One administrator and a director of guidance have resigned from their jobs in the Princeton Public Schools effective June 30, and two administrators are not slated to have their contracts renewed.
Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel and District Mathematics and Business Education Supervisor Stephenie Tidwell are not on the list of contract renewals for the next academic year, according to the school board agenda posted Friday afternoon. Princeton Middle School Assistant Principal Jessica Kilgore and Princeton High School Director of Counseling Dana Karas both resigned. None of the four have tenure in the district.
Kilgore has been with the district for less than a year. She was hired in October of 2022 to replace Stephanie DiCarlo. Kilgore previously served as the interim principal at Ashbrook Elementary School in Lumberton.
Karas was hired to lead the counseling department at the high school and began that position at the end of September of 2021. She previously worked in the Franklin Township school district with Chmiel as the head of counseling for high school students.
Tidwell was hired back when Steve Cochrane was the superintendent of schools in 2019. Previously she was the STEM supervisor at the Community Charter School of Paterson.
Chmiel was hired to lead the high school in April of 2021 when Barry Galasso was serving as the interim superintendent for the district after Cochrane retired. He began working at Princeton High School in July of 2021.
The decisions to put Chmiel on paid leave and not renew his contract have sparked controversy and outrage in the Princeton community, with about 100 people attending three different protests to voice their support for Chmiel and their opposition to Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley. One protest was held in front of the high school, a second protest was held on Hinds Plaza, and students held a third protest in front of the Princeton Board of Education administration building.
Chmiel, a charismatic leader, is popular with many students and parents, who cite his personal touch and ability to connect and remember students’ names. The reasons for his nonrenewal are unclear. Under New Jersey law, public personnel information is very limited. It would be up to Chmiel to waive his rights to privacy and hold any discussions with the school board about his employment in public. So far no discussion has happened in public.
Last weekend, Chmiel’s lawyer David Schroth acknowledged that Chmiel and his legal team have received the district’s “statement of reasons” for his nonrenewal. Schroth said the team was still reviewing the statement to decide what the next steps would be. Chmiel can choose to have a Donaldson hearing to discuss his employment with the district. He can also choose to make that hearing public. He has 10 days from receipt of the statement of reasons to request the hearing. The deadline to do so would be this weekend.
Neither Schroth nor School Board President Dafna Kendal addressed this reporter’s questions about whether Chmiel has received Rice notices over the last several months and how many. Scroth did not respond to the question, and Kendal said she could not confirm nor deny that Chmiel has received Rice notices because it is part of his personnel file, which is private unless the employee chooses to disclose it.