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

"They tacked mine and Rosie's names onto existing schools in order to get this sparkling new school for Mickey," she asserts. "It was a ploy, a thinly disguised ploy. It was this very self-serving kind of thing, and I refused to go along with it."

Braddock remembers the committee's nominations of McAliley and Castro Feinberg differently. "I thought they deserved it," he states, "and with the new board coming in, it might not have happened otherwise."

Krop insists that, though willing to accept the honor, he did nothing to set the process in motion. "I would not suggest myself for a school-naming, and I don't think any board member would," he says. "It's not something we do." District officials, Krop claims, had received several letters from the community suggesting his name for School DDD, but a recent examination of the files revealed no such letters. Krop's assistant, Judy Matz, produced two letters from her own records: a September 30, 1996, memorandum from a high-ranking district administrator referring to a "broad base of support" for naming School DDD after Krop; and an October 1, 1996, fax from the head of the Aventura Marketing Council relaying the support of an Aventura residents' group for the Krop name.

In addition to Olkes's account of his conversation with Krop, another source close to the process asserts that Krop played an active role in the naming. One former school official, who asked not to be identified, remembers Krop himself expressing his wish that School DDD be named after him. "He stated it explicitly to me. He said, 'I really want this,'" the source recalls.

As the October 9, 1996, school board meeting approached, it became clear McAliley and Castro Feinberg would not accept the honor. And board member Betsy Kaplan declared at the naming committee meeting that she would no longer support naming schools for sitting board members. (Neither Castro Feinberg nor Kaplan would comment for this story about why they balked at naming a school for Krop.)

That made three out of seven likely "no" votes to the Krop High name. If any of the remaining four went against it, Dr. Michael M. Krop would have become the first sitting board member whose colleagues voted against naming a school for him. "He was tickled to death when [his name was recommended], then it got embarrassing for him," Braddock says now.

Krop's office circulated a statement before the board meeting withdrawing his name from consideration. "There was some discussion at the board. There were some bad feelings on the part of some people who objected to that," Krop recalls. "I just felt I didn't want that to be an issue for [the upcoming] election. As long as I was going to run, I didn't want to have the advantage of having a school named after me, nor the disadvantage of having somebody mad at me for having a school named after me."

The abortive attempts to name schools for McAliley, Castro Feinberg, and Krop occurred during the election season that would change the school board forever. The elections the following month ushered in the single-member-district system and expanded the number of board members from seven to nine. The seven serving in early 1996, like all their predecessors, had been elected countywide. (School board seats, unlike Miami-Dade County Commission seats, are partisan offices; candidates run as Republicans or Democrats.)

All seven existing seats and two new ones were in play in November 1996. McAliley and Castro Feinberg decided to retire rather than run. The rest were up for election in newly drawn districts except for Renick; he had already been beaten in the Republican primary in his district. Krop was running in his newly crafted district, which includes Aventura and North Miami Beach, as well as everything east of the Intracoastal Waterway from the county line to the southern tip of Miami Beach.

Krop, along with Frederica Wilson, Betsy Kaplan, and G. Holmes Braddock, won; they all went on to represent their new single-member districts. Throughout 1997 and into 1998, School DDD, still nameless, continued under construction.

All the while, a new political order was emerging. Democrat Solomon Stinson, a career schools administrator elected to the board in 1996, became chairman. Demetrio Perez, Jr., a former Miami city commissioner and founder of the private Lincoln-Marti Schools, became vice chairman. In addition to these two newcomers, the other three new members of the school board were, like Perez, all Hispanic Republicans. The holdover members, all Democrats, either adapted or found themselves marginalized.

Several sources say that Krop, a Democrat, continued to angle to get his name attached to the new school. "Over a period of time, [Krop] seemed to charm his way, or make certain, you know, agreements, that ended in him getting what he wanted," says McAliley, now two years removed from her school board stint.

One high-ranking district official puts it more bluntly: "Krop is a good negotiator, and I believe he voted for certain items important to the board leadership so they would help him get that school named for him."

A significant obstacle disappeared this past January when the board voted to rescind its ban on naming schools for sitting political office-holders. At this meeting Stinson, who proposed the rule change, mentioned Krop as a likely candidate to be so immortalized because of his long service on the board. When Betsy Kaplan reiterated her opposition to naming schools after board members, Stinson generously asked her if she wouldn't someday like to have her name on the New World School of the Arts. (Stinson did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.)

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