Crew's Control

The new school super deep-sixes Miami's provincialism in a New York minute

Concerns were raised by board attorneys that this arrangement could later become a conflict of interest for Crew and the district owing to relationships with FIU and the city. Then Krop called Paul Cejas, a former school board member, former U.S. ambassador to Belgium, and member of Miami's power elite, to ask him if he would save the deal by committing. Cejas would have no possible conflicts. Cejas came through. (The details of this proposal have yet to be worked out.) Oddly, after riding shotgun on the whole affair, Maidique was out of town Monday, the day Crew's contract was approved by the school board.

At least for now, Crew has the support of nearly all sectors of the community, and a singular opportunity. This fall the school board's composition will change. Krop is likely retiring. Betsy Kaplan is retiring. Frank Cobo has a tough campaign ahead of him. And Stierheim himself hasn't ruled out a run for the board, in Kaplan's district. "People have been asking me," he admits. "I haven't said no. Do I want to do that? That's a tough question."

Back in New York, the two Rudys used to get on famously over Scotch and cigars, until Crew started a public showdown over Giuliani's plan to experiment with school vouchers and Rudy G forced his smoking buddy out. Of course Miami Mayor Manny Diaz (who has expressed an interest in taking over the city's public schools) is no Rudy Giuliani. Neither is Arza, the self-appointed Rasputin of local education politics. Arza lost some street cred when the Miami-Dade legislative delegation failed to prevent a raid on state funding to the school district by the Senate president.

One rampant rumor used to explain the lack of acrimonious ethnic politicking in Crew's appointment was that some board members and their legislative allies believe it will be easier to "torch the place," i.e., break up the district, if it is run by a black Democrat rather than a Cuban Republican. Another rumor was that Republican leaders, including Gov. Jeb Bush, had made some calls to encourage board members to get their acts together in this critical election year. Certainly the lack of the usual shenanigans on Spanish radio and from players such as Arza indicates that some critical consultations were made.

The other challenge, internally, will be mending the culture. This means stopping the "dance of the lemons," as Crew once termed the New York habit of merely shuffling around inept or corrupt school administrators. That's when he'll find out whether school board members really want a strong superintendent. "He's been in urban education so long, he has a sixth sense," opines Betsy Kaplan. "He's been in the same game with different players. I think he'll do just fine."

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