Black advocacy group for parents in Princeton issues statement in support of superintendent of schools
The executive board of Princeton Parents for Black Children, a parent group that advocates for equity and supports Black students in the Princeton Public Schools, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon in support of Princeton Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley.
“The Executive Board of Princeton Parents for Black Children expresses its support of and trust in Princeton Public School Superintendent Dr. Carol Kelley and the board of education in its recent personnel decisions regarding Princeton High School. We also condemn and share our disappointment in efforts by a small but vocal group of parents to use these decisions as a pretext to mount a vicious and disrespectful misinformation campaign against Dr. Carol Kelley and other Black women leaders in the district,” reads the statement.
“The latest attacks against Dr. Kelley started with two widely distributed inaccurate and inflammatory emails. These emails claimed to alert the community about the supposedly unjust ‘firing’ of the PHS principal…and the decline in students’ mental health supposedly attributable to actions by the superintendent,” reads the statement. “Despite the unanimous support of the board of education in the PHS personnel decision, Dr. Kelley and her efforts to improve the schools became the main target of anti-equity parents, much of the same forces that led an attack against Dr. Kelley last year, unsuccessfully ran anti-equity candidates in the most recent election and supported the raising of a racist banner right before the election.”
According to the parent group, the attacks on Kelley have expanded to include Black members of her leadership team, including math and business supervisor Stephanie Tidwell, science supervisor Joy Barnes-Johnson, and school board member Michele Tuck-Ponder.
“Despite the prevalence of misinformation, we find that Dr. Kelley, who entered the district in the heart of the pandemic and after critical members of the district leadership resigned, has done a phenomenal job. This was exemplified in the unprecedented ‘State of the District’ event where she shared the BOE-approved, five-year strategic plan which included input from the community, teachers and staff,” reads the statement that lists some of Kelley’s accomplishments that include beginning assessments of the dual language learning program and the district’s math curriculum, expanding the availability of pre-school, making advances in early learning literacy, beginning the implementation of a special education audit, and making school building security a priority.
“Despite the pandemic and the conditions of the district upon her arrival, she has rebuilt her leadership team with highly qualified individuals. In short, she is successfully making changes that have some. inexplicably, scared that they will not have the resources and privileges that attracted them to this community,” reads the statement.
“Attacks against educators and education are taking place around the country. From banning books to eliminating Black history from the curriculum to discrimination against LGBTQ students to physical attacks and threats against board of education members, this country is confronted with a crisis that is being led by people with a specific political agenda,” reads the statement. “It has become a national movement and, noticeably, outsiders have joined the few locals to target Princeton. We owe it to Princeton’s children to speak up against this anti-education movement and advocate for a more inclusive and better education for all our children. We will not countenance the racist lynch-mob behavior of a few who have been trying to stop change in our own community since we gained a talented, skilled, and effective administrator. We encourage our members and allies to speak out. “
Editor’s note: Executive board members include co-presidents Veronica Foreman and Rhinhold Ponder (Mr. Ponder is the spouse of school board member Michele Tuck Ponder), Teri Boyd, Joanne Parker, Valerie Henry, and Joëlle Okieri.
Clearly, by thousands of signatures and two meetings, the community is showing distress by how they and Mr. Chmiel were treated by both the administration and the Board of Education.
I daresay that if the Superintendent were a white male who sent out that Friday night email on March 17th, the community would be equally upset about how this issue has been handled – if not more so, because more folks could express that without fear of being labeled a racist.
If there has been criticism of Dr. Kelley based on being woman of color, then that is entirely inappropriate, absolutely unacceptable, and has no place here, but I have not seen this.
Also unfair would be labeling as racist those who ask for respect, transparency, and accountability in their school district. After all, the BOE is 90% non-Black, yet evidently people seem pretty unhappy with them right now, too.
I am concerned for the wounds this matter is leaving our town. There had to have been a better way – and there has to be a better way – which is what I am most dismayed about. How do we heal going forward?
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