Principal Frank Chmiel issues statement to Planet Princeton about his job at Princeton High School
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.
Don’t give up, Mr. Chmiel, we won’t, we all love you!
Carol Kelley and BOE members, you brought disgrace to Princeton. It’s time for you to step down. Period.
HEAR! HEAR! Is the meeting tonight (virtual, I guess) open to the public?
Yes the superintendent should be the one stepping down. This in no way reflects the voices of the Princeton community! As a former PHS student and member of the community I’m appalled at this level of behavior. Principal Chmiel did so much for disadvantaged teens in a racially diverse community who went on to be successful because someone actually cared in the school about their future and reminded them that their voice matters! That in itself speaks volumes.
It’s a difficult time Mr. Chmiel. But I know community, school, students and parents are fighting with you! Hopefully it makes you feel better.
The Superintendent and Board of Education should be removed !
Don’t give up. We will stand with you.
We parents support you, Mr. Chmiel! You are an A plus educator. Those who created this farce on Valley Road will get a F if their job evaluation is left to students and parents. The superintendent and the BOE should be ashamed for such a disrespectful and irresponsible act. They should be fired, not you Frank!
Mr. Chmiel, we will not let you go! We will fight to have you back!
We support you, Mr. Chmiel.
We will fight with you!
BOE, we want Transparency!!
Mr. Chmiel, You are not alone! For the best of our community, the best of our children, we are not giving up neither.
We pray that you will continue your job at PHS as a principal. Please don’t resign. Please don’t give up.
Principal Mr. Chmiel
My family and I will continue to support you. My children have had great experiences you being their High School Principal. You have been a person for them to respect and learn from!!! Keep up your efforts we all eventually look forward to a posting resolution!!!!!!
Bravo, Frank! We support you!!! Your statement shows the depth of your car of community and dedication to our children.
And an F- to the BOE and Super for their terrible performance. And for trying to shut down the students’ attending of the rally. Transparency please. And please stop the Super from consistently placing her friends and sorority sisters in administration. Talk about cronyism. #FreeFrank #FreePPS
I see in my crystal ball a million dollar buyout coming to get a new superintendent.
We need this man of God who has been born again in our midst! We are all praying to the Lord for you and asking Jesus to help you. This upstanding Christian is being punished for standing up for what he believes in and refusing to buy into propaganda and wokeness about vaccines and mask wearing. So what if he didn’t get vaccinated and refused to wear a mask at staff meetings. It’s none of anyones business.
Man of god? He stood up for his Christian beliefs in school? Sure you want to go there? Last I heard, the public education system is non-religious, you know, because of separation of church and state and all. This ain’t Florida. You are not helping by injecting religion into this, and implying that Chmiel was imparting Christian values at school. If this was indeed the case, then there is a real problem.
I suspect the person you are replying to is a troll and trying to do the political thing where if they can subtly* hint that anyone who supports Frank Chmiel is a bible thumping COVID denying Trumpet so people are afraid to speak against the administration for fear of being branded “one of those” people. It’s a cheap political tactic, pay no attention to it.
*it’s not that subtle
This almost feels like a smear message against the principal. Implying that
1. Pushed religious agenda in the school
2. Didn’t get vaccinated (how do you even know this???) and pushed against vaccinations
Personally, I would flag it if I were a moderator, and at the very least suggest read it with a pound of salt.
probably not the best effort at universal support in an educated (“WOKE????” seriously? or are you a bot?) community. But at least you seem to understand something of the issue…I guess?
Way to go, Frank! Fight with class! It’s your fight and our fight!
The school has zero tolerance for bullying, it applies to everyone to the top.
A person with an executive assistant and PR resource on taxpayer’s money yet doesn’t know how to properly communicate departure of a subordinates is not qualified for a leadership role, not to mention having those resources.
A person who shows no interest in student’s voice and mental health has no place in Education field!
I actually do not agree with him in that issue but like him for our children anyway…my bigger issue IS the big picture. Where is the education system going under the leadership of Dr Kelly??? Where will the standing of PPS be after her tenure? Do I agree with her direction? I am the one paying her salary…and the salary of the consultant group she hired. I feel that I/we have a say in the direction of our taxes and school district.
Mr. Chmiel, we are so grateful that you came to PHS and we will continue to fight with you !
one year ago, SF votes recalled 3 BOE members. this should be done here too.
I may be a newbie to BOE politics, but could you explain the details of your post?
