her school,” Blecher said. “And, for just about every grade, she would create her own gifted class. It was a vicious rat race for parents to get their children into that class.”

Schools were closed last week, so Nussbaum could not be reached for comment.

Margie Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the city’s Education Department, praised Nussbaum’s 34 years of work in city education.

“She has an unblemished record,” she said.

The school, at 53−11 Springfield Blvd. in Oakland Gardens, received an ‘A’ last year in the city’s rating system after more than 95 percent of its students scored high on math and reading tests.

But Robert Caloras, president of Community District Education Council 26, said that PS 203 is a Magnet school, which means it offers a specialized curriculum and allows for students outside the community in which it is zoned.

The school’s Magnet program could draw students from as many as five to six schools in northern Queens, Caloras said.

“She’s a great principal, so I really can’t believe the accusations,” he said. “I think it’s just confusion among people who don’t understand that because PS 203 is a Magnet school, it will have kids going there from outside the community. The school is grossly overcrowded, but Principal Nussbaum has brought the community together.

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