Absences rise, but school goes on amid Schiavo hubbub
By Times staff writers
Published March 19, 2005
About 200 children stayed home Friday from Cross Bayou Elementary, a school of just over 600 students next to Woodside Hospice.
Pinellas County schools police officers watched the school throughout the day from a mobile command center across the street and directed traffic during dropoff and pickup.
Area III superintendent Michael Bessette spent most of the day at the school. District spokesman Ron Stone arrived shortly after noon.
Except for the media, who had to pass in front of Cross Bayou from a parking lot to the west, no one came near the school. Principal Marcia Stone dismissed the children at 1:45 p.m., and the last of 18 buses left the bus circle a half hour later.
Protest turns to debate at the Schiavo home
Earlier in the day, a group of female protesters went to Michael Schiavo's home and pleaded for him to come out.
John Centonze, brother of Schiavo's girlfriend, emerged from the house. Opponents have made a circus of the process, he said.
"Mike's proving a point. He's been offered $10-million from one guy and $1-million from another. And he turned them down. It's not about money, it's about someone's wishes."
Brandi Swindell, 28, a protester from Boise, Idaho, offered Centonze a rose.
When it withers and dies, she said, it will remind Michael Schiavo of what he did to his wife, she said.
"Did you ever meet Terri?" Centonze challenged.
"I met her parents," Swindell said. "I'd like to meet her."
Centonze said they didn't know Michael Schiavo. And they didn't know how much he loved Terri, and how he cared for her, and agonized over the decision to fulfill her wishes.
"Why isn't he there, if he loves her?" asked Swindell, holding a sign that read, "Husband - Protect Your Wife."
"He's sentencing her to death," she said.
Centonze said the protesters are misguided, and misinformed. And after all these years did they expect Michael Schiavo to suddenly change his mind?
"Like any person, I'm tired of people getting in my face, people who don't know the truth," he said.
Staff writers Robert Farley and Donna Winchester contributed to this report.
[Last modified March 19, 2005, 01:02:12]
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