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Chmiel has been replaced by assistant principals Rashone Johnson and Cecilia Birge.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.