By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
All those in favor of A-4 say 'Aye,'" drawled Miami-Dade County School Board Chairman Solomon Stinson.
"Aye," chorused six of the seven board members present at the April 15 school board meeting.
With this vote, northeast Miami-Dade's newest high school was officially anointed Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School. A ragged volley of applause and a few high-pitched cheers echoed through the school board chambers.
The numerous others in the audience who had opposed the measure shuffled and grumbled their way out of the auditorium. Steve Marcus, a neighborhood resident, was among the most dispirited. "I'm disappointed that the public process of naming schools has become a personal recognition club for schools named after school board members," Marcus had declared earlier in a vain attempt to sway the board to vote down Krop's name.
The recipient of the honor, who had sat mum for nearly an hour as community members and his peers debated the merits of naming the school for him, now took the opportunity to speak. A 68-year-old orthodontist and eighteen-year school board veteran, Krop had clearly been wounded by some of the comments. Hunkered behind his microphone in a gray sport coat and tie, his arms folded in front of him, he pronounced the criticism to be "very hurtful; it's always hurtful." He went on to thank his fellow school board members for supporting the naming and stressed that his squeaky-clean conduct would spare the board any potential embarrassment from having his name on a school. "I've been an adult for almost 50 years, and I don't think I've ever been in the newspaper with something in there next to me accusing me of anything," he noted.
Krop is now the fourth sitting Miami-Dade County School Board member to have a school named after him.
Even now, six months later, many question the way Krop High got its name. And not only community activists; some of the board member's own colleagues go so far as to suggest that Krop had been maneuvering to get his name on the new school for at least two years. They further fret that, under the two-year-old system of electing school board members from discrete districts, having a Krop High School within the boundaries of Krop's election district gives the incumbent an unfair advantage over challengers.
The larger concern, one voiced by school district personnel at all levels, is whether the new single-member-district system has given board members such as Krop too much power. Members are more likely to scrutinize schools within the boundaries of their districts, since they must answer only to voters within those confines. And Krop, according to five current and former school district officials, had developed a reputation for meddling in personnel affairs even before the advent of single-member districts.
Krop strongly objects to any contention that he either lobbied to get his name on the high school or that he tries to influence staffing decisions within his district or anywhere else.
Still, high-ranking school officials have either identified or inferred his presence just offstage in both these processes. The naming of Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School is a done deal, of course. But the story behind the naming suggests elements of egotism and political horse-trading that cast a harsh light on the growing practice of allowing sitting board members to memorialize themselves.
In years past, the board was not permitted to name facilities for any living person. That rule changed, though, not long after board member G. Holmes Braddock attended the 1975 opening of a middle school named for W.R. Thomas, who was superintendent of the school district in the Fifties. "His widow was there, his kids, his grandkids," recalls Braddock, who has been on the board since 1962. "I thought, 'This is dumb: The guy for whom it's named can't be here to appreciate it. It doesn't make sense.'"
At Braddock's urging, the rule was changed in 1976 to allow living people to be honored. Regarding elected officials (including school board members), the rule stated that any such person, "... if living, shall have left public office."
At the end of the Eighties the board saw fit to waive that rule in order to name schools after its own members. In September 1989 board member Robert Renick's name was attached to an educational center for handicapped and learning-disabled students. Renick's colleagues voted unanimously to waive the rule, citing his efforts to obtain federal funding to build the school. Later that year Braddock, the board's elder statesman, had his name attached to a new southwest Dade high school. Krop, the board chairman at the time, was a strong proponent of both actions. Every board member but one -- Janet McAliley -- voted in favor of waiving the rule to honor Braddock. "It seems very fitting to associate the name of someone with so many years of service," said then-board member Rosa Castro Feinberg at the time.
Not far behind was the William H. Turner Technical Arts High School, in 1992. Turner, like Renick and Braddock, was on the board at the time his name was picked. Unlike Renick and Braddock, though, Turner voted against naming the school for himself. (Braddock was not present at this meeting; the measure passed 4-2, with Turner and McAliley dissenting.)
