Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley invites to meet with five students in the march
Nearly 100 Princeton High School students took their concerns about Principal Frank Chmiel’s dismissal straight to the Princeton Public Schools administration offices on Valley Road.
The students walked out of the high school after lunch April 21 and set off down Moore Street to the Valley Road administration building. Walking in the street and on the sidewalk, they chanted “We want Chmiel” and “Get Kelley out.”
Several students said they were told they would be marked absent from their afternoon classes for taking part in the march, which was not a school-sanctioned event. The students said they were not concerned.
The walkout was sparked by students’ on-going distress over Chmiel’s abrupt dismissal March 17 by Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley. He was placed on administrative leave and locked out of his office at the end of the day.
Chmiel has claimed he was dismissed because he refused to resign, which was necessary for the school district to advertise a vacancy for the Princeton High School principal’s post.
At its March 28 meeting, the school board appointed Kathie Foster, a retired superintendent of schools and principal, to fill in as the interim principal through June 30.
The walk-out, which was organized by a Princeton High School sophomore, was the third public protest since Chmiel’s dismissal. Parents and students held a protest March 20 outside the school. Parents, who are also upset, held a rally to support Chmiel outside the Princeton Public Library April 16.
Chmiel is popular among the students, one of whom described him as an icon.
When the students reached the administration building, they stood on the lawn. A few students walked up to the building and peered inside the windows.
In a surprise move, Kelley invited five students to meet with her in the administration building. They met with Kelley for about an hour, but it was not clear what they discussed.
Meanwhile, standing outside the administration building, one student said “We just want Mr. Chmiel back. We are not going to stand for this injustice.”
Senior Nevaeh Williams, who transferred to Princeton High School last year after her family moved from North Carolina, said Chmiel made her feel included. He was doing a great job as the principal, she said.
“Mr. Chmiel always did his best to talk to you, to make sure you were good (OK). He cared deeply and we want him back,” Nevaeh said.
Junior Allegra Brennan said she was neutral about the issue because she did not know enough about it. She was critical of the school board and the administration for their lack of transparency.
“They say they hear the students and the parents, but they don’t show any caring. I’m not sure I want to go to school. Mr. Chmiel listened to us and cared about us,” Allegra said.