Top stories of the year for Princeton

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As 2023 comes to a close and we look forward to a new year, the Princeton Packet looks back at its top three stories in the Princeton community.

by Lea Kahn and Andrew Harrison

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Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley and former Principal High School Principal Frank Chmiel

The unexpected resignation of Princeton Public Schools Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley and the dismissal of popular Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel were among the top stories that dominated news coverage in 2023.

Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley resigned unexpectedly and was granted a paid leave of absence by the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education Oct. 30.

Kelley, who was in the third year of her four-year contract, announced that she was resigning from the top post as of Aug. 31, 2024 for personal and professional reasons. Her contract would have expired June 30, 2025.

Kelley was granted a paid leave of absence effective Oct. 27 through Aug. 31, 2024. She is receiving her salary of $249,646 for the balance of the 2023-24 school year.  

The school board hired Kathie Foster to serve as interim superintendent of schools Nov. 13. Foster’s contract ends June 30, 2024, but may be extended through Aug. 31.

Foster’s prorated salary is $169,400. Including travel and expense reimbursement and professional development, she will be paid $171,400.

Foster is not new to the district. She most recently served as interim Princeton High School principal.

School board president Dafna Kendal said the school board would launch a search for a permanent superintendent of schools after it reorganizes in January 2024.

Kelley’s tenure in the school district was punctuated by the controversial dismissal of popular Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel in March.

Chmiel was placed on administrative leave March 17 by Kelley. Within hours of his dismissal, a Change.org petition was created and has since been signed by more than 3,000 people. Students and parents held rallies in protest to his firing.

Chmiel alleged that he had been pushed to resign most likely because the district wanted to post an anticipated vacancy for the high school principal’s job. He refused to resign and was placed on administrative leave.

After the school board refused to renew his contract, based on Kelley’s recommendation, he requested a public hearing on the matter in front of the full school board.

Chmiel was granted a public hearing to respond to the reasons for the non-renewal of his contract. The school board could support the superintendent’s recommendation or override it.

The school board upheld Kelley’s recommendation in a split vote, following a five-hour public hearing May 15. Kelly read a 21-page statement outlining Chmiel’s alleged failures and the reasons for his non-renewal.

Attorney David Schroth, who represented Chmiel, filed an appeal with the state Office of Administrative Law and the state Commissioner of Education June 14.

Schroth also filed a tort claims notice that put the Princeton Public Schools on notice of a potential lawsuit. The tort claims notice also was filed June 14, according to published reports.

ANDREW HARRISON/The Princeton Packet
Team takes the lead to reach the starting line during a race at the regatta.

Ready, set, go: PMS students paddle their cardboard designs during regatta

A tradition dating back to 2014, the Princeton Middle School cardboard regatta returned to the pool June 5, the first time in three years since COVID-19.

“I think it was a great experience to have it back again,” said Bill Merritt, a Princeton Middle School (PMS) eighth grade science teacher, who along with fellow science teacher Janet Gaudino, oversaw the regatta and cardboard boat projects. “The kids enjoyed the freedom again.”

Groups of four students picked by their classmates guided and sat in the handmade built cardboard boats to compete against each other in the respective races that took place.

The regatta returned once the teachers and school administration felt comfortable after the height of COVID-19.

A core team of students built the cardboard boats that each group of four students piloted during the races. They selected which students would pilot the boats through size and their effort.

Andrew Harrison/The Princeton Packet
Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber (center) announces partnership with state in establishing artificial intelligence hub in central New Jersey.

‘We want to plant a flag’

New Jersey and Princeton University are partnering to create an artificial intelligence (AI) hub in the Central Jersey region for the advancement and exploration of AI.

Gov. Phil Murphy and Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber announced the partnership and establishment of a regional AI innovation hub at East Pyne Hall on campus on Dec. 18.

“That hub will bring together AI researchers, industry leaders, startup companies and other collaborators to foster AI innovation in central New Jersey,” Eisgruber said.

The new regional hub would not only include companies, industry leaders and startups, but other New Jersey education institutions such as Rutgers University and community colleges to further drive collaboration and research.

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