‘We are not going away’

Parents, students rally again in support of Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel

Amid chants of “We want Chmiel, we want Chmiel,” about 100 parents and students rallied April 16 to make it clear that dismissing Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel is unacceptable and they are not going away.

One parent at the rally, held on Hinds Plaza outside the Princeton Public Library, hinted that a recall of school board members is being explored.

Chmiel believes he was placed on administrative leave March 17 for allegedly refusing to resign. His resignation would mean the district could post an anticipated vacancy for the principal’s job at Princeton High School.

Since Chmiel was released from his job, an online petition to rescind his termination has been signed by more than 3,000 people. A petition calling for Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley to resign has been signed by more than 2,000 people.

Underneath a blue-and-white banner that said “Save Princeton High School! Reinstate Principal Chmiel,” speakers said Chmiel provided stability for the students. Blue and white are the Princeton High School colors.

Parent Sasha Weinstein reeled off the five principals Princeton High School in the past few years. The revolving door of principals is unacceptable, she said. The students need stability, which Chmiel provided, she said.

Parent David Mauger framed the issue as a “really important fight” about bullying versus inclusion. When he asked the crowd how they felt about bullying by implying that Chmiel had been bullied, the response was a chorus of boos.

“We can’t let the students see their principal get bullied. What message are we sending them? We have to stand up to bullying (by school district officials),” Mauger said.

Parent Bo Bannett said “we are not going away” until Chmiel is reinstated. She said parents are not going to allow Kelley and the school board “to do this to our children. Let’s get Chmiel back in there and Kelley out,” she said.

Princeton High School senior Adrian Serieyssol said the students want Chmiel because he expects more from them. They want him not because he would make their lives easier, but rather because he would make their lives better, he said.

“From personal experience, when trouble arose, he would expect us to become better as a result, and not find the easy way out. He expects us to pursue the best path to the end,” Adrian said.

Parent Christine Ritchie, who served on a school board in Michigan before moving to Cranbury in 2021, said the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education is not doing its job.

“They think this (issue) is going to blow over. Most of the time, it does. The difference is, we can’t let it blow over. I really care about what happens at Princeton High School,” Ritchie said.

“The Princeton Public Schools is a great district right now, but it is quickly becoming a not-so-great district because the leadership is not in line with what the constituents (parents and students) want,” she said.

Ritchie said her family moved to Cranbury so her children could attend Princeton High School. The Cranbury Public Schools does not have a high school and sends its high school students to Princeton High School.

Meanwhile, parent Michael Brown said a group of parents is meeting to determine their next steps, which may include a recall of school board members.

Brown said the group is waiting for the release of reasons behind Chmiel’s dismissal. Chmiel may ask for a hearing before the school board – in public or in private – but it is rare for someone challenging a dismissal to be reinstated, Brown said.

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