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High school principal, math supervisor, middle school assistant principal, and high school director of guidance not slated to return to Princeton Public Schools for 2023-24

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.

Jessica Kilgore. File photo.

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.

Princeton counseling director headshot
Dana Karas. File photo.

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.

Stephenie Tidwell. File photo.

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.

Frank Chmiel. File photo from school board meeting where Chmiel announced he would be leading Princeton High School.

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.


    1. RICE notice for public employees to advise them of their right of public notification of their separation of employment.

      Donaldson is a hearing to discuss their employment matter to convince a board to renew them.

  1. Big arms, buff, personable, down-to-earth, Johnny Cash shirt. Maybe Frank Chmiel wasn’t ‘the right fit’ for the elite educrats who dominate public schools.

    1. I work at PHS. Mr Chmiel appeared everyday in a beautiful suit and always behaved like a gentleman. Not to mention his superb leadership, charismatic personality and kind heart. Oh yes, he went to Princeton University. If all that doesn’t make him the “right fit “ for school, then I don’t know who is. I don’t how you can judge him by a photo. By the way, what is so terrible about being in good, shape, personable and down to earth?!!!!

  2. As a parent, while I do not know Ms. Kilgore , I have had encounters with the other three administrators in this article and they are the best around. Each time I needed to speak with them or their departments, regarding my students, they treated me with concern, dignity and respect. Some of the parents in this district are however, not worthy! In this past month, their behavior was absolutely rotten.
    May these four professional’s careers soar to infinity and beyond.

  3. Paul, Johnny Cash T- shirt was a rallying sign for neo-nazis at the Unite the right rally in Charlottesville. All his children protested it.when you love Johnny Cash as I do….. The guy has also coauthored a textbook with a renowned and unapologetic proponents of Manifest Destiny. lots of coincidences there….plus Cranbury led protests……big arms? what do you mean exactly? Desastrous administrator, as was also the director of counseling he brought back upon us. Was frankly such a shame.Good riddance!

    1. I just read the note from the editor regarding defamatory comments and would love to know how this one made it past the draconian comment approval process. If this site is as committed to not spreading misinformation as it claims to be this horrible comment should NEVER have been approved and posted. Are you serious with this?

  4. @Princeton Neighbor. I’m glad that you had good interactions with three of the individuals, but unfortunately, there have been many poor interactions reported with the Mathematics and Business Education supervisor. Her departure will be seen by many as a positive for the students of the district. On the other hand, I have had good, positive email correspondence with Ms. Karas and found her resignation surprising.

    On a higher level, PPS needs to reevaluate how they hire senior personnel. All four of these individuals came from other schools with a substantial history. Is Princeton not doing a thorough background check of their past accomplishments and abilities? Senior personnel shouldn’t be a revolving door as such turnover results in lesser achievement by the teachers they supervise and the students.

    1. The Oak Park school system in Illinois has also had a substantial history of departures and resignations under Dr. Kelley’s watch prior to her coming back east, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. In about 15 seconds, anyone who has a smartphone would have had the means to find this out this during the hiring process.

      1. Yes! I have wondered that myself. I wouldn’t hire anyone with a track record like that! That only spells trouble and it has!!

    2. I SO agree with you on the hiring of senior personnel!!! Thanks for your input!!!!

  5. Big Arms! Some parents have serious issues up there.
    What about an intellect? We’re in need of someone who does something tangible during the day. Good, structuring, solid, heavy and sometimes redundant, if not a bit painful administrative work, supporting their teams in order to run effectively and efficiently a large high school, 200 teachers and 1500+ kids. Pb of compliance across the board, slowly drifting toward collapse with a guy that worked exclusively for his own pr, photos in front of McCaffrey posters, and repeating the school motto as nauseam. That’s all he had to offer. What about NJ BOE Rules and regulations? Testing chaos lately? truancy? Anybody in charge of anything in the building? I mean someone to take responsibility as a principal? Was he even aware of his responsibilities ?
    He did not care about the kids. (Also antivax btw). It’s called a demagogue. Sadly, some parents felt flattered and loved it. Sorry there, you’re not cozy with a high school principal. It is an outright situation of favoritism, (to whom specifically?), and it doesn’t look good to the rest of the community and the employees.
    Assistant principals have 550 Kids each, counselors 270, what did he do for these people? One counselor left abruptly this year. How did he support, how did he help? How did he talk about the future of his students, not”his” future.

