As an orthodontist in Miami Beach and Northeast Miami-Dade for decades, Dr. Michael Krop made it a habit to not only straighten teeth, but to know his patients.
Most of his patients were kids.
So after years of listening to their problems — many concerning schools in Miami-Dade County — he decided to run for the Dade County School Board.
Krop, who maintained his practice while serving on the board for 24 years and even had a school named after him, died Tuesday from heart disease at 88. He died in his Bal Harbour home.
“He took such an interest not only in their teeth, but in their lives as a whole,” said his son David Krop.
Krop, who was born in Pennsylvania and spent his childhood in Pottsville (population 14,324, according to the recent census) earned his undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1952, and graduated from Temple University dental school in 1956 . He served as a captain in the Army and did dental work for the next two years, before enrolling in the orthodontics program at Northwestern University.
In 1960, Krop and his wife, Lois, moved to Miami. He opened an orthodontics practice on 41st Street in Miami Beach, where he remained for decades.
His son Daniel said his dad always engaged with his patients, a trait that carried over when he served on the school board.
“He never wanted to be a politician but cared so much about education, his four kids and everyone else’s chldren,” said his longtime administrative assistant Judy Matz. “The man was absolutely brilliant. Any time there was a committee or a conference session and people did not know whether to go this way or that way, it was always [Michael] Krop who thought of the third way. Very creative thinker.”
Krop, who was first elected to the school board in 1980, stepped down as chairman of the board in 2004 when he was 73. At the time, he was the longest-serving active board member.
“He brought a lot to the school board decision making in the way of understanding business and finance just generally the issues that we dealt with,” said Janet McAliley, who served on the board from 1980 to 1996. “He’s very smart. He did his homework. He read the documents, the audits, the agendas and everything to be well prepared for the school board meetings and the decisions that we were making on behalf of people in Dade County.”
When he announced his retirement, he made it clear that he still planned to be involved.
“I may not run again, but I will always be committed to the task of making our schools stronger and better,” he told the Herald at the time.
Through his board tenure, he helped direct policy under six different school superintendents.
Even though Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho never worked with him on the school board — Carvalho was appointed in 2008, four years after Krop retired — Krop still kept in touch with him.
One day, Krop took him to Lindsey Hopkins, a vocational school run by the district.
“He was no longer on the board and he dragged me to Lindsey Hopkins ... to show me the low-cost, no-cost dental clinic that he helped run,’’ Carvalho said. “I don’t think a lot of people knew that about him. He was that kind of guy.’’
Krop also mentored the man who would replace him on the board, Dr. Martin Karp, the current vice chairman. Like many, Karp first met Krop in the dentist’s chair.
When he replaced him on the board, Krop made sure to meet with Karp and share his knowledge.
“It was helpful to have that information going into the seat,” Karp said. ”I think I still have a file in my office with the notes from that meeting.”
While serving on the board, Krop pushed for counselors in every elementary school, backed gifted programs and lobbied for 15 mph school zones.
“Public schools have been the great equalizer,” he said. “When you’re well-educated in this country, the sky’s the limit.”
Another big accomplishment: pushing for a new high school in Northeast Miami-Dade to relieve overcrowding
Solomon Stinson, who was the board chair at the time, felt the school should be named after Krop, despite opposition from others who felt the school’s name should reflect the neighborhood or someone deceased.
“I feel very, very strongly that one should smell the roses while they are alive,” Stinson said at the time. “The mere fact that he sits on the board should not deny him the right to have his name on the school. He’s been a most valuable eye for the public interest of this school system. He is deserving.”
McAliley was one of the people who disagreed.
“I did not think we should name a school after ourselves for a sitting board member,” she said. “And I told him that.”
The board prevailed, and Dr. Michael M. Krop High School, 1411 County Line Road, opened in 1998, with its first graduating class in 2001. His son Daniel said his father always checked on the school.
Beyond his love for education and dentistry, Krop always made time for his family, his sons said. In June, they threw a big party for their parents’ 65th wedding anniversary.
“About 40 years ago, he gave my mother this necklace that said TDDUP, which stood for Til Death Do Us Part,” Daniel said. “That’s what he meant and that’s what happened.”
In addition to his sons Daniel and David, Krop is survived by his wife, Lois, daughters Pamela and Judith Krop and 12 grandchildren.
Services will be at 12:30 p.m. Friday at Levitt Weinstein North Miami Beach, 18840 W. Dixie Hwy., followed by the memorial at Menorah Gardens, 21100 West Griffin Rd. in Southwest Ranches.