May 10, 2023

Hearing for Dismissed Principal on May 15

By Donald Gilpin

Ousted Princeton High School (PHS) Principal Frank Chmiel will present his case for reinstatement at a public hearing, in person and livestreamed on YouTube, before the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE) on Monday, May 15 in the Princeton Middle School cafeteria.

Chmiel wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon, “I am grateful and enthusiastic about the chance to meet with the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education and for the community to be present at my Donaldson hearing on Monday night. The Board has been provided with inaccurate, incomplete, and even false information regarding my work as the principal of Princeton High School. This is a vital opportunity for me to share evidence regarding the truth about my performance and to set the record straight.”

Starting at 7 p.m., following an hour-long period for public comment, the “Donaldson hearing” will provide Chmiel and his attorneys an opportunity “to convince the Board members that they have made an incorrect determination by not offering reemployment,” according to a New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) document on nonrenewals.

“We are confident that we have a response to everything that the superintendent has used as a basis for Mr. Chmiel’s nonrenewal,” said David Schroth, Chmiel’s attorney.  “We will give the Board every reason to reinstate Mr. Chmiel.”

Chmiel and his lawyers recently received from PPS Superintendent Carol Kelley a “statement of reasons” for nonrenewal, and in the hearing they are expected to refute those reasons, which have not yet been made public, and to assert Chmiel’s contributions to PHS and the district. Chmiel is in his second year as PHS principal and does not have tenure.

There has been much speculation about what might be the reasons for Chmiel’s nonrenewal. With Chmiel and his lawyers having requested a public hearing, many will be attending Monday night’s session in anticipation of learning what those reasons are.

In the form of rallies, petitions, and commentary in public media, support for Chmiel has been widespread, along with calls for his reinstatement and for the resignation of the superintendent. 

As of Monday, May 8, Schroth said he had “nothing new to report” in regard to their preparations for the hearing.

The BOE is expected to be primarily in listening mode at Monday’s session, as the NJSBA document states that ”the purpose of the hearing is not for the Board to prove its reasons.”

Following the appeal from Chmiel, the focus will turn to the BOE, which can opt to overrule the superintendent if the majority of BOE members vote to offer Chmiel a contract. But the BOE is not required to vote. If they don’t vote, the superintendent’s recommendation not to renew will stand.