    1. Even if what you say is correct, these accusations are hardly grounds for an abrupt firing of Mr. Chmiel in the middle of the school year. I think a lot of us have objected to the timing and manner of the firing at least as much as to the firing itself.

  6. The lawyer for Mr. Chmiel cited as attributes his popularity, his ability to have a personal touch to the students, and, the very best, remember the students’ names!!! Not a thing about teaching ability…although from the picture it looks like he teaches physical education soooooo!

  7. How interesting that the anti-Chmiel people emerge in force, spouting heretofore unexpressed criticisms just as it’s clear there’s going to be a public Donaldson hearing. Kelley’s cards are about to hit the table and I highly doubt she’s got a winning hand, especially if this is the weak-sauce of a bluff that’s being promulgated. I’ll raise.

  8. @LindaSchaefer Principals don’t teach, so it’s usually their personality, leadership, management, and planning abilities that are the main criteria used to evaluate them.

    I’m really shocked that you’re going to demean someone based upon their physical appearance.

  9. @PHS Parent
    You should be aware of the power and management structure at PHS. Many of the items you are complaining about are not in the responsibilities of the PHS Principal, even though one might think they are. Most of them are the responsibility of the supervisors who report to the superintendent and asst. superintendent. Testing was chaotic at PHS this year, but the fault was apparently the IT department, which is managed by the central office of the Board. Chmiel apparently is being set up as the fall-guy for the problems caused by the central office.

    As far as your statement that Chmiel is anti-vax, a rumor that I’ve been told many times, what difference does it make? It’s not my opinion, but noone has claimed that he broke any laws. Enough people have told me this rumor that I wonder if he was fired because of his personal opinion rather than anything serious. Firing people for their personal opinion would be a very serious issue, in my humble opinion.

  10. I am sure there are photos of Mr. Chmiel in business suits other than this particular T-shirt. Media is powerful. I found it questionable to use this type photo for one out of four PPS employees.

  11. If you care about the children’s life and death, or the mom with breast cancer who will get if through them, you get vaccinated or you choose another job. A student died of coronavirus in a neighboring High School.
    Let’s consider for a sec, I’m the mom with breast cancer. Or more precisely one of them.
    But are you saying we are paying a principal to cheer us up? No management/planning/or personnel responsability? Same for director of counseling , was she a supervisor or not? It was not an IT problem per se but a lack of preparedness/organization/supervision, checking, and at the end of the day, a lack of care.
    Not sure you know what you are talking about. The board is a group of volunteers, they have no direct supervision responsibilities.

    1. Well, we’re certainly going to find out. The reasons for the dismissal to be disclosed in the Donaldson hearing had better prove convincing—by which I mean, they had best be objective, verifiable and truly damning—or there’s going to be a major situation here. That situation will be exacerbated by a BOE that passively declines to hold a vote, as I suspect is their intention, or that, if pressed successfully to vote, upholds some feeble rationale. They keep suggesting they have some information that we don’t and insinuating that if only we knew, we’d be on board with the decision to fire Chmiel. Maybe. We’ll see. But as I’ve said, the cards are about to be turned over, and if the superintendent/board don’t have something open-and-shut, iron-clad, this thing will go nuclear. Mere allegations of “insubordination” or the like ain’t gonna cut it, especially in an environment where defying the superintendent would be considered by many an argument for promotion, if anything.

  12. Worth reading the History News Network paper titled ” What’s funnier than a bunch of conservative ideologues accusing US History teachers of historical revisionism?”

  13. @PHS Parent Respectfully, you have a personal opinion about vaccination. The PPS school district did not choose to pass such a policy. They could have, but didn’t. Since they didn’t, your concern about vaccination should be directed at the School Board rather than speculating about the views or opinions of any individual.

    Quite frankly, down in Florida, teachers are being run out of schools because of their personal beliefs. We should not promote similar policies here.

  14. @PHS Parent

    The central office of the Superintendent and Asst. Superintendent is not a group of volunteers. They are supposed to supervise and are highly paid for it. It was their direct reports who botched the test taking, including IT. Question: Whose responsibility is it other than IT is it, if the school’s laptops won’t connect to the school’s wifi? And who does the IT director report to? It’s the Central office of Superintendent, etc. It’s not the Principal. So please check your facts. It will be interesting to see what is discussed in the open meeting when Chmiel is discussed.

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