School district replaces Princeton High School principal Frank Chmiel, but reasons are unclear

Frank Chmiel

It appears that Frank Chmiel is no longer the principal at Princeton High School.

A statement sent to Planet Princeton in response to a request for information from a reporter about Chmiel’s employment status does not indicate whether Chmiel resigned or was let go. The statement was sent in the early evening to the community and Planet Princeton almost simultaneously, shortly after Planet Princeton made inquiries about Chmiel’s employment status. Chmiel’s name is not even mentioned in the vague statement.

Chmiel has been replaced by assistant principals Rashone Johnson and Cecilia Birge. They began running the school on Friday, March 17, the same day the statement was sent out. According to the statement, Johnson and Birge will jointly run the school temporarily “as Princeton High School undergoes a transition in the school leadership.”

“We anticipate appointing an interim principal who is a veteran educator with many years of experience to take the helm and serve as principal for the remainder of the school year,” reads the statement signed by Superintendent Carol Kelley and all of the members of the school board. “We know that change is never easy, but we have a dedicated staff who is committed to the students’ well-being, security, and educational needs. These will remain the top priority for our educators at PHS. Thank you in advance for your support during the leadership transition. With change, we also look forward to the possibility of new opportunities.”

Chmiel has been a popular principal who is known for being friendly with students. One parent said Chmiel knows almost every student’s name at the high school. Last spring, rumors spread that Chmiel’s contract was not going to be renewed. Hundreds of students and parents signed a petition calling on the district to renew his contract. District officials said back then that Chmiel was going to be offered a new contract for this academic year, which he was. But he did not receive a salary increase and was placed on a performance improvement plan. His current contract expires on June 30. Chmiel does not have tenure in the district.

Chmiel was also a popular principal at Franklin High School, where he served from March 2018 until July 2021. He was the vice principal of Franklin High for five years and previously taught history at Montgomery High School.

He earned his master’s degree in educational leadership management and policy from Seton Hall University, and his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, where he was a member of the university’s football team. A graduate of Elizabeth High School, he was named an NJ Star Ledger First Team All-State Linebacker in 1993.

The school board will formally have to vote to accept his resignation or end his contract, depending on the circumstances. Public meeting laws in New Jersey require that personnel issues be discussed in closed session. Public records are one of the few exclusions when it comes to the state’s open public records act, so it is often difficult to know the reasons for personnel decisions. But public employees are issued a “Rice Notice” when their jobs will be discussed. The employee being discussed can opt to have the personnel issue discussed in public if the employee chooses. in other words, it is up to Chmiel if he wants the reasons for his departure to be discussed in public session or not.

A petition drive was started Friday in support of Chmiel. As of 11 p.m., the petition received more than 1,200 signatures.


  1. In the absence of a thorough explanation by Superintendent Kelley, this action is outrageous.

  2. They tried to get rid of him last year but was voted down by BoE They will never stop. The question to BoE is: what changed in the past 12 months or so? I do no it know Mr. Chmiel and do not have a stand so far. What I heard from last year was he was liked among students and parents . The policy on personnel discussion restrictions should not be the reason to potentially workplace harassment, if there are things other than performance.

  3. This is awful.. One questionable decision after another. I have no confidence left in the district or the school board. How are they making these decisions??

  4. This is a shocking and dismaying bit of news. Moreover, the email sent to parents thanking us for our support in this “transition” is premature in the absence of an explanation for a seemingly inexplicable action against Principal Chmiel.

  5. This is decision by Carol Kelley and the BOE is unacceptable in its utter lack of transparency. Removing a highly popular principal with no stated reason is poor administrative behavior. There needs to be a no-confidence vote about her and the board or else a recall. It’s not just this one pretty indefensible decision, but all the other thing she has done, including the principal at Riverside, the wasting of funds on the strategic planning, just to name a few.

    1. As an addition: many of us feel powerless and hopeless against this Board and Super who appear to simply not care about all students, who are badly misreading the climate of academically AND child-focused Princeton. We feel that we cannot sway them. And those who can, are sending their children to private school. Would that my family had that option because we have no faith left in the BOE or Super and do not believe they have our children’s educational outcomes at all at heat when they make these decisions.

      1. I wonder what can be done. I would be happy to support a recall campaign, vote of no confidence, letter campaign to the BoE, etc. I signed the petition, but for me, it goes way beyond this particular decision. Are any efforts underway?