For the record, I am a retired high school classroom teacher who interviewed for a position at PHS in 2007 when I was anticipating my move to the community, and turned down an invitation for a second interview because of the climate I sensed professionally in the district.
Mr. Chmiel, we are grateful that you came to PHS and we will continue to fight with you!
Please don’t give up! We won’t either.
We want you back.
Please don’t give up. We look up to you as a role model.
We stand by you, Mr. Chmiel!
Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light. -GW
We love Principal Schmiel because he’s not like a regular principal and is one of us. He is all fun and happy and upbeat and hangs out with us a lot. He knows everyone’s names too.
Do not understand the motivation of the superintendent and BOE. And they refuse to communicate with the public in excuse of law codes. This is the second time. Yes, she can fire a high school principal, no doubt. But why? Again, she is hired to make PPS better, not to ruin it. Feel sad.
This is just embarrassing. How could we treat such a valued principal like this? Absolutely disgraceful. Kelly and the BOE need to go.
So, are we paying for two principals at the same time? Who authorized that? We have a perfectly good one and now we have to pay for a second one! Wish these folks would spend the money like it was their own.
Free u wtf
He took the time to learn how to properly pronounce my name which is more than I can say for a lot of people. It was a little thing but it meant a lot and it shows what kind of person he is. Free him.
Hang tough, Mr. Chmiel.
As history has shown peaceful persistent agitation can make for justice. Don’t give up. We won’t either.
“This is the matter of a few who do not want me as the principal… feeling I may not be the right fit” — WHY not the right fit? This is what’s driving everyone nuts. Mr Chmiel is treading carefully here but hopefully it will come out in the legal proceedings. Something really stinks.
Frankly, I’m really freaked out by the actions of the board and Kelley and agree that something extreme needs to be done.
You have our support Mr.Chmiel
Let the students and their parents give a performance review of Mr. Chmiel! Ms superintendent and the BOE, can you do it? PHS is our community school. Mr. Chmiel is paid by our tax money.
I advocate for Mr. Chmiel for my children’s good education opportunities. The good school district is the reason we chose to live in Princeton, we are going to fight for our right to have a competent school principle instead of accepting this political rubbish. The superintendent dare not to keep the transparency to all the parents in the emails, how would I trust what she said.
The board and the superintendent deserve a failing grade for their actions.
Mr. Chmiel has been a beacon of hope for all students – especially after the pandemic when many students returning to PHS were experiencing anxiety and depression. He went out of his way to welcome ALL students and learn their names. He would greet them upon arrival and in the halls with a sincere smile. Why deprive our children of this sense of community and belonging? He has done so much for so many groups of people because he genuinely cares and has a good heart. He is being punished and so are our kids! Stop this madness!!
We strongly support you, Mr Chmiel. The superintendent should be fired! If she wants to play politics, find another region. She has been created such a chaos, from Chicago to here.
If the facts in this letter are correct, then the Superintendent should be fired and the Board should be recalled. This is not how schools should operate and these are not the values of Princeton. This is wrong!
Please stay. You are not alone. You have the support from all parents in Princeton Township!
I can see my property values declining with the increased politicization of the Princeton schools – I guess Plainsboro/WW will be the choice for parents looking for a top school system. Great job.
Dear Mr Chmiel, students need you. You are my son’s beloved principal. Please don’t give up. We support you!
I don’t know anything about this situation other than what I’ve read, but I’ve been in the position of having to fire an employee when I was a council member and so I have a different perspective from many of the people commenting.
It would be irresponsible for the Board or staff members to violate privacy laws that protect employees by sharing their reasoning for the firing (or administrative leave or whatever). Council members were similarly criticized when refusing to discuss why a popular employee was fired. But for me it was not just the law; even though justified, I felt sorry for the fired employee and I did not want to add to their woes by saying negative things in public.
Totally agree, the BOE should be recalled. Does anybody know the process?
And in addition to all of that, the BOE and Superintendent Kelly do not appear to care, or to have even considered, the unnecessary financial burden they have just placed onto the Princeton taxpayers. We are paying Mr. Chmiel and his temporary replacement, and we are looking at (entirely predictable) legal costs. Unless Mr. Chmiel did something so drastic that it necessitated immediate removal, which does not appear to be the case at all, this demonstrates extraordinarily poor judgment. From all reports, this superintendent seems to be too uncompromising and too polarizing for our district. The BOE needs to put the interests of the students and the community ahead of any desire it may have to be supportive of a new administrator.
We are on your side, you
have our firm support, Principal Chmiel!
