Petition demands answers after sudden change of Princeton High School principal

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Frank Chmiel is no longer the principal of Princeton High School as of March 17 and an online petition with more than 1,900 signatures demands a reason why.

Without naming Chmiel directly, an email was sent to Princeton Public Schools families, students and staff announcing that Princeton High School (PHS) assistant principals Cecilia Birge and Rashone Johnson jointly assumed the responsibilities of principal “effective this afternoon, March 17.”

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Birge and Johnson are assuming the responsibilities of PHS principal on a temporary basis as the high school “undergoes a transition in school leadership,” Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley wrote in the email.

“We anticipate appointing an interim principal who is a veteran educator with many years of experience to take the helm and serve as principal for the remainder of the school year,” Kelley wrote in the email.

“We know that change is never easy, but we have a dedicated staff who is committed to the students’ well-being, security and educational needs. These will remain the top priority for our educators at PHS,” she wrote.

“With change, we also look forward to the possibility of new opportunities,” Kelley wrote.

The Change.org petition was created within hours of the announcement by PHS students Ashley Chen, Ida Sidik, Sofia Mauger, Rida Mian and Vivian Clayton.

“We demand transparency, reasoning and accountability from our superintendent, and we call for the board to rescind Principal Chmiel’s termination,” the five students wrote in the petition.

“Princeton High School has already been through frequent administrative changes, all of which have interrupted the learning environment for students,” the petition stated.

“Not only would this change continue to interrupt learning, it would force the students to have to rebuild a relationship with yet another new principal,” it stated.

The petition praised Chmiel and emphasized that he had been supportive of the students. He showed “overwhelming support for every school event and endeavor that students take on,” it said.

Chmiel regularly attended athletic events, school concerts and shows, and other student- run events, the petition said. He increased school spirit at PHS, which was “an aspect of school that it lacked before his appointment,” it said.

Chmiel also developed and planned the high school’s first Hispanic Heritage Month assembly and the Black History Month gospel assembly, the petition said. He helped lead school-wide appreciation of these cultures.

He also supported the sale of Black 365 T-shirts to raise money for college scholarships for the Class of 2022, the petition said.

Chmiel was hired as PHS principal in 2021. He had served as Franklin High School principal for three years. Prior to holding the top job at Franklin High School, he was the vice principal for five years.

Chmiel is a Princeton University graduate. He began his 25-year education career at Montgomery High School, where he taught social studies and Advanced Placement art history.

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