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

During the next three months, Krop's supporters submitted his name to the naming committee; many of these letters mentioned how hard Krop had worked to make that particular school a reality. Some came from private individuals in the community, others from governmental entities and civic organizations. The cities of North Miami Beach and Aventura passed resolutions in support of naming the school for Krop, as did the Aventura Marketing Council, of which Krop is a member.

Elaine Adler, head of the council, says her organization kept track of the naming-committee process through the six schools with which it has a public-private partnership. She adds that Krop himself had nothing to do with their proposal. "This was our issue," she says.

Lawyer/lobbyist Ronald Book also weighed in for Krop in his capacity as president of the Oak Forest Homeowners' Association. At least five dentists, some of whom live well outside the new school's attendance boundaries, also wrote letters proposing Krop's name for the school.

Many more letters came in, some suggesting other people's names for the school. (The candidates ranged from the aforementioned Rasamma Nyberg and Rev. Theodore Gibson to South American liberator Simon Bolivar.) The vast majority of the letters, though, supported a "community" name: Highland Oaks High, Millennium High, and North Dade High. At least 100 of these were form letters signed by individual residents, all pleading with the school board not to name the school after any individual.

These letters conveyed a sense that one particular individual -- Krop -- had already locked in the naming for himself. A letter dated February 17, addressed to the school board and signed "Several hundred concerned voters," insisted, "[W]e endorse a 'community' name for our new high school, despite all the political pressure that has filtered down from the regional office through the schools." The authors of the letter were equally distressed by the elimination of the rule against naming schools after board members. "It was truly a self-serving and egotistical maneuver that borders on an abuse of power," they wrote.

Although the naming process allows community members to make suggestions, their input remains just that: suggestions. The final decision rests with the school board. And though the intractable McAliley and Castro Feinberg were gone, Kaplan remained. The board also contained four Republicans -- Perla Tabares Hantman, Manty Sabates Morse, Demetrio Perez, and Renier Diaz de la Portilla -- whose support for naming a school after a liberal Democrat like Krop could not be taken for granted.

Krop continues to deny he was pushing for the new school to carry his name. But some high-ranking school district officials point to a couple of puzzling votes on Krop's part that suggest he was, at the very least, trying to curry some goodwill among his Republican colleagues.

In June 1997 Krop voted in favor of tripling the level of funding given to the dropout-prevention program run by the private Lincoln-Marti Community Agency, of which board vice chairman Demetrio Perez is the founder. Although Perez had resigned from the nonprofit group's board of directors to prevent an actual conflict of interest, the appearance of a conflict was enough to move Manty Morse, along with Braddock and Kaplan, to break partisan ranks and vote against funding the Lincoln-Marti program. Krop not only voted for the program, but one person claims to have seen him pass a handwritten note to Perez that day. The note allegedly read: "Now you owe me one."

"I don't remember that," Krop responds. "That's silly. The only time I pass a note is to say, 'Congratulations,' or 'Good job,' or something like that." He insists he voted for the Lincoln-Marti program solely on its merits. Perez could not be reached for comment for this story. Perez's son and aide, Demetrio J. Perez, relayed the account of the alleged note to his father and says the board member recalls no such note.

In January 1998, after having voted twice against the random drug testing program put forth by Diaz de la Portilla, Krop voted in favor of it (as did fellow Democrats Stinson and Wilson, along with all the Republicans). Krop says now that he remains skeptical of the program. At the January vote, he recalls, he was willing to vote for the program because the committee set up to monitor it had not recommended scrapping it.

By the time the naming of School DDD came before the board this past April, the outcome was no longer in doubt.

Jane Goldberg, one of two area residents who attended the naming committee meeting at which Krop was recommended, sounded deeply disillusioned when she addressed the full board. "Even though we were supposedly being included in the process, it was apparent from the beginning that the naming was a done deal," she said. She also pointed out that chairman Stinson had not allowed any public comment at the naming committee meeting.

The tone of many of the comments at the April board meeting reflected the sense that the fix was in for Krop's name, despite the extensive petition drive, led by Goldberg and others, insisting on a community name. "Chairman Stinson has said that he believes people should be able to smell the roses while they are alive," Goldberg noted. "Who promised anyone a rose garden?"

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