Thoughts on Frank Chmiel’s Donaldson hearing from a former Cranbury Board of Education member

  1. Frank had no choice but to do his Donaldson hearing in public; there was so much opaqueness about the process that he had to clear his name. His argument was compelling and I didn’t think it was appropriate for that BoE member to call him out for doing it publicly.
  2. Kelley’s 21-page document came down to “you weren’t good at paperwork” and “we had a difference of opinion on some judgment calls”. There was no “smoking gun” of something so egregious that he needed to be fired mid-year. What is striking is that Chmiel was REALLY GOOD at being a principal and connecting with students, and it was a failure on Kelley’s part to not let him play to his strengths and support any gaps or weaknesses.
  3. It was clear that Kelley didn’t like Chmiel from the beginning and started dripping poison into the Board of Ed members’ ears: “Frank’s at it again”, “I just don’t trust his judgment”, “Here he goes again” enough times that the Board somehow saw removing Chmiel as the less resource-intensive option. (Perhaps the last two months have caused them to re-think that calculus)
  4. Kelley was playing games with Chmiel’s future (promising a good recommendation letter but then not) to the point that last night was Chmiel’s best option, and it wasn’t a good option. That speaks VOLUMES about her lack of leadership.
  5. The Board gets their information primarily from Kelley and that’s dangerous.
  6. Leadership matters. Chmiel took action, he solved problems, he made things happen. And the school administration machine ate him alive because of it, trying to choke him with bureaucracy and paperwork. He was fundamentally a LEADER and set a tone for the organization and that is why 300 people showed up last night in person and 1000 people showed up online, even though it was a foregone conclusion that they would not renew him.

I wish Frank Chmiel the best. I don’t know what happens next for him, but he deserves better than how he was treated by Princeton Public Schools.

Michael Ferrante