A teacher’s perspective: In support of Princeton Superintendent Carol Kelley
To the Editor:
I have been following the recent coverage of the decision to remove Mr. Chmiel from the
principal position at Princeton High School. I have read the many letters and articles, which
feature perspectives of parents and community members, students, and staff. I am writing today
in hopes of offering my voice as someone who not only worked with Dr. Carol Kelley but who
also, until just two months ago, called the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood home.
I teach English at a school where Dr. Kelley served as director of curriculum a little over ten
years ago. Her investment in me as a young teacher gave me the confidence to evolve as a
school leader, to eventually publish, and to investigate new avenues for student learning such
as AP Capstone and inquiry-driven approaches. In turn, I invested even more in my school. I
joined committees where I could learn alongside administrators and offer solutions to
school-wide problems. Dr. Kelley invited staff of all roles to have lunchtime conversations she
called “chat and chew” meetings. Part book club, part professional learning, and part shared
decision-making, these groups met once a month to discuss texts about education. I remember
one particular meeting where we discussed Linda Darling-Hammond’s book, “Powerful Learning.”
Dr. Kelley arrived, so excited, with marked passages and questions about how we might all see
some of the author’s proposals playing out in our classrooms and for our students. In that
meeting and in every other, it was clear that Dr. Kelley wanted collegial learning to drive
curricular initiatives. Fostered by her leadership, I came to value my expertise as a teacher, as
an advocate for students, and as a meaningful contributor to the learning community.
Two years ago, when I saw in Planet Princeton that Dr. Kelley was going to be appointed
Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools, I was thrilled. While I do not have children of my
own, I know how important a school can be in a community, and I wanted the very best for the
families who lived in my neighborhood.
I watched with admiration (and a little envy) as Dr. Kelley offered office hours at the local library
and organized community open houses like the Princeton State of the District event last month.
I often thought back to those lunch meetings and those committees and all of the countless
times that Dr. Kelley sought the voices of parents, community members, staff, and students. It’s
rare to see a superintendent who is so welcoming of public involvement and who is so eager to
show off the amazing accomplishments of her staff and students. I thought, boy, how lucky this
district is to have her at the helm.
That’s why I was especially gobsmacked to hear some of the remarks at last week’s Board of
Education meeting, with some speakers claiming that Dr. Kelley makes unilateral [dictatorial,
authoritarian] decisions that aren’t in the best interest of the students or community. I do
understand that it’s disappointing and hurtful to lose a beloved school leader who you trust and
admire. And it can be especially infuriating when we don’t have answers to help us understand
why the decision was made. However, asking for Dr. Kelley’s resignation and directing vitriolic
statements at her and at the board members isn’t the way to repair a hurting community. Dr.
Kelley and the board won’t and should not break the law to appease parent and student questions. A personnel shift at this point in the year is not made without weighing the
repercussions. As a community, we elected this board to serve our students; they, accordingly,
made the wise decision to hire Dr. Kelley, who has proven time and again that she welcomes
partnerships with parents, students, and staff. And as a community, we should rest assured that
there is a reason for their collective decision – it was what was best for the school and its