CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- Longtime Horace Greeley High School drama teacher Christopher Schraufnagel has started a leave of absence just days before students' graduation ceremony.
The Chappaqua school board unanimously approved the leave, which is with pay, at its meeting on Wednesday night. The leave is retroactive to Monday, June 15, and can be ended at the discretion of Chappaqua Schools Superintendent Lyn McKay.
McKay declined to say why Schraufnagel is on leave when asked by Daily Voice.
Schraufnagel's absence comes amid speculation about what is happening with the school district's theater program, something that McKay acknowledged in a statement at the board meeting.
“I know that there's much discussion and many rumors around the theater program," McKay said. "I appreciate and I share your concerns.”
McKay also stressed in her remarks that she cannot get into details.
“First and foremost, our students' well-being is our primary focus and privacy is really important in situations like this," McKay said. "I want to assure you we're doing everything that is allowable. At the same time, we cannot answer questions, but I will tell you that when the time is appropriate, I will update you."
McKay concluded by reaffirming the district's commitment to the theater program.
"I also want to assure all parents and students we are committed to a strong theater program and we're going to have a strong theater program next year."
The school board also voted to create a new drama teacher position, which would allow for another individual to fulfill Schraufnagel's responsibilities. The new position's creation is effective on Aug. 31.
Schraufnagel, called "Schrauf" by students and parents, has been a significant figure at Greeley for years. He was hired in 2003 and was granted tenure in 2006, minutes for past school board meetings show.
Schraufnagel's tenure has included being chair of the Performing Arts Department, according to Friends of Greeley Theatre, a group supported by alumni and other community members. On the group's website, several Greeley alumni praised Schraufnagel.
In 2013, a celebration called "Schrauffest" was held to mark Schraufnagel being at Greeley for a decade, according to the group.
Aside from working with students involved with the theater program, Schraufnagel has played roles in the school's senior musicals, which involve large numbers of soon-to-be-graduates.
For example, The Journal News reports that in April he was involved with a 233-senior cast who participated in "Hair."
Schraufnagel could not be reached for comment.