Don’t give up! You welcomed us with open arms at the first pta, and my daughter has had a seamless and amazing first year at PHS.
Thank you for reaching out to and communicating with your community of supporters, Mr. Chmiel. Indeed I had heard today that it was Your request for the silence in what has transpired. Rumors abound, so it helps to be able to read your perspective and experience of events. This incident -an echo of the same time last year when Carol Kelley sought your resignation- has dampened school spirit, of which you have been excellent at generating.
I truly hope to witness you stand up and advocate for yourself. You will have more than your legal counsel by your side in support of you during the process.
Thank you, Mr Chmiel, for writing this.
I hope that you will opt to have the proceedings made public, so that all the stakeholders have the opportunity to know the facts.
The BOE says you have the legal right to that, and it seems that it would clear your name and enable the process of clarifying what has happened, so that all the stakeholders can consent to what happens next, and how that can best be achieved.
The BOE and Dr Kelly should want this, too, as their legitimacy has been drawn into question, and some are going so far as to explore a public recall of BOE members.
Without a shared set of facts, it is impossible to know what happened, and why, and to deliberate as a community about what happens next.
This community needs more facts, in order to understand WHY there arose such a conflict that it can be simultaneously true that you are so appreciated by so many, and also that the BOE and Kelly have deemed you such a poor “fit” that they acted as though you did something egregiously wrong. It doesn’t make sense.
Something is at stake – but what is it, other than taking positions?
Please, consider making the proceedings public so that the community can move forward with greater integrity and transparency.
I appreciate your perspective. Mr. Chmeil, it would a powerful opportunity to learn what this is really about, if you would be so bold as to make the proceedings public. Thank you for posting this letter as it certainly helps let some rumors rest.
This school district setup a zoom meeting where parents can’t even join because “this meeting is at capacity. This meeting has reached the maximum number of allowed participants”. Is this the way to shut people down?
“This meeting has reached a maximum of 1000 participants. Please try again later.”
Nice to see how the entire community is united, though.
Of course, You pay your taxes and have no say or even a right to know. Haven’t you seen what’s been going on in northern Virginia?
Gosh, Frank must have really screwed up something big for it to outweigh the sense of community he brought to PHS. Knowing that the board members have kids at the high school and friends with kids at the high school, I know they weighed Frank’s positives with whatever it is he did or wasn’t doing. It must have been something….
I wish he would have handled the situation better so that our kids could have enjoyed his fun through the end of the year but he decided to blow it up on his way out and our kids are faced with yet another principal. Thanks, Frank
My impression (a very positive one) is that Frank Chmiel was trying to make Princeton High School a better and much more integrated community. I am a Hispanic parent that experienced Princeton school district from 2000 to 2017 (two kids). The board should give the community a detailed explanation of why Principal Chmiel was asked to resign, was then put into paid leave in March and locked out of the school. In a public institution, an administrative decision like that has to be clearly justified. If not, it opens all doors to speculation and it hurts the school prestige, not to mention what it does to the professional trajectory of the person in that situation.
A few thoughts after the first hour of BOE public comment: (1) If this is about vaccinations and masks, and while I also would have found it inappropriate if Mr. Chmiel acted as the one student speaker described, it is hardly a terminable offense. (2) Mr. LaPira’s “warning” came across as an attempt to chill comment. I can’t see how citing published facts about Sup. Kelly’s time in Oak Park would ever create a cognizable defamation claim. I also found his cryptic comment that Mr. Chmiel’s account in this paper contained “inaccuracies” as an improper effort to “have it both ways.” (3) I found Sup. Kelly’s yawning offensive; this is a serious situation that impacts the entire community and for which she appears to have been the primary driver.
I’m afraid that the only way for the community to get the transparency it clearly wants and needs, and for Mr. Chmiel to dispel the rumors that can only harm him further, may be for him to waive his right to confidentiality. I can’t imagine that it could possibly be more damaging to him that what has already occurred. He should not have been placed in this position, and it’s a hard choice to make, but I hope he will consider it.
It should never be easy to fire someone and only the Board knows all the facts. However, should we believe the Board or should we believe our own eyes.
We have a Principal who was beloved at his previous institution and his present school. He has been a leader as students and parents have stated. And there has been no charges by police or others, or an accusation by anyone that would indicate that anything serious happened to warrant releaving him of duty now.
On the other hard, we have a Superintendent with no track record in the community, that is not well-liked by many people for being cold and not people friendly, who was controversial at her previous position, and who has a track record at her previous job of firing lots of her direct reports.
