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School Board wants attorney to work full time

School Board attorney Karen Gaffney will work with superintendent Wendy Tellone to determine whether they can reach an agreement to keep Gaffney working for the board: full time.

That's a turn of events from a couple of months ago, when Gaffney informed board members that she would be unwilling to pursue a full-time position. She has held the post part time for nearly a dozen years while also maintaining a private law practice.

Not wanting to lose her expertise but still set on hiring a full-time attorney, board members asked during a workshop Tuesday for Gaffney to reconsider.

Her answer? A very tentative yes.

"I'm willing to look at anything you want me to look at," Gaffney said.

The Inverness lawyer said her hesitation arises from the health problems she has dealt with since a 2002 car crash that broke one of her wrists and shattered a leg. She's often in pain, she said, and probably misses a full day of work a week because of it. She is concerned that unpredictable absences from work might leave the School Board and Tellone in a pinch at inopportune times.

"I don't want to bring to the district a problem, when I feel like I have spent the last 12 years trying to protect the district from problems," she said.

Taking the job would also mean an overall pay cut for Gaffney, who made $120,000 from School Board work alone last year. She told board members that bill likely would be higher this year.

Board member Gail David asked Gaffney what she would expect to make as a salaried employee. The attorney suggested that a competitive salary offer for whomever the board decides to hire should range between $100,000 to $125,000.

The board was unanimous in its willingness to accommodate Gaffney.

Members said they would be comfortable allowing her to work from home periodically and not necessarily having her onsite for a full 40 hours a week.

They dismissed vice chairman Jim Malcolm's suggestion to go ahead and advertise for the position. Even Malcolm acknowledged he didn't think the board would find anyone as qualified or knowledgeable about the district as Gaffney.

"I am willing to try to make those concessions because her experience would outweigh the inconvenience," board member John Druzbick said.

Gaffney's contract ends Dec. 31. Though amenable to entering into discussions with Tellone immediately, Gaffney resisted committing fully to the idea of working full time for the School Board.

"I'm just really concerned that it will be difficult to work out a system that works."