The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida on March 4, 1996 · 37
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The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida · 37

Tampa, Florida
Issue Date:
Monday, March 4, 1996
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Laheland , Winter Mr Haven k ,Lake V Bartow Wales Countywide coverage THE TAMPA TRIBUNE Monday, March 4, 1996 bv-i tip' v - Mary toothman $ i ' jf I Let's hear it for kids and protest LAKELAND It seemed like an incredibly tough battle for a group of high school kids: taking on the Catholic diocese. Trying to get a later curfew from parents, struggling to get the attention of an attractive classmate in time for the prom or working for an "A" in ctifemistry class would have all been serious challenges. But trying to persuade the upper echelon of the Catholic church Hi bring back their fired school principal, Michael Wy-1 man, was a task the kids seemed unlikely to accomplish. In the first place, the Catholic church's power structure seems awfully formidable. Who wants to go up against that group? And once a public decision to get rid of Wyman had been made, it seemed highly unlikely church officials would back down and admit a mistake had been made. But these Santa Fe High School kids were stubborn as heck. And upset? You've never seen a crowd this distraught They were dramatic. They protested, the marched, they yelled, they made posters, they wrote hundreds of letters, they cried and they let everybody know that Wyman's departure was a disaster. " Loud protest ! Apparently, they were loucf enough. They even persuaded the bishop to come to town for a talk. He listened, they expressed themselves. And, can you believe it? They hired Wyman back. His dismissal had seemed odd from the start. The reason the diocese gave was that he did not have a master's degree. It came up with this after he had been at the school for two years. He has been working on his master's degree, it turned out. And his educational background was noted accurately on his resume when he tried out for the job. But in addition to the reason being questionable, the result of his leaving was even worse. It seems the kids had become incredibly attached to their leader. He had turned the place around, they said. And it wasn't just students who were in an uproar. Parents and teachers alike were nearly as vocal about their dismay. Wyman had made lots of friends during his tenure at the school perhaps more than the diocese had realized. They would have survived At one point during the uproar, a teacher from the school wrote to us and pointed out that the place was unlikely to shut down if Wyman didn't return. Sure, she said, Wyman was great but he didn't make up the entire spirit of the school. She was right, of course. Students, teachers and parents might have adjusted, and life at Santa Fe would have gone on. But it might not have been the same. Students would have learned that sometimes very unfair things can happen and that their protests fell on deaf ears. Instead, they got to have a happy ending to their Wyman crisis. When he came back to work Friday, he made a special point of hugging them all. rpr The things he said to those kids illustrated just why they're so crazy about him. "This school has a principal, but this school has hundreds of leaders," he said. He thanked them and complimented them for their hard work. "You taught me a lot during this," he said. "It shows you what you can do when you work together on any issue." A shocker He had to be stunned, really, to have received that much support from students and the community. And perhaps he was even more amazed when it worked. As English teacher Sharon Franklin said, "I think it took a lot for the bishop to rescind his initial decision. Nobody expected it." There. She said it. Nobody expected it. i And even though they fought long and hard, vowed to win and keep trying, the truth Is, it's likely that she's right: Nobody really expected to win. s i A bunch of kids talking the bishop into undoing a decision to fire a principal? Nah. Highly unlikely, , But hey, they did it! And it worked. And they are very, very happy about it all. One thing seems likely, and that's that Wyman will be appreciating that job and will stick around for quite some time. Congratulations, kids.: Way to go. You can reach Mary Toothman through Prodigy electronic mail at tribOSe or through the Internet at or You can write to her at The TamptfTribune, 230 S. . Florida Ave., Lakeland, Fla., 33801. 11 ' " jf ''i14 ,;;a 'kM.mi mutLiimssm , TV tips don't catch fugitive By JACQUELINE SOTEROPOULOS Tribune Staff Writer DADE CITY In the three weeks since a accused killer Albert Leon Fletcher's story went on national television, 117 tips have poured in. Although some seemed very promising, none has so far resulted in his capture, said Pasco Detective Jim Medley. Fletcher, 25, escaped from the Dade City courthouse last year. Medley was on hand at the "Unsolved Mysteries" telephone bank in California when the show aired Feb. 9. There, about 35 operators answered viewer calls. "Any calls that came in that sounded like a good lead, I'd listen in," Medley explained. "People taking the calls would hold up a red cardboard to indicate it was a hot lead that came in. "I'd walk over and plug in my earphone and listen in," he said. "We got two good leads, but they didn't pan out" One caller from Louisiana said Fletcher was living nearby, and even identified him down to the