  6. Unless Principal Chmiel did something egregiously inappropriate, his sudden and unexplained removal is inexcusable.

  7. Again, pretty much the only serious reporting being done about events in Princeton is on this site. Hope the folks will continue to support Planet Princeton

  8. I just want to second the comment from “Disgusted Parent & Taxpayer”. What are our options for recall or no confidence vote on the superintendent and BOE?

  9. This sudden decision is shocking and outrageous. Parents and PHS students deserve better. So does Mr. Chmiel.

  10. Thank you for this honest journalism. I think that the Superintendent and some of the members of the BOE have not been adequately supporting this highly qualified and effective principal for some time now. He has endured through it so far and that shows how much he cares about our students and our district. He did not resign. I agree this looks like harassment. I do not have confidence in the decision to hire this outside research firm or hurt Riverside or lose the Science supervisor from last year at PHS. But I do have much more confidence in Principal Chmiel. He shows so much support to the whole PHS community.

  11. We are so upset and disappointed. Principal Chmiel is the first principal over the past 5 years to make a positive impact with the students. My student came home last night vocally upset and confused. Principal Chmiel has made the biggest effort to communicate with families and build community at the high school. At this point we are looking forward to being done with high school.

  12. Are we still a serious school district when the sudden departure of our high school principal was announced to the community in a late Friday afternoon email of fewer than 150 words and without any explanation? A reasonable decision to terminate a senior school administrator should surprise few people. When your announcement was immediately greeted by a petition with over 1600 signatures, you’ve lost the plot.

    From last year’s math curriculum change debacle to the politically charged strategic planning that placed the absurd goal of “equal outcomes” at its core, the leadership of the school district has displayed worrisome signs of misplaced priorities, ineffectiveness and lack of transparency. Current and prospective PPS parents should be very alarmed and take actions.

  13. I moved here with my family a couple years ago for the chance of a good school system for my kids, but since getting here it’s been one strange and concerning event after the other. I hope we get some answers about Chmiel’s dismissal.

  14. My sympathy and regards to Frank Chmiel. Thank you for your unrelenting enthusiasm and dedication to the student body of Princeton High School. You deserved better & we wish you only the best in future endeavors.

    Unfortunately, short of a yet unreported (and unlikely) fireable offense being perpetrated by Mr. Chmeil, we will never receive an explanation as to why this transition was forced upon the community, as the Superintendent and Board will be sure to hide behind employment privacy concerns. Despite denials last year, it now seems clear that this was preordained the moment the new Superintendent was hired for the post.

    Please understand that this decision was likely made well beyond the borders of Princeton. While the Superintendent and complicit Board may have pulled the trigger, it is most likely these decisions were made long ago in the offices of the NJEA and with the support of legislators in Trenton.

    Your actions today will be of no consequence. There will be no transparency, no reversal, no remorse from the School district. You get what you vote for & this is what the political agenda you voted for looks like. Accept the consequences, move or vote differently next November. For the more stout, run for a Board seat and please leave your rubber stamp behind.

  15. We have potential evidence that the majority of the people’s voices are not being heard!
    I’m a Princeton residence, my children have and continue to attend PPS.
    My children and their school mates have repeatedly stated Principal Chmiel has created an environment of caring, respect and fun learning experience without compromising ALL students needs! It’s important to maintain a Democracy in decision making, compared to monarchy ruling ruling class!
    I’m confident this will have a positive impact and make PPS a great future for families to come and educate their love ones!!!

  16. Superintendent Kelley needs to go, not principal Chmiel, plain and simple. Ever since Kelly arrived, nothing good happened in this district. Someone should get the ball rolling to replace Kelley.

  17. If anyone should be fired is Dr a Kelly
    Her policy is a dictatorship policy

  18. This poor man has a terrible choice to make: invoke his right to public disclosure and discussion of his situation (in the community in which he lives no less) or insist that the BOE maintain statutorily-mandated confidentiality and let the rumors continue to fly. I imagine he regrets leaving what by all accounts was a successful and rewarding career in Franklin, and Montgomery before that, to come here. Given some of the positions and decisions Superintendent Kelly has taken since she got here, including but not only this one, serious consideration needs to be given to whether she was/is the right choice for our district.

  19. Lacking information about the Board and Administration’s reasons for seeking Principal Chmiel’s termination, I am nevertheless shocked and very disappointed with the way this matter has been handled. Since the issue is still unresolved, what can members of the community do today and going forward to indicate their support for Principal Chmiel and for a more open process (while still respecting relevant laws and due process rights)?

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