Popular principal in Princeton, NJ fired because of vaccine, mask outrage
🔴 Frank Chimel was replaced as Princeton High School's principal in March
🔴 He took the job in 2021
🔴 Chimel admitted he did not take the COVID-19 vaccination
PRINCETON — The popular principal of Princeton High School was removed from his post by the Board of Education because he was dishonest about his COVID-19 vaccination status with teachers and staff.
The Board of Education announced March 17 that Frank Chmiel, who took the job in July 2021, was being replaced. At the time, officials offered no public explanation because of personnel privacy concerns. Assistant Principals Rashone Johnson and Cecilia Birge jointly took on the position temporarily.
The announcement sparked outrage from students, who created an online petition demanding "transparency from the administration after "frequent administrative changes."
Parents also held a protest on April 17 at Princeton's Hinda Plaza calling for his reinstatement. Supporters said that Chimel had brought stability and community-building skills to the school, according to a report on Patch.
Chimel requested a Donaldson hearing be held publicly, according to Patch. A Donaldson hearing is an opportunity for tenured and non-tenured teachers to make their case before a Board of Education, which can choose to rescind an earlier decision.
No masks in a meeting
During the May 15 hearing, Chimel admitted to not being truthful about his COVID-19 vaccination status in August 2021 during a union meeting at the school when he said those in attendance could remove their masks, according to coverage by Planet Princeton.
"I was behind my desk well over six 6 away from them and I took off my mask. One union leader said something like 'hey, we're all vaccinated, right' and I did not respond one way or another," according to Planet Princeton's coverage.
When Chimel came down with COVID-19 in December 2021, some teachers noticed that the period of time he would be under quarantine was the recommended length for an unvaccinated person.
At the time the CDC recommended those who were not fully vaccinated remain quarantined for 10 days. Recommendations were changed at the end of December by the CDC.
Lack of confidence in Chimel
Superintendent Carol Kelley said that "significant trust issues" were brought to her attention in January 2022 in a letter signed by 148 teachers accusing him of misrepresenting his COVID-19 vaccination status and not adhering to Gov. Phil Murphy's Executive Order #251 requiring masks to be worn in schools.
Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Rebecca Gold was directed to investigate the allegations. Several staff members told Gold that Chimel discouraged mask use. Among those raising concerns were a pregnant woman and someone who was caregiver to an elderly parent.
"Staff member reported feeling coerced to accept these risks by a superior whom they were not comfortable," Kelley told the meeting.
Chimel said he did not get vaccinated right away because he was concerned about potential heart issues risks because his father died at a young age. He did comply with twice-a-week testing.
He denied telling anyone to take their masks off at the August meeting and was sitting 6 feet away.
Members of the board, citing complaints about Chimel and administrative duties, voted 8-2 to not approve a motion that would have resulted in a vote on Chimel. Kelley said she did not hear anything during the hearing that would change her mind.