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Chmiel launches reinstatement fight as Princeton High School principal

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Former Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel has stepped up his fight for reinstatement as the principal at the high school, and is waiting for Princeton school district officials to provide the reasons for his dismissal.

No reason was released for placing Chmiel on administrative leave in a March 17 letter to the Princeton High School community. Chmiel alleged that he was being pushed to resign “most likely” because the district wanted to post an anticipated vacancy for the principal’s vacancy at the high school.

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School district officials responded March 26 that because Chmiel has not waived his right to privacy, the school board will continue to refrain from releasing information related to his personnel file.

Attorneys David Schroth and Ben Montenegro, of Destribats Campbell Staub & Schroth LLC in Hamilton, are representing Chmiel in his fight for reinstatement. They said that “despite his dismissal, the school board has the legal right to renew his contract – with or without the superintendent of schools’ recommendation – after he is granted the right to address the school board.”

“That decision (to renew Chmiel’s contract) will be solely within the discretion by a majority vote of the school board when we reach that stage,” Schroth said in a March 24 statement.

A school district employee whose contract is not renewed has the right to request a written statement outlining the reasons for the non-renewal, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA)

The employee may then ask for an informal appearance before the school board to convince it to offer a new contract, despite the superintendent’s recommendation, the NJSBA said.

The informal hearing may be held in closed session, or it may be held in public at the employee’s request. The employee may have witnesses to bolster his or her case for contract renewal, the NJSBA said.

Once the hearing is over, the school board does not have to take formal action. If the board does not vote and the superintendent has made a recommendation for non-renewal, the recommendation will stand, the NJSBA said.

However, it is also possible for a school board to take formal action and override the superintendent’s recommendation not to renew the contract, the NJSBA said. The school board can vote to offer a new contract. But if it does not pass, the non-renewal stands.

Making the case for Chmiel’s renewal, Schroth said he was a “highly effective administrator in his last district (Franklin Township Public Schools), where he was respected and beloved and regarded as highly effective based on his evaluations.” He was the Franklin High School principal and also served as its vice principal.

The Princeton Public Schools thoroughly vetted Chmiel’s references during the search process for a new principal for Princeton High School, Schroth wrote.

Those references included two Franklin Township residents, two Franklin Township school district teachers, and the district’s superintendent of schools and assistant superintendent of schools. Two Princeton residents also supported Chmiel, who lives in Princeton.

The Princeton Public Schools launched its search for a new principal in January 2021. More than a dozen candidates were interviewed by the search team, which was led by Interim Superintendent of Schools Barry Galasso.

Chmiel went through four rounds of interviews before being hired in April 2021. He began work at Princeton High School on July 1, 2021.

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