The second petition to be launched in five days related to leadership at Princeton High School was posted online on Wednesday.
Lisa Potter created a change.org petition calling for the immediate resignation of Princeton Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley and the reinstatement of Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel.
The reasons the district put Chmiel on paid leave have not been released. Chmiel issued a statement to Planet Princeton on Tuesday describing events leading up to his removal last Friday. Chmiel did not detail in the statement the contents of his performance evaluation and has not said yet whether he will waive his rights to privacy and agree to have his job discussed at a public school board meeting. Chmiel has fired the lawyers provided to him by his union and instead has hired lawyer David Schroth of Ewing and lawyer Ben Montenegro of Brick.
District officials can’t comment on why Chmiel was put on leave or on his performance as a principal due to New Jersey state statutes regarding the privacy of personnel records. The regulations governing the privacy of personnel records were meant to protect employee privacy. A lawyer for the school board said at the board’s public meeting Tuesday night that the statement issued by Chmiel contained some inaccuracies. The lawyer said the board still can’t comment on Chmiel’s situation without Chmiel opting to have the discussion be public.
Kelley is serving in her second academic year as the head of the district and so is Chmiel. The petition calling for her removal claims there has been a lack of transparency and leadership, as well as a decline in academic excellence throughout the district.
“The Princeton High School students and parents are frustrated and very upset with the lack of transparency, accountability and respect from Superintendent Dr. Carol Kelley. We are requesting for her resignation immediately, and the reinstatement of Princeton High School Principal, Mr. Frank Chmiel.,” reads the latest petition.
“Since she came onboard, she has caused immeasurable mental distress and harm to the high school community in less than two years. Instead of focusing on their education, students from the high school are spending time and energy fighting against the sudden removal of their beloved Principal Frank Chmiel,” reads the petition. “Dr. Kelley refused to listen to the voices of the students. One petition from last year was not enough! The students rallied another petition last week that gathered more than 2,400 signatures in two days. Princeton High School is the flagship of the Princeton school district. Many moved here because of it’s stellar reputation. We have no confidence of Dr. Kelley’s leadership to help maintain our school’s reputation and ranking now or in the future.”
Some petition signers who posted their reasons for signing claimed that Kelley promotes race-based grading, in other words, giving out grades based on a student’s race. They linked to a website posing as a local news site called the West Cook News that is a fake news website. These websites are known as “pink slime” because they post false or misleading information that is not grounded in facts, but instead partisan politics. The websites are produced not by reporters, but by inexperienced writers who are paid to spread propaganda.
“Check the ‘legacy’ Dr. Kelly left during her tenure at Oak Park School District. The implementation of a race-based grading system and turnover of four principals in four years were among the issues that concerned parents in that school district,” reads a comment from one petition signer who links to the bogus West Cook News website.
“I’m signing this petition because I cannot agree with her politics at all,” wrote another parent.
Some signers blame Kelley for a “rapid and steep” decline in educational performance in grades K-12 since her arrival in July of 2021, less than two years ago.
“The superintendent’s recent actions have greatly damaged our famous school district, these actions not only lacked transparency but also were invalid,” wrote one parent. “The superintendent and some boe members are ruining our children’s future in Princeton and US.”
Kelley has put two assistant principals in charge of the high school since Chmiel was put on paid leave last Friday. The two assistant principals have worked at the high school for many years.
Editor’s note: An earlier edition of this story said Schroth specialized in criminal defense law, personal injury law, and DWI cases and Montenegro specializes in land use, zoning, and education law. Schroth said most of his cases now civil court and employment cases.