Updated: 07/23/2014 1:34 PM
Created: 07/23/2014 12:29 PM KSTP.com
Plans are in the works to name a school after Michael Jackson in the late pop star's Indiana hometown.
The Gary Community School Board approved Tuesday a memorandum of understanding with Jackson's mother, Katherine Jackson. The agreement that Jackson signed last month says the district "seeks to honor Michael Jackson and to inspire children to excel in the arts and education."
District superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said she's working with the Jackson family on which school to rename.
"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," she told the Post-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1luhGfp ).
Michael Jackson spent the first 11 years of his life in Gary. His family moved to California after the Jackson 5 struck it big in 1969 with the release of their first album. Jackson, who died in 2009, last returned to Gary in 2003 and received an honorary diploma from Roosevelt High School near his childhood home.
Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges in June 2005. School corporation spokeswoman Charmella Greer said those accusations were never considered during discussions about renaming the school.
"He is one of the most beloved artists in the world," Greer told The Associated Press.
Pruitt said renaming the school came up in a conversation with Katherine Jackson, who donated $10,000 during the Gary Promise scholarship event hosted by former NBA star Magic Johnson in April.
"She's always wanted something left here," Pruitt said.
The district has long struggled with high poverty levels, and the school board voted in June to close six of its 17 schools because of a $27 million deficit blamed in part on declining enrollment and the state's property tax caps.
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