lightning bolt tattoo on his chest. The lead was so promising that Louisiana and federal law enforcement staked out a home there for three days until the resident came home. He wasn't Fletcher. Other callers had weak leads or just wanted to be in the limelight, Medley said. "One lady called in from Canada and said he saw him at a gas station three weeks ago," Medley said, adding that this type of tip is nearly impossible to follow . Pasco sheriff's officials originally ap- 7 , 4 w a Albert Leon Fletcher is Polk County's No. 1 fugitive and one of eight on Florida's "most wanted" list. proached the show with the case, hoping for fresh leads. "We get nationwide exposure. We put his face on national TV, and that's how we catch people," Medley said. The show featured a re-enactment of Fletcher's escape. "It's going to take an innocent person who doesn't really know him to turn him in." Or it could be someone who wants a $6,000 reward from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Tampa Crime Stoppers. Fletcher is one of eight people on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's "most wanted" list. Additionally, he's the No. 1 fugitive in Polk County, where he's charged with first-degree murder. Fletcher is accused of killing 32-year-old Nelson Medina Oliveras in Lakeland in 1994. Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty. ' But first, Fletcher was to stand trial in Dade City on a Pasco burglary charge that prosecutors said was part of the crime spree that ended with the fatal shooting. Fletcher escaped Jan. 11, 1995, the day his burglary trial was to begin. He burst from a sheriff's office van and fled into a swamp under a hail of gunfire. Fletcher's cousin and partner, Douglas D. Porter of Lakeland, was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole for 25 years. Now another television show, "America's Most Wanted," is interested in doing a piece on Fletcher. Off to the pennant races A sellout crowd, above, watches the below, bundle up for the game against the Cleveland Indians' first home game of Cincinnati Reds, while, at left, Ed Rooney spring training in Winter Haven on Sun- and his son Adam, 10, keep each other day. Janet and Dick Oster of Cleveland, warm at the Chain 0' Lakes stadium. t' 'Y' " v-r . i. , J " f r JLftffirtlfr r'n virin , ,, J:,f:-,fT,.vNtfWr-l r'.n ffliifflflMfrrfiMWfrt rf nvlvnV--; , mtr. u rfSMWWBBflafcflff , iftti .nfrhnWWWlWIMfWIWWffiil i It lTTHSil'l1llllfrTtWil VHI Firms seeking to bid on jail must show up Today's meeting will allow prospective bidders to see what is wanted in a new, 1,000-bed facility. By KENNETH A. HARRIS Tribune Staff Writer BARTOW Polk County will get its first glimpse of companies vying for a contract to build a 1,000-bed, privately run jail when officials hold a bidders conference today. The conference, set for 2 p.m. at the jail annex, is mandatory for those interested in the county's proposal. "It gives them an opportunity to ask any questions they , have if something is unclear in the document," said Randy Oliver, the special projects assistant to the county manager. "Anybody that doesn't show up doesn't play. If they don't show up they're not permitted to Submit a proposal." County commissioners agreed in November to seek private firms to build a jail in a move that avoids the upfront costs of expansion estimated at $43.6 million. Under the proposal, the county would use 600 jail beds. Some 400 of those inmates would be from the main Polk County Jail, which will close. - The proposal calls for companies to be paid a rate for housing each inmate daily. The contract would be for three years, with rates negotiated two years in advance. The management company would be responsible for all Inmate transportation. If the county agreed to pay $45 daily per inmate, the contract could pay between $9.86 million to $16.4 million. The amount PATRICK DENNISTnbune photos depends upon the county contracting between 600 and 1,000 inmate beds. The county cost will be offset by a reduction in the $52.9 million sheriffs office budget, which includes detention costs. Proposals from the companies are due April 16. An evaluation team will review the proposals and recommend those to be interviewed. Commissioners tentatively are scheduled to interview bidders and authorize negotiations May 9. Potential bidders include Corrections Corporation of America, the world's largest manager of private jails. The Nashville, Tenn., company was founded in 1983 and has contracts with facilities in 11 states, Puerto Rico, Australia and England. The company has an independent subsidiary called TransCor a prison transportation company. In addition, Wackenhut Corrections Corp. has expressed interest. The company was founded in 1984 as a division of The Wackenhut Corp., based in Coral Gables. It operates facilities in seven states, as well as in Australia, Great Britain and Puerto Rico. - Sarasota-based Esmor Correctional Services, which is building a $17 million juvenile prison near Polk City, may bid. U.S. Corrections Corp., the company that built the state's first private prison, has notified the county it will not participate in the bidder's conference. ; If the project proceeds according to ' schedule, the county hopes the jail will be completed by December 1997. "All of it depends on zoning, quite frank-; ly," Oliver said. "I've built in four to six months for zoning and contract negotia- ; tions, and that should be sufficient timet'! T V T

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