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School attorney hiring moved up

A plan to hire a Hernando County School Board attorney before new members are seated in November has angered board member Diane Rowden, who has called for a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the timetable.

Superintendent Dan McIntyre devised the plan to hire the new attorney by Nov. 10 after attorney Joe Johnston, who is leaving after 40 years, told the board that he would not work beyond Nov. 16.

Rowden charged on Monday that McIntyre's plan, outlined in a memorandum sent to board members late last week, disregards board members' decision at last week's School Board meeting to delay hiring an attorney until after two new members elected to the board on Nov. 3 are seated on Nov. 17.

"Let the new board decide who the new board will be working with," Rowden said.

McIntyre's memo, dated Oct. 7, said the district would begin advertising with area bar associations on Monday and would continue until Oct. 26. Those advertisements have gone out.

Applicants would be interviewed between Oct. 29 and Nov. 5, and the new attorney would begin work on Nov. 10.

Last week, Rowden, Susan Cooper and Nancy Gordon, who will remain on the board after the November election, had asked board Chairman Paul Clemons to discuss with Johnston whether he would stay until the arrival of the new board members and help the new attorney with the transition into office.

In his memo, McIntyre said Johnston agreed to stay on only until Nov. 16, the day before the two new board members and Harold Winkler, the district's first appointed superintendent, begin work.

"Even if Mr. Johnston can't stay on, we feel it's only fair that the new board members be a part of the selection for a new attorney," Rowden said.

However, Cooper and Gordon said they agreed with McIntyre's timetable.

"There's no way we can wait," Cooper said. "The new board members can help in the selection before they take office. They just can't vote on it."

Gail Coleman, an English teacher at Central High School, won Clemons' District 2 seat in the September primary. On Nov. 3, voters will decide whether James Malcolm or Robert Marsh will fill Leland McKeown's District 4 seat. Clemons and McKeown are retiring.

Wednesday's meeting will begin at 3 p.m. in the School Board meeting room in Brooksville.