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

One ex-principal remembers Krop's micromanaging vividly. Snay, now principal of Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School, a private Catholic academy in Hollywood, recounts getting a phone call back when he was principal of John F. Kennedy Middle. "I was hiring a counselor, and someone from Krop's office called. They said, 'I'm not trying to tell you who to hire,' but they gave me the name of a person, and said, 'So-and-so is a very good friend of Mickey's, could you give her serious consideration?'"

Snay's reaction? "I'm no fool," he snorts. "I hired her. Maybe I shouldn't have, but I played the game like everybody else. She did turn out to be very good, but at that point I never thought I had a choice."

Not every principal received suggestions about personnel from Krop's office. Pat D'Alessio, the former principal at North Miami Beach Senior High who retired in 1996, doesn't recall Krop or his assistants ever asking her to hire or fire a particular teacher or staffer.

Krop himself denies trying to sway administrators' personnel decisions. "I don't ever recall talking to any principal about anybody, unless a student or parent had a problem, and I would call in reference to that problem," he says.

One retired administrator, though, notes that such calls would often contain "suggestions," which were a lot easier to ignore under the old countywide election system. "The view seems to be evolving that each board member has a private little slice of the school system that is theirs to lord over," says one current administrator who asked not to be identified. "Administrators who simply will do exactly as they're told and show no initiative suit the people in office right now really well."

The $35.5 million Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School, on a former dump site hard up against the Miami-Dade/Broward county line, opened this fall with some 1500 students, ninth and tenth graders only for this inaugural year. But even taking just these two grades has helped alleviate overcrowding in the schools that once fed into North Miami Beach Senior High.

Given Krop's reputation for recommending staff changes on his turf, it would be easy to imagine him keeping a close eye on the hiring process at the school that now bears his name. But Krop says that is not the case. "I have no input as far as personnel is concerned," he emphasizes. "In looking over the staff at [Krop] high school, I only saw one person on that staff that I knew personally, and that person told me she was hired before I even knew she was interested in the damn job! So [board members] don't really have input into personnel, and we're not supposed to. The system really shouldn't be politicized in that fashion."

The principal at Krop High, Enid Weisman, unequivocally seconds that neither Krop nor any other board member had anything to do with her hiring process. (Four district sources contacted for this story describe Weisman as "Krop's pick" for the job, in the same breath that they compliment her as an able administrator. Both Weisman and Krop deny he tapped her for the post.) Among the estimated 1200 people who applied for jobs at Krop High and didn't make it, there has been some grumbling about the role connections to Krop might have played in getting hired at "his" school.

Hector Hirigoyen, for one, felt he had an excellent shot at a job at State School DDD. Hirigoyen, currently a math teacher at Miami Beach Senior High, had until two years ago worked as a downtown-based supervisor for the entire district's mathematics program. His credentials aside, Hirigoyen had other reasons to be confident about landing a job at the new school. "Enid Weisman called me up last October or so," he recalls. "She'd just been appointed principal and she said, 'Would you be interested in coming to work for me?'"

Hirigoyen explains they knew each other from some years back, when Hirigoyen was an assistant principal at Miami Jackson Senior High and Weisman was a guidance counselor there. He says that, because of his math expertise, Weisman told him she'd be interested in bringing him in as chairman of the math department. She was also interested in his arts background (Hirigoyen is a professional dancer). "She told me that this was going to be an arts magnet school, kind of New World School North, and that because of that, she'd want to have me there."

When the announcement for faculty openings at School DDD came through, Hirigoyen says he called Weisman to ask again if she was interested in him. "She said, 'Oh, yeah,'" he remembers. He applied and interviewed for the math department chair. As he expected, the hiring committee (made up of Weisman and her top assistants) asked him about his dance expertise.

A couple of days later, he says, he got a call from Joan Friedman, then the math department chairwoman at Miami Beach Senior High. "She was wondering how I felt about my interview," he recalls. "She went the day after me. She said she had talked to Enid and to Mickey about the position." Friedman's husband, Hirigoyen points out, is Mike Friedman, a teacher and former state legislator.

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