If the Missouri state school board as expected accepts a hearing officer’s recommendation Tuesday, former Smithville High School principal Rudy Papenfuhs will have a chance to lead a school again.
“He’s ready to be back with students,” said Papenfuhs’ attorney, R. Mark Nasteff. “He’d love to have that opportunity.”
Papenfuhs and the Smithville school board reached a separation agreement a year ago after Superintendent Todd Schuetz brought claims before the board that Papenfuhs on several occasions had personal contact with students that crossed protective boundaries set by district policies.
The district accepted Papenfuhs’ resignation but did not seek to have his credentials removed. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education conducted an investigation that has led to the commissioner’s recommendation that no action be taken against Papenfuhs’ credentials.
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No accusations had been made that Papenfuhs harmed any students. The district thought, however, that he had gone too far against policy with some of his actions, including giving students gifts, going to sporting events with students, sharing medication and allowing students to drive his car.
In her recommendation, hearing officer Cynthia Quetsch found that policies were violated and that the district would have had cause to fire Papenfuhs without his resignation.
But Quetsch also noted that no students were harmed and that the superintendent who had hired Papenfuhs — George Curry — had found the principal’s actions acceptable, while Schuetz, when he succeeded Curry as superintendent, did not.
Although Papenfuhs’ violations of policy were “a neglect of duty,” Quetsch wrote, “it is recommended that the State Board of Education … take no action on (Papenfuhs’) teaching and administrator certificates.”
Schuetz was not available for comment during the holiday break but said earlier this year that it was not the district’s wish to revoke Papenfuhs’ credentials.
“We never had the intention of seeking the revocation of his credentials,” Schuetz said. “It serves no purpose for the district.”
Papenfuhs is continuing with a lawsuit against Schuetz and the Smithville school board claiming defamation. That case is pending in Jackson County.