All of these names were recommended to the board by a group known as the naming committee, which meets whenever several new schools need to be assigned names. The committee considers school names proposed by, among others, people in the community. Braddock says such suggestions come in all the time in the form of letters, often pertaining to the naming of a specific school. The committee, consisting of the board chairman, two other board members, and the administrator in charge of school construction, considers these nominations or proposes its own, then forwards the recommendations to the full school board.
In 1996 the school board first considered a proposal to name a school -- in this case a brand-new high school in northeast Miami-Dade -- for Michael Krop. The new school, designated by the state as State School DDD, was needed to relieve overcrowding at North Miami Beach Senior High and the schools that fed into it. At the time, the naming committee comprised the chairman (Braddock), the board member representing the district that contained the school (Renick; under single-member districts, the site now lies within Krop's district), one at-large board member (either Betsy Kaplan or Rosa Castro Feinberg), and the construction chief (Paul Phillips).
Residents and community groups had submitted nearly 100 pages of letters suggesting fourteen different names for State School DDD before the October 2, 1996, meeting of the naming committee. Proposed names included the late Rasamma Nyberg, a former middle school principal; and the late Reverend Theodore Gibson, who had served as a Miami city commissioner. None of that correspondence suggested naming the school for Krop. School officials could not provide minutes of that October meeting, but Braddock, who chaired it, recalls that Renick proposed Krop's name. Renick doesn't recall who brought up Krop but says it wasn't him. Braddock points out that committee members are not constrained to consider only names proposed by the public.
Krop was not the only board member whose name arose at this meeting. In addition to Krop High, the naming committee also recommended that the school board name a learning center for teenage mothers after board member Janet McAliley, and rename the English Center in Little Havana after board member Rosa Castro Feinberg.
One former top administrator remembers making these suggestions himself, before the committee meeting. But as he recalls, it wasn't exactly his idea. Alan Olkes says he was approached by Krop late in the summer of 1996. (Olkes served as interim superintendent for six months between the retirement of Octavio Visiedo and the hiring of Roger Cuevas after the November 1996 election.) "Mickey came to me and said, 'We really need to name a school for Janet McAliley,'" Olkes reports. "I said, 'I agree.' She was coming off the board after being on a long time. It would make sense. Then he said, 'We should name the center for teenage mothers for her.' I said, 'That sounds reasonable.'
"Krop said, 'Maybe you could write a memo proposing that we name that one for her and another for Rosa Castro Feinberg.' I said, 'Oh, that sounds good, but why don't you just propose those names yourself?' He said something like, 'Well, I'd sort of like someone to throw my name in there, too.'"
Olkes says he went on to write a letter to the naming committee proposing all three names, noting how tirelessly Krop had worked to get School DDD built and suggesting his name for that school.
Krop says he doesn't recall this meeting with the then-superintendent. As to Olkes's assertion that Krop mentioned naming a school after himself, Krop insists, "I absolutely never said that. Never."
After the naming committee placed these three proposals on the agenda for the next board meeting (along with six others, four of which were based on community suggestions), two of the putative honorees openly decried the move. While Krop expressed his gratitude, both McAliley and Castro Feinberg stated publicly they would prefer not to have their names appended to schools while they were still in office. The rule prohibiting this was still in place, though the board could once again vote to waive it.
"Both Janet and I declined the honor in deference to the existing policy," Castro Feinberg says now.
McAliley went further. "I was very adamantly opposed to it, and I let it be known in no uncertain terms," she recalls. "I'm opposed to naming schools for sitting board members. It's very self-serving. I'll just never think it's right for an office-holder to, in effect, bestow that kind of honor upon himself."
Braddock, at the time, was adamant in his support of naming the schools after his long-time colleagues. "The board members are the only ones who know who does what in Miami," he told the Miami Herald. "The community doesn't know."
McAliley says she believes the real goal of the Braddock-led naming committee in 1996 was getting Krop's name on School DDD. As she and Castro Feinberg might have been potential "no" votes on that naming, McAliley saw her and Castro Feinberg's nomination as incentives from Braddock and Renick, in essence an attempt to buy their votes.
"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.)
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?"
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."
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.
"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.