The Name Game

True or False: The county's newest addition to public education was christened Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School because that's what taxpayers wanted

All of these names were recommended to the board by a group known as the naming committee, which meets whenever several new schools need to be assigned names. The committee considers school names proposed by, among others, people in the community. Braddock says such suggestions come in all the time in the form of letters, often pertaining to the naming of a specific school. The committee, consisting of the board chairman, two other board members, and the administrator in charge of school construction, considers these nominations or proposes its own, then forwards the recommendations to the full school board.

In 1996 the school board first considered a proposal to name a school -- in this case a brand-new high school in northeast Miami-Dade -- for Michael Krop. The new school, designated by the state as State School DDD, was needed to relieve overcrowding at North Miami Beach Senior High and the schools that fed into it. At the time, the naming committee comprised the chairman (Braddock), the board member representing the district that contained the school (Renick; under single-member districts, the site now lies within Krop's district), one at-large board member (either Betsy Kaplan or Rosa Castro Feinberg), and the construction chief (Paul Phillips).

Residents and community groups had submitted nearly 100 pages of letters suggesting fourteen different names for State School DDD before the October 2, 1996, meeting of the naming committee. Proposed names included the late Rasamma Nyberg, a former middle school principal; and the late Reverend Theodore Gibson, who had served as a Miami city commissioner. None of that correspondence suggested naming the school for Krop. School officials could not provide minutes of that October meeting, but Braddock, who chaired it, recalls that Renick proposed Krop's name. Renick doesn't recall who brought up Krop but says it wasn't him. Braddock points out that committee members are not constrained to consider only names proposed by the public.

Krop was not the only board member whose name arose at this meeting. In addition to Krop High, the naming committee also recommended that the school board name a learning center for teenage mothers after board member Janet McAliley, and rename the English Center in Little Havana after board member Rosa Castro Feinberg.

One former top administrator remembers making these suggestions himself, before the committee meeting. But as he recalls, it wasn't exactly his idea. Alan Olkes says he was approached by Krop late in the summer of 1996. (Olkes served as interim superintendent for six months between the retirement of Octavio Visiedo and the hiring of Roger Cuevas after the November 1996 election.) "Mickey came to me and said, 'We really need to name a school for Janet McAliley,'" Olkes reports. "I said, 'I agree.' She was coming off the board after being on a long time. It would make sense. Then he said, 'We should name the center for teenage mothers for her.' I said, 'That sounds reasonable.'

"Krop said, 'Maybe you could write a memo proposing that we name that one for her and another for Rosa Castro Feinberg.' I said, 'Oh, that sounds good, but why don't you just propose those names yourself?' He said something like, 'Well, I'd sort of like someone to throw my name in there, too.'"

Olkes says he went on to write a letter to the naming committee proposing all three names, noting how tirelessly Krop had worked to get School DDD built and suggesting his name for that school.

Krop says he doesn't recall this meeting with the then-superintendent. As to Olkes's assertion that Krop mentioned naming a school after himself, Krop insists, "I absolutely never said that. Never."

After the naming committee placed these three proposals on the agenda for the next board meeting (along with six others, four of which were based on community suggestions), two of the putative honorees openly decried the move. While Krop expressed his gratitude, both McAliley and Castro Feinberg stated publicly they would prefer not to have their names appended to schools while they were still in office. The rule prohibiting this was still in place, though the board could once again vote to waive it.

"Both Janet and I declined the honor in deference to the existing policy," Castro Feinberg says now.

McAliley went further. "I was very adamantly opposed to it, and I let it be known in no uncertain terms," she recalls. "I'm opposed to naming schools for sitting board members. It's very self-serving. I'll just never think it's right for an office-holder to, in effect, bestow that kind of honor upon himself."

Braddock, at the time, was adamant in his support of naming the schools after his long-time colleagues. "The board members are the only ones who know who does what in Miami," he told the Miami Herald. "The community doesn't know."

McAliley says she believes the real goal of the Braddock-led naming committee in 1996 was getting Krop's name on School DDD. As she and Castro Feinberg might have been potential "no" votes on that naming, McAliley saw her and Castro Feinberg's nomination as incentives from Braddock and Renick, in essence an attempt to buy their votes.

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