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Gary school to be renamed for Michael Jackson

Born 1958 Gary Michael Jackswas one most successful artists pop history selling more than 750 millialbums.  |  AP

Born in 1958 in Gary, Michael Jackson was one of the most successful artists in pop history, selling more than 750 million albums. | AP file photo

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Updated: August 25, 2014 5:14PM



GARY — A city school will soon be renamed in honor of Michael Jackson, Gary’s most famous native son.

It hasn’t been determined which school will bear the Jackson name, said Gary Community School Corp. Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt.

The school board set the plan in motion Tuesday when it approved a memorandum of understanding with Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson.

The front-runner to be named after Jackson is Roosevelt, the aging high school that looms behind the humble, white ranch Jackson family home at 2300 Jackson St.

Pruitt said the district is working with the Jackson family to select the school building.

“A close relationship with the Jackson family to improve the quality of programs for the Gary Community School Corp. can mean tremendous gains for the school district and the city as a whole,” Pruitt said.

Michael Jackson, the eighth child of Katherine and Joe Jackson, moved away from Gary as a youngster as the Jackson 5 gained fame in the 1960s. While he never attended Roosevelt, he performed on its auditorium stage in a local talent show with his older Jackson 5 brothers.

Michael Jackson turned solo in 1971 and went on to win 13 Grammy awards. Hailed as the King of Pop, he was credited with 750 million record sales worldwide before his death in 2009.

Jackson received a warm welcome upon his 2003 return to Gary and he received an honorary diploma from Roosevelt, one of the stops during his visit. Jackson also received a hat and leather letterman’s jacket with the inscription “To the King of Pop, a true Panther.”

He encouraged students to stay in school and study hard during his visit.

Pruitt said the renaming came about in a conversation with Katherine Jackson, who’s been a supporter of the school district. She donated $10,000 during the Gary Promise scholarship event, hosted by Magic Johnson, earlier this year, Pruitt said.

“She’s always wanted something left here. She’s really dedicated to the Gary Community Schools,” Pruitt said of Katherine Jackson.

The memorandum of understanding was signed by Katherine Jackson on June 6.

It states it does not establish any contractual relationship between the parties. It also says “the Gary Community School Corporation seeks to honor Michael Jackson and to inspire children to excel in the arts and education.”

There’s no mention of financial assistance specifically in the memorandum.

The school district is struggling financially, battling a $27.3 million deficit that forced the closing of five schools in June, including Lew Wallace High School.

The closings and reassigning of students to other schools has officials worried that enrollment could slump even lower. Officials are keeping a close watch on enrollment figures and campaigning to keep their students from transferring to charters or other schools.

While Roosevelt might seem a likely candidate to be renamed for Michael Jackson, it isn’t operated by the school district. In 2011, the state took the school over because of poor test scores. It could return to the district by 2016.

Meanwhile, the city is working with a not-for-profit group to demolish and renovate homes on Jackson Street to stimulate development.



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