Like many parents, Friday evening I received an astonishingly disrespectful communique signed by Dr. Kelley and the entire Princeton Board of Education. It is a bad sign that they do not even condescend to name the principle topic of the letter. Rather, Principal Frank Chmiel of Princeton High School is simply desaparecido (was he fired? arrested? in an accident? who knows…). As if announcing the next Five Year Plan, rather than an immediate institutional crisis for our community, Kelley and the Board assure us that “as Princeton High School undergoes a transition in the school leadership” two of the unnamed Principal’s Assistants will take over (why these two?). This gibberish is a euphemism from the bowels of HR. More clear-sighted than their teachers, students at PHS are calling this a “coup.”
As in many an overthrow of popular leaders, the usurpers tell us: Minions, do not worry, “we anticipate” (note to social studies teachers: anticipate is a hope, not an action) undertaking a hiring process that lasts eight months so that for the three-month “remainder of the school year” (note to math teachers: 3-8 = -5 months, that is, lost time) the “helm” will be “taken” (note to history teachers: there’s that coup again) by “a veteran educator with many years of experience” (note to ELA teachers: pleonasm — saying the same thing twice in the same sentence — is a no-no.)
It is hard to overlook trivial stereotypes from professional educators: “we know that change is never easy,” “thank you in advance for your support,” or “with change [come] new opportunities” (note to communications teachers: are these Fortune Cookies? Hallmark Cards? A guide from Disneyland?)
But it is utterly and completely inexcusable to transmit in this fog the not-so-subtle implication that Mr. Chmiel is caught up in something that jeopardizes “the students’ well-being, security, and educational needs” and therefore we must be reminded that these universal duties for a school will “remain the top priority for our educators at PHS.” Why wouldn’t they…hint, hint…
Indeed, it is a profound dereliction of duty to not make these matters and issues clear, even if it turns out that many details cannot be shared. This toxic use of fear afflicts many American communities and it should have no place in Princeton.
However, again, it is the students who come to the point, and deliver to Kelley and the Board the definitive grade of “F” in ethics. Ashley Chen, Ida Sidik, Sofia Mauger, and Vivian Clayton — together with more than 1300 PHS patriots who signed their petition in the first couple of hours of this misadventure — call out for the respect we deserve. In their lucid words: “We demand transparency, reasoning, and accountability from our superintendent.” When those in charge cease to advance such elementary civic qualities and instead impede them, it is time for them to resign.
Peter Alexander Meyers
Princeton High School parent