Photos: Parents and students hold rally in support of school principal at Princeton High School
About 100 to 125 parents and students held a rally in front of Princeton High School on Monday afternoon to support embattled principal Frank Chmiel.
District officials informed parents in an email on Friday that two vice principals would be taking over leadership of the school effective that day. The email did not mention Chmiel by name. It is unclear what the circumstances are that led Chmiel to be removed from the top leadership position at the school. Under state statute, personnel issues are private unless the employee in question agrees to have the issue discussed at a public meeting. The employee is the one who makes the choice as to whether the discussion about the employee is held in private or in public.
There was a strong police presence at the rally to deal with traffic and other potential issues.
Cranbury parent Sasha Weinstein was the first speaker of the event, followed by Princeton parent David Kahn.
Weinstein said Chmiel’s previous high school community in Franklin was devastated to see him leave. “But the Princeton administration seems intent on pushing him out,” Weinstein said. “We demand better answers and not hiding behind the cloak of the law. If he did something that horrible and illegal then fine, we will all stop fighting for Chmiel. But the board of ed and Dr. Kelley must let us know what he did that was so horrific it warranted him being pushed out in March no less.”
Parent Peter Alexander Meyers shouted out that the district has to make parents and students part of the decision as well.
Kahn said he has spoken with Chmiel and nothing that is part of his performance review is an offense that warrants firing.
Chmiel could share the performance review document with the public himself if he chooses, but the district cannot share it because of state regulations governing personnel records.
“He is a wonderful, wonderful principal,” Kahn said. “There are a number of factors that go into this but what is most important from the school board’s perspective is the evaluation of Principal Frank Chmiel. You all know how well he has done.”
Students who spoke said Chmiel knows all of the names of the students gathered at the rally.
“He’s a good principal. Without Principal Chmiel I really don’t see a future with anything good at this school,” said one student.
Another student spoke about the email that was sent out Friday. She said the email was terrible because it didn’t mention him by name, thank him for his service at the school, or wish him luck in the future. “There was a disrespectfulness here we also have to talk about. This is one of the reasons so many people were angry about the decision,” one student said. “We need Mr. Chmiel back. After switching three principals in three years we need stability here.”
Another student said Chmiel has done his utmost for the school. “He pushed himself and he pushed all of us. He made sure he knows who each and every one of us are, what our ideas are. He makes us feel heard. He makes us feel valued. Why would anyone say no to that?”
An online petition signed by more than 2,300 people calls for the district to keep Chmiel. Some of the signatures are duplicates and triplicates and some signatures are from residents outside of Princeton and Cranbury.
Administrators in the district are unionized and are provided with union lawyers to represent them for free regarding employment issues. But a GoFundMe has been set up to pay for legal expenses for Chmiel.
Visit our Facebook page for videos of the rally.
Mr. Chimel is the best principle. He should stay and Dr. Kelley should be fired.
Regardless of the concrete reasons for this action by the District, it reveals clearly just how antidemocratically these decisions are made, without students, teachers, and parents having a voice and vote on the matter. The school district and school governance need to be democratized, and this rally is a first step in the kind of organizing and mobilizing that it will take to do that. Kudos to the students and parents who showed up!
It was great to see support for Frank today! There would have been more people but many students were told (incorrectly and unfairly) by teachers that they would face repercussions if they exercised their 1st Amendment rights to free speech. Shame on this administration and BoE for shutting down and silencing our children! This is insidious behavior on the part of those who should lead by example. The Super isn’t so super.
The protest was lame. No one was threatened. Please find something to do. Go volunteer in Trenton and help people who really need the help.
Exactly if the board is removing him it’s for a reason. That reason doesn’t have to be told, just know something isn’t right. An like JD said put your energy into something prosperous. Like mentoring or tutoring some children that lack. # Make it make sense
If this is true, these cases need to be publicized and the teachers should face repercussions as they would if they made some other inappropriate comment in class. But also by high school students should know their basic rights well enough themselves.
A tactic straight from the Trump playbook. If the report of the figure for the crowd is small, either claim the report is false and there were many people there, more than any other rally in history, or claim people were threatened or mislead not to attend. My kids were not told anything of the sort and I saw the communications that were sent to them.
Dr. Kelley has a record of firing people who reported to her. It’s public, you can check it. I lived in IL when she worked there, and there is a reason why she is NOT missed in the Chicago area. We moved to Princeton, and here she is again!
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