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

"She knows Mickey personally; they socialize," Hirigoyen contends. "What I got from this was that she was fishing to find out if I had talked to Mickey Krop also. I didn't. After 30 years in the system, I'm done with politics." Three weeks later he received a letter thanking him for applying and informing him the job had gone to somebody else. That person was Joan Friedman. Subsequently, Hirigoyen says, Friedman tried to persuade him to come onboard as a teacher. He declined. During that conversation, Hirigoyen says, he told Friedman: "'If Mickey wanted you here as department chair, I understand.' She said, 'Oh, well, you know, I just mentioned it to him.'"

Hirigoyen chuckles at the memory. "I know how decisions are made in this system."

Friedman recalls that she spoke to many of her professional friends while her application at Krop High was pending. She says she asked her current and former principals, the regional superintendent for that area, and a district-level administrator to "put in a good word for her" with Weisman. But she denies asking Krop to lobby on her behalf. "I really didn't use any of my pull, even though Mickey is a friend of mine," she says. "I wanted to get the job fair and square, on my ability." Though she confirms she spoke at least twice with Hirigoyen -- once before she got the job, once after -- she denies telling him she "mentioned" her application to Krop.

Krop himself firmly denies he had anything to do with Friedman's hiring. "Joan is an acquaintance, but we are not socially friendly," he explains. "But regardless, I don't recall talking to her about anything that had to do with her application [to the school]."

Despite the widespread belief that he worked to get his name on the school, Michael Krop insists that the only thing he's guilty of is accepting the honor. Before his name was first proposed in 1996, he says, "I never had an inkling of a thought that it could ever happen."

Suggestions that he lobbied for his name, and that he meddles in staffing, visibly distress him. "I've tried so hard to be straight and narrow," he says, seated in the small office of his 41st Street orthodontic practice in Miami Beach. As he categorically denies these unpleasant assertions, his face flushes shades of red, an effect heightened not only by his shock of white-gray hair but by the dentist's whites he wears over his shirt and tie.

He reddens as he remembers the debate in the school board chambers over the naming of School DDD. The name, he points out, was nominated by people in the community and passed along to the board by the naming committee, of which he was not a member in either 1996 or 1998.

Those who spoke against having his name on the school mostly reserved their criticism for the process. Still, comments like "self-serving" and "a personal recognition club" stung Krop. "Nobody likes to be criticized, especially in public," he allows. And he still refers to opponents of the naming as "the people who objected to me."

"They wanted me to die first," he says with a laugh.
He concedes that having his name on a permanent structure within the boundaries of his single-member district could give him an electoral edge. And he accepted the honor unabashedly. "Being a school board member requires a lot of sacrifice," he says. "You compromise things with your family in terms of time. It's very demanding. I don't know how this is in any sense a payback for that, but I was proud of the fact that I was selected to have a school named after me for my family, much more than for myself.

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