Embattled Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel has issued a statement to Planet Princeton about the events surrounding the email that went out last week announcing new interim leaders at the high school. The email sent out Friday did not mention Chmiel by name and notified parents that two assistant principals would temporarily be taking over the leadership at the high school. On Monday, the superintendent of schools announced that an interim principal will be appointed at the next school board meeting.
Chmiel said in his statement that he was put on administrative leave and was not fired. He said he had previously been asked to resign by March 31. His administrative leave is paid.
He has not indicated whether he will waive his rights to a private discussion about his employment and request that the discussion be held in public or not. He said he will need to discuss this decision with his lawyers.
Chmiel’s attorney approved the following statement sent to Planet Princeton Tuesday. We are posting the statement in its entirety, unedited:
I am extremely grateful for the outpouring of support from students, faculty and staff, families, alumni, former colleagues, friends, and any people who I have been fortunate enough to have impacted.
It is unfortunate that for the time being I cannot be with you all. I am writing to set the record straight. I am on administrative leave because I did not resign as fast as the school district wanted me to resign. Normally, you find a job first, get board approved at that district, and then you resign. The district, really a small coterie of individuals, were pushing me to resign and take a personal leave most likely to post an anticipated vacancy for PHS principal by late March. This is the reason.
There are people who want to avoid the exact response from the school community that is happening now – nearly 4000 signatures on petitions in a few days and considerable news media coverage. I am condemned by some in the Valley Road Administration as a rabble-rouser. Someone who orchestrates things. In fact, what’s going on in terms of petitions and press is the result of the work of intelligent people who want me to be the principal of Princeton High School. These many supporters feel they are not being heard. I find it ironic that student voices are not listened to as so much is ostensibly made by the Administration of wanting to hear student voices. I, in contrast, do this sincerely, which is one of the reasons why students support me, but I don’t always find this to be the case with others.
I am in this position of potential nonrenewal and administrative leave not because of my performance although that is what some wish you to believe. Logic dictates that if my performance was anything less than effective, I would not be receiving the support I am receiving. This is a matter of a few who do not want me as the principal of Princeton High School any longer, feeling I may not be the right fit. I was willing to accept that even though I did not agree. This is the way things work out in education when you are untenured.
People can weaponize numbers on an evaluation and subjectively rationalize inefficiency, and because they are in a certain position it gets approved. I understand. I am sharing this with you, because unless you have been involved in the corporate world or education or other fields involving performance reviews, then you might not know how it goes. All I was saying to the district was that I would resign when I was ready. Obviously, if the powers that be did not want me here for the next year, I would not receive the recommendation for the contract for next year.
Via attorney, central office let me know of its intentions mid-winter and threatened administrative leave on the pretext that this type of publicity would occur again similar to last year. They were forcing me to make a decision so they could get the ball rolling and select someone else. Would I resign, or would they put me on administrative leave? By design, they were forcing me into a difficult position. I felt they were threatening my future. If you get put on an administrative leave, then people ask questions. Consequently, it is harder to get a job in another place.
People who know me know that I often seek peace, middle ground, compromise, but the way they were rushing me, well, it felt like I was being bullied into a decision I wasn’t ready to make. So, I held my ground and said they would not get my resignation. Within two hours, a courier was knocking on my door on Friday, while I had a sick day no less and only a week after having surgery, to deliver a message of nonrenewal. The official letter stated I was relieved of my administrative duties and that I was locked out of the school, my office, and barred from the premises.
All of this pretext was not based on performance or substantively on anything else. It was retaliation plain and simple sending a message of who’s in charge. I am in consultation with legal counsel, and we will decide on the best course forward. I want you to know that I have not given up. How can I ask students and staff to stand up for themselves and others, advocate, and speak truth to power, if I don’t do it myself?
I have prided myself during my career of never asking my students, faculty, and staff to do any type of work that I wasn’t ready to do. People know this is my style and know this to be true. I love my students, my staff, the families, and my community. If I didn’t then, I would have just gone quietly. Thank you very much for your kind, dedicated support.