More than 1,800 people have signaled a vote of no confidence in Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley through an online petition calling for her immediate dismissal.
The Change.org petition, which began circulating March 22, also calls for the reinstatement of former Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel. It was the second petition filed within five days of his dismissal.
This petition follows an earlier Change.org petition that was filed within hours of Chmiel’s dismissal March 17. The earlier petition has been signed by nearly 3,000 people in a groundswell of support for him.
A GoFundMe account was set up March 18 to pay for Chmiel’s legal fees, if he chooses to sue. It has raised more than $16,000 toward its goal of $25,000. Donations have ranged from $10 to $1,000.
About 100 students and parents gathered at the Houghton Road driveway entrance to Princeton High School March 20 to protest Chmiel’s dismissal. He was in his second year as principal. He began work at the high school on July 1, 2021.
Chmiel alleged that he was put on administrative leave in retaliation because he would not resign, according to a statement that was approved by his attorney and initially published on the Planet Princeton website.
The March 22 Change.org petition, titled “Immediate Resignation of Dr. Carol Kelley as Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools,” states that the signers are requesting her immediate resignation and the reinstatement of Chmiel as principal.
The petition stated that Princeton High School students and parents are “frustrated and very upset with the lack of transparency, accountability and respect” from the superintendent of schools.
“Since (Dr. Kelley) came onboard, she has caused immeasurable mental distress and harm to the high school community in less than two years,” it stated. She began work in the district on July 1, 2021.
The petition stated that Princeton High School students have been spending their time and energy “fighting against this sudden removal of their beloved Principal Frank Chmiel,” instead of focusing on their education.
Princeton High School is the flagship school of the district, and many families moved to Princeton because of the high school’s “stellar reputation,” according to the petition.
“We have no confidence in Dr. Kelley’s leadership to help maintain our school’s reputation and ranking, now or in the future,” the petition stated.
Chmiel wrote in his statement on Planet Princeton that he was placed on administrative leave March 17 because he did not resign “fast enough” – as fast as Princeton Public Schools officials wanted.
Normally, one finds another job, gets approval from that school district’s board of education and then resigns, Chmiel wrote. The district was pushing him to resign and take personal leave “most likely” because the district wanted to post an anticipated principal’s vacancy at the high school by late March.
Chmiel wrote that he was not in the position of possible non-renewal and administrative leave because of his performance – he would not have received such an outpouring of support if his performance was ineffective.
“This is a matter of a few who do not want me as principal of Princeton High School any longer, feeling I may not be the right fit. I was willing to accept that, even though I didn’t agree. That’s how things work out in education when you are untenured,” he wrote in the statement published in Planet Princeton.
“All I was saying to the district was that I would resign when I was ready. Obviously, if the powers that be did not want me here next year, I would not receive the recommendation for a contract for the next year,” he wrote.
Through its attorney, the school district administration let him know of its intentions mid-winter and threatened to place him on administrative leave “on the pretext that this type of publicity, similar to last year, would take place again,” he wrote.
Chmiel was referring to school district officials’ move to force him out last year, but they relented in the face of public opposition. His contract for 2022-23 was approved by the school board at its May 11 meeting by a vote of 8-2.
Chmiel wrote that he felt he was being forced this time to make a decision so “they could get the ball rolling and pick someone else. Would I resign or would they put me on administrative leave?”
Being placed on administrative leave would make it more difficult to find another job because “people ask questions,” he wrote. He felt that officials were threatening his future.
“It felt like I was being bullied into a decision I wasn’t ready to make. I held my ground and said they would not get my resignation,” Chmiel wrote.
Within hours, he received the March 17 notice of non-renewal from school district officials, he wrote. It was not based on performance or substantively on anything else, he wrote.
“It was retaliation, plain and simple, sending me a message of who’s in charge,” Chmiel wrote in the statement.
Chmiel wrote that he has consulted an attorney and together, they will determine the best course forward.
“I have not given up,” Chmiel wrote.