Given that evidence, where should the community place its trust? I’m with Principal Chmiel.
Dear Mr Chmiel,
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this message and take us all a little bit out of the dark. I am in my last year as a PPS parent – it has been 12 years for us – the last few have been challenging and we have been blessed to have the love and care of the faculty, nurses and staff under your superb leadership as well as the joy of our student thriving with a principal that knows her name and brings an atmosphere of welcoming and goodness wherever he goes. Thank you for standing up to these questionable forces especially in the middle of a school year in a school where it has already been made crystal clear that our students, faculty, nurses, staff and parents value your leadership so much and love working with you. In taking the time to send us this message, you have slightly righted the ship for our appalled snd destabilized students – the mark of a true leader. We stand with you.
All the very best,
Helen McNamara O’Shea
I am a former student of Mr. Chmiel at Montgomery High School. He was a fantastic teacher and an even better person. Very sad to hear about his firing. Free Chmiel!
Mr. Chmiel, thank you for teaching our kids not to go down without a fight and still managing to keep it so classy. I’m sure you know this, but your students are behind you, the community is behind you, and people in the PHS community will do everything they can to fight for you.
Former Principal Chmiel clearly has many of you bamboozled. His statement reveals a lot while not saying much of substance about his removal from his responsibilities by a unanimous board of education.
According to his statement, he was not fired, yet for days his close friends told the public he was.
On March 16th, a PTO president and Chmiel friend claimed that a whistleblower leaked that Chmiel was fired. So, who might have “leaked” that lie? Eleven days earlier, apparently while he was negotiating his exit, this same individual wrote the BOE extolling Chimel’s security experience and lamenting that Dr. Kelley supposedly decided not to put armed police officers, without consulting parents, in the school so he could do his job effectively.
Mr. Chmiel, told us on March 21, that he is on administrative leave with pay based upon an agreement between him and the District negotiated by him and his lawyers. He apparently agreed to sign a resignation letter which would not go into effect until the end of administrative leave which means, he changed his mind. He refused to sign a resignation letter that would not go into effect immediately.
Curiously, while he had union attorneys and negotiated his settlement, one of his close friends started a legal defense fund to take people’s money when he was already represented. Is that legit or ethical?
Equally curious is that neither his union nor the teacher’s union, have made statements supporting his rehiring. Could it be because he lied about his vaccination status in the midst of the pandemic? Or perhaps they know that a principal’s job is to be more than affable and know the kids’ names. Did he do his job?
Last year, the public record shows that the Board voted to renew Chmiel but did not give him a standard raise and put him on an improvement plan. Did he improve? Apparently, the entire board doesn’t think so.
Those actually involved in the management of the PHS know that this year the safety of the children has been significantly compromised. In the current year alone, there were a number of fights, one resulting in a child’s concussion, with improper oversight and responses by the building manager – the principal.
Despite claims that Chmiel was fair to kids, public records indicate that 88% of school suspensions were against Black and special needs kids as though they were the only ones fighting, vaping or doing drugs at PHS. Really?
And based on his infinite wisdom, rumors were abound that Chmiel suggested to some employees that they vote for Rita Rafolovsky in the recent school board race, ostensibly to defeat Debbie Bronfeld who was one of the Board members (a cabal member?) to vote against his retention last year.
And all of the above, is just the public record many people are ignoring in order to use this as an opportunity to attack Dr. Carol Kelley because some people are upset that a Negro (appropriate term for 1960’s style racism) is running Princeton Schools on an equity-build -on-our-successes platform.
I wish the BOE would say more or Chmiel would let his personnel file be read in public. (He hints that his performance is subjectively bad.) Nevertheless, many of you folks are just loud and wrong. Is that because you are susceptible to the race-baiting strategy of a national movement against equity (using our local online press) or is it that you really haven’t lived in Princeton long enough to know that the town as a whole (not just small groups of Cranbury and Princeton parents with students in our schools) will not let such thinly veiled hatred win?
So, carry on if you must. And continue to use your children while you’re at it.
I rarely get involved in school issues but the antennae starting twitching at this one. So I asked all the PHS kids I met over the weekend what they thought of Mr Chmiel, expecting a lukewarm response. They all absolutely loved him – he seems almost on a par with the great Bob Ginsberg. I didn’t think we would bear witness to worse than the PPS response to covid but, the more you find out, you realize that this decision comes close. Sometimes you simply have to take a stand and I stand with Mr Chmiel.
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