Embattled Smithville principal resigns, despite overwhelming sup - KCTV5

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Embattled Smithville principal resigns, despite overwhelming support

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SMITHVILLE, MO (KCTV) -

Despite hundreds packing a hearing before the Smithville school board, embattled popular principal Dr. Rudy Papenfuhs has resigned, effective immediately.

Parents and students said they wanted Papenfuhs to stay, even though he was accused of numerous policy violations.

Board members said, among other things, he admitted to giving a student prescription skin ointment, taking students to non-school events without their parents, giving gifts such as game tickets and transportation to those games as incentives to keep up student attendance and good behavior and even putting a student on his mobile phone plan.

“I think Dr. Papenfuhs understood the perimeters of his behavior. I don't believe he thought he was failing to follow those,” said his attorney, Mark Nasteff.

The district charges against the principal are not criminal charges, but what the Smithville school board called failure to maintain boundaries.

Papenfuhs admitted to allowing students to drive his car or even telling a student he loved them.

But Papenfuhs' attorney says, while he admits to violating the board's policy, at no time was there misconduct.

“Of particular concern to Dr. Papenfuhs was the undertone that there had been some sort of inappropriate behavior toward the students he was adamant that that had not occurred,” Nasteff said. “The children's division did an investigation and uncovered no evidence of impropriety.”

Nasteff says Papenfuhs often stepped in when parents could not. He regrets the perception, but does not regret helping children whom he thought were in need.

Papenfuhs was given at least one warning from the school district that his actions were outside of administrator guidelines, but the educator of 30 years did not change his ways.

“He never disputed that he violated board policy, but he was adamant to make sure the public understood that all the decisions he made was what he believed to be student centered and in the best interest of the district and the students he equivocally loved, he used that term in fact, that was one of the allegations that he told a student that was having problems that he loved him. That's a true statement and he meant it when he said it. Not in an inappropriate way, but that he truly did care about the student,” Nasteff said.

The announcement that the school board accepted Papenfuhs' resignation came after everyone left. At the time they were only told that the hearing wasn't happening that night and an announcement would come later online. The news left supporters outraged.

"We're not leaving," students began chanting about an hour into the scheduled start of the hearing.

But the hearing never started because the board immediately went into closed session. When the assistant superintendent came out to say closed-door discussions with Papenfuhs meant there would be no public hearing Thursday night, the crowd of almost 400 booed and shouted words like "coward."

“I think the board and the administration actually came out and seen the turnout that was here and probably didn't want to come out and face everybody,” said parent Bobby Russell.

“I'm really upset because I do not feel that Dr. Papenfuhs was given due process,” said parent Johnna Malek.

“I assure you there is no ploy and due process is occurring,” said Assistant Superintendent Wayne Krueger.

Papenfuhs, known affectionately as Pappy, paid a surprise visit to his supporters after the announcement and was received like a rock star.

He would not comment on what's next, but did remark on the crowd, calling the support overwhelming.

“It's pretty impressive I can tell you that. Thank you,” Papenfuhs said.

Even though Papenfuhs asked to finish the remaining school year, the board asked that he not return. Discipline for the charges against him could have included termination. By resigning, Papenfuhs will get to keep his pension.

He did not attend Wednesday's press conference that was held the day after the school board meeting.

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