Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools takes leave of absence

School board to take action at a board meeting Oct. 30

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Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley has taken a leave of absence immediately from the Princeton Public Schools’ top administrative post, ahead of her plans to resign Aug. 31, 2024.

Kelley’s leave of absence and resignation were announced in a statement issued by the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education Oct. 27.

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The school board will act on Kelley’s leave of absence and resignation at a special in-person meeting Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. at the district’s administrative offices on Valley Road.

Kelley was in the third year of a four-year contract that began July 1, 2021 and would have expired June 30, 2025. She is being paid $249,696 for the 2023-24 school year, which is the third year of the contract. She was in line to earn $254,690 in its final year.

The school board thanked Kelley for her contributions to the school district, which she joined at a time when the district was just emerging from the darkest days of the pandemic, according to the Oct. 27 statement.

“Dr. Kelley leaves the district with a more effective and efficient administrative structure, exceptional personnel hires and a data-driven strategic plan that will further support our staff’s ability to provide the necessary conditions for all students to achieve their potential,” the school board wrote.

Kelley’s tenure in the school district was punctuated by the controversial dismissal of popular Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel on March 17. He was placed on an administrative leave of absence after Kelley recommended that his contract should not be renewed.

No reason was given for placing him on administrative leave, although Chmiel claimed it was done because he would not resign so the school district could advertise a vacancy in the high school principal’s post.

Chmiel appealed Kelley’s decision in a Donaldson hearing before the full school board in public in May, but the school board upheld her recommendation to not renew his contract. A renewal for a third year meant he would have been granted tenure.

A change.org petition calling for Kelley’s resignation was signed by more than 2,000 people in the wake of Chmiel’s dismissal.

This was not the first time that Kelley attempted dismiss Chmiel. She allegedly tried to dismiss him during the 2021-22 school year, but relented after a public outcry. His contract was renewed for a second year.

Meanwhile, Kelley had been chosen for the top job in the Princeton Public Schools from among a field of 13 semi-finalists, following a nationwide search for a superintendent to replace former Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane.

Kelley came to the Princeton Public Schools from the Oak Park Elementary School District 97 in Illinois, where she was the superintendent of schools.

Before moving to Illinois, Kelley had serve as the superintendent of schools in the Branchburg Township School District in Somerset County. She had been a classroom teacher, an assistant principal and K-12 supervisor of math in the Franklin Township School District in Middlesex County.

She served as the principal of an elementary school in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District in Somerset County and was also the director of curriculum and instruction for Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Hunterdon County.

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