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

Such protestations fell upon mostly deaf ears on the school board dais. Perez read a lengthy prepared statement in support of the naming. Some members offered Krop a bit of good-natured ribbing along with their vote. Others, notably Braddock and Hantman, criticized those who opposed naming the school after Krop.

Braddock says he believes, just as he did in 1996, that Krop's service on the school board qualifies him for the recognition. He adds that the public comment didn't sway him one whit. "What the public has to say generally has no bearing on how I vote, unless they offer me some new information," he observes. "People who just stand up say, 'Do this' or 'Do that,' hell, I'm not going to pay attention to that. I might as well turn my hearing aid off. I make my decisions myself, and if you don't like it, well, I come up for re-election periodically. You can throw my ass out of office."

Betsy Kaplan would not comment for this story other than to repeat her firm opposition to naming schools for sitting politicians. At the meeting she noted that politicians are "always campaigning," and that having a school named after oneself offers a significant advantage over potential rivals. (School board members do not have term limits.)

On the day of the vote, the full board was not present. Manty Morse was in Europe; Diaz de la Portilla left immediately before the agenda item came up and returned shortly after it was heard.

The final 6-1 vote in favor of the naming, with Kaplan dissenting, disappointed those who had lobbied for a community name. "It turned out to be an easy thing to pass," says Michael Van Dyk, president of the North Dade Republican Club and a vocal opponent of naming the school for Krop. "Renier went and had a cup of coffee and Manty was out of town, which I don't think was an accident." (Morse now says that, had she been present, she would have voted in favor of naming the school for Krop. Diaz de la Portilla could not be reached for comment for this story.)

Though vociferous during the process, Jane Goldberg declined to comment when contacted for this story. Others who opposed the Krop name are similarly resigned. "You know, that's a done issue. I wouldn't go back there," says Sari Addicott, chairwoman of the committee that established the attendance boundaries for what became Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High. She didn't speak at the naming meeting, but Addicott did write a letter supporting a name that fit the neighborhood. "People were just looking for a community-sounding name rather than a person, regardless of who it was. But now it is what it is."

According to several school district sources, Michael Krop's plans for the school did not stop with getting it built and slapping his name on the perimeter fence and above the entrance.

Numerous current and former administrators, from the rank of principal on up, confirm that, during his many years on the board, Krop has consistently tried to micromanage schools, recommending that principals hire or fire certain teachers or that higher-ranking administrators hire or fire principals.

"Krop made a statement at a meeting I attended that he is involved with choosing the administration for all schools in his district," declares Patrick Snay, one-time principal at John F. Kennedy Middle School in North Miami Beach. "He's got a very close grip on things there."

This is a clear violation of the definition of the duties of a school board member. Personnel decisions, like all other administrative duties, are reserved for the superintendent. "An individual member of the board has no legal authority over school affairs, except through participation in board meetings," reads the board rules, which are based on Florida statutes. "He/she has no legal right or power unilaterally to direct the course of school affairs or the actions of school personnel."

Many municipal governments contain similar injunctions against elected officials participating in staffing decisions. The Miami-Dade County charter, for one, prescribes penalties for elected officials who do so. Unlike that document, however, neither the school board rules nor the relevant Florida laws make any provision for penalizing a board member who breaks them.

When staff changes are presented to the full board for a vote, the board usually rubber-stamps the superintendent's decision. But with today's school board, that process has become blurred. "The saddest thing about the current organizational climate is the fact that staff has absolutely no support from the superintendent's office," declares one former administrator. "As a result, alliances have formed with [individual] school board members."

Other ex-officials insist that Krop's interest in personnel predates single-member districts. "He would talk about [staffing] with me all the time. I used to joke about it: 'What does he want this time?'" says former superintendent Alan Olkes, who points out that he did not take Krop's suggestions as edicts and that the moves Krop wanted "never happened."

"But now, unfortunately, the board is too much involved in administration of this district," he continues. "There isn't a clear-cut separation between the superintendent and the board members, no check or balance. The board members probably think that's great, but from the standpoint of running a system, that's not the best way to do it."

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