Former Princeton High School principal responds to release of teachers union letter

Former Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel submitted a written response on Monday to the release of a Jan. 3, 2022 letter from the union representing teachers at Princeton High School about COVID vaccination, masking, and trust. Planet Princeton received the Jan. 3 letter after submitting a public records request. The letter from the union was not available under the state’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA), but was available under New Jersey Common Law.

At the Donaldson Hearing for Chmiel regarding the decision not to renew his contract for 2023-24 on May 15, Chmiel suggested that people should file an OPRA request for the letter, which he said was not in his personnel file. Planet Princeton first attempted to obtain the letter from the union. Eight union members signed the letter on behalf of the membership. Their names were redacted by the district due to privacy concerns.

Planet Princeton:

I would like to respond to the recent Planet Princeton article, “Princeton Public Schools releases 2022 teachers union letter regarding principal”. I trust that you will include my response in its entirety in Planet Princeton.

  • Prior to being vaccinated, I neither said nor represented that I was vaccinated. I was never asked directly if I was vaccinated. When a general statement was made in a group setting about vaccination status, I did not nod my head that I was vaccinated. People made assumptions, and I chose to keep my vaccination status to myself.  
  • My father died of cardiac issues when he was 40 years old. My wife is an experienced medical professional. Given the relative newness of the vaccine at the time and stated heart considerations, both she and I felt it was better to hold off on vaccination.  
  • If my mask was off, then I was either outside the building, in my office or in the main office, eating or drinking something, and maintaining my social distance, most often behind my desk or at the opposite side of a conference table.  
  • According to the investigation notes taken by human resources, only five PREA members were interviewed. One was noted as the primary writer of the letter.
  • PREA leaders failed to get the necessary votes to even consider holding a vote of no confidence. So, given they couldn’t achieve a quorum, they resorted to sending a letter representing their own personal feelings; not the opinions of the 148 PHS teachers. 
  • The union’s letter never mentions that there was a vote of no confidence because there wasn’t one. 
  • Dr. Kelley, nevertheless, wrote in at least two places in the “Statement of Reasons” for my nonrenewal, an official document, that there was a vote of no confidence. She knowingly wrote false statements in an official document. 
  • At the conclusion of the 2021-2022 school year, Princeton Public Schools chose to rehire me after having conducted a full investigation of the COVID incident from August of 2021. 

I asked for the PREA letter over a year ago, but it was not given to me. I searched for it in my personnel file, and it was not there.

The release of this letter now is an attempt to deflect attention from the falsehoods and mistakes of the superintendent and the board of education. Again, the superintendent chose to renew me at the end of the 2021-2022 school year after possessing all of the information set forth in this recently released letter. 

The release of this letter is also meant to make people forget about the major positive work I did as the principal of Princeton High School. I accomplished a great deal during difficult times. There were over-3000 signatures in the Change.org petition of people demanding that I be reinstated. Hundreds of letters were written attesting to my excellent work. Students and parents held protests, and there was a student walkout.

All of these things are a testament to how positively regarded I am by the school community and the overwhelming support from the direct stakeholders to retain me. 

Sincerely, Frank Chmiel