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Change is coming to Dozier, officials say

The Florida School for Boys did not have fences in the 1950s and 1960s. As a result, boys would frequently run away, but they were usually caught by guards, dogs or townspeople.

Edmund D. Fountain | Times (2009)

The Florida School for Boys did not have fences in the 1950s and 1960s. As a result, boys would frequently run away, but they were usually caught by guards, dogs or townspeople.

TALLAHASSEE — With lawmakers questioning its future, a top official with the Department of Juvenile Justice made assurances Wednesday that change is coming to the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

"What we are seeing is a great deal of progress," said Rod Love, the department's deputy secretary in a presentation to a House criminal justice committee.

The brief remarks appeared to satisfy lawmakers who asked no questions.

"Nothing has sent up any red flags," said Rep. Sandy Adams, the committee chairwoman. "We are continuing to monitor them."

The reform school is shrouded by allegations of abuse and mismanagement dating back decades. The facility has seen six superintendents forced out in the previous eight years.

State officials are eagerly awaiting an outside consultant's assessment and another quality review after the facility failed an evaluation last year.

Love said preliminary indications show Dozier will "pass and exceed the minimum requirements."

The final outcome is likely to weigh heavily on lawmakers as they decide the future of the school. A report prepared by Love said the current capacity of Dozier is 103 and that the school's budget is $10 million.

Gov. Charlie Crist supports the thorough review, saying this week it may well be time to shutter the facility.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, made a surprise visit to Dozier before the committee meeting to see for himself the issues faced by the school.

He left a chief cheerleader for keeping the facility open.

"I was very impressed with what I saw," he said in an interview after meeting with some of the boys. "I left there believing that what is occurring at Dozier is a new day."

Times staff writer Waveney Ann Moore contributed to this report. John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Change is coming to Dozier, officials say 03/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 10:26pm]

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