Students, parents and supporters of the Roosevelt College and Career Academy rallied Tuesday against the possible closing of the historic school.
Parent Gladys Davis credited the school for inspiring her son, Kevin, to go to college. She said he received a musical scholarship and plays the flute at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.
"Whoever thought he'd go to college playing the flute and leading his section because of Roosevelt?" she said. "When I hear you're trying to close Roosevelt, stop right there."
She said her other son, Keith, a Roosevelt student, is now considering college, as well.
"There are so many working parents, if you close doors to Roosevelt it's like we're being defeated," she said. "You're not continuing to build the pillars, you're breaking them down... stop right there."
To shore up finances, the Gary Community School Corp.'s emergency manager, Peggy Hinckley, is considering closing Roosevelt and relocating students into another Gary school. That possibility triggered Tuesday's forum.
Hinckley said last week the district must maintain the school that has expenses of about $600,000 annually. "Now, we pay all the maintenance and receive none of the revenue," she said. The students should be in a better, more modern building, she said.
About $4.1 million in state money goes to Roosevelt's private education manager, EdisonLearning Inc. It just inked a five-year contract to run the school last year.
Hinckley included Roosevelt's relocation in a deficit reduction plan submitted to the state Distressed Unit Appeal Board.
While Roosevelt's academic struggles prompted the state to take it over in 2011, staff members point to the school's rise from an F to a D grade this year.
Principal Donna Henry said students were reading three years behind their grade level in 2012 when EdisonLearning began its first year under a state contract.
"It's constantly repeated that Roosevelt is a failing school... we moved that grade to a D. The staff should be proud. Put that myth to rest. Our students are not failures," she said.
Roosevelt alumnus MaryAnn Canty-Reedus said the state has labeled Roosevelt a failing school. "We still have to go on what the state is saying and realize Hinckley and her group wants to close Roosevelt.
"We have to work hard… this school is not going to go, but Gary schools are not fixing it up."
Mary Cossey, another alumnus, said her Class of 1984 would lead fundraising or assist in tutoring to keep the school open.
Several students voiced support.
Senior Robert Barnes said he's been at Roosevelt since eighth grade. "This is my heart and soul. As many times as I've messed up, they've been there, one step away… this is home and all I have left to be honest with you. This school helped me be a man."
Thom Jackson, president and chief executive officer of EdisonLearning, said he opposes relocating the students.
"We want what's right for the kids and at the end of the day, that's here," he said. "It has to be more than a matter of convenience," he said of the relocation. Jackson said there needs to be a well-thought out plan.
He said EdisonLearning has put $1.5 million into school renovations. "There's an assumption and narrative that EdisonLearning made all this money, so why can't they put it back in." Jackson said the company has been losing money consistently.
Jackson, who said he grew up in public housing, said education made the difference for him. "Go to the schools everybody gave up on and we could solve a lot of ills in this country. Roosevelt is an opportunity to create a model of success."
Recently, eight students at Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy in Gary, who are active in DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) students participated in this year’s district career development conference. The students compete in career areas including marketing, business management, finance, and entrepreneurship. All eight students placed in the district competition, and will now advance to state-level competition in Indianapolis, next month.
The students are: Shania Lankston - 2nd Place (Principles of Marketing); Ramon Gordon - 3rd Place (Quick Serve Restaurant Management); Saraphina Deer - 5th Place (Principles of Marketing); Robert Barnes - 5th Place (Business Communications); Shanell Robinson - 6th Place (Entrepreneurship); Montaz Oliver - 6th Place (Personal Financial Literacy); Keila Williams - 6th Place (Business Services Marketing); and, DeSharme Warren - 7th Place (Entrepreneurship).
Darnell Harris, Tyre Sanders, and Brianna Townsel will also compete at the state level by presenting their business plans.
Distributive Education Clubs of America) is an international association of high school and college students and teachers of marketing, management and entrepreneurship in business, finance, hospitality, and marketing sales and service. The organization prepares leaders and entrepreneurs for careers and education in marketing, finance, hospitality, management, and other business areas. It is one of ten organizations being led by a parent organization known as "CTSO" Career and Technical Student Organizations.
Chloe Coleman, a sophomore at Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy in Gary, came in 1st Place for her career goal presentation on becoming a neurosurgeon at this year’s Northwest Indiana Jobs for America Career Development Conference. Chloe now advances on to the state-wide Career Development Finals in March.
The Jobs for America effort is part of the Center for Workplace Innovations “READY NWI” initiative to accelerate year-by-year progress in engaging students and their parents with a wide array of educational and occupational choices that lead directly to success in employment and with post-high school degree and credential attainment.
Their goal is by 2025, to have a talent pool available for Northwest Indiana employers where 60 percent or more of the labor force has a college degree or high-value post-high school credential aligned with employers’ specific needs.
Congratulations to Chloe, and to all of the Roosevelt College and Career Academy JAG students.
Janet Jackson had a sentimental homecoming Friday in Gary. The singer, youngest sibling of the Jackson family, and her brother Randy, spent time at the Jackson childhood home at 2300 Jackson St. in Gary. They also visited Roosevelt High School to talk with students and encourage them to pursue their dreams.
The Jacksons' visit to Gary came a day after Janet's tour stop on her State of The World Tour at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois.
EdisonLearning has providing academic services at Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy since 2011.
Janet told Roosevelt students she was proud to be back in Gary. "The last time I was here I was eight years old," said the Grammy-winning singer. She said when her brothers began to get famous and the family moved to Los Angeles she was about two or three years old.
The soft spoken singer said she was excited to be back but it was also very emotional.
"When I saw the house ... I just started crying," she said, with tears in her eyes. "Me and my family are so blessed. I'm so thankful," Janet said.
"We wanted to come here and visit Roosevelt," Randy said. Jackson siblings Jackie and Rebbie attended the school when the family lived in Gary. "When we left (Gary) all we had was love and a dream," Randy added.
During the Q & A, students asked advice for going after an entertainment career, wondered who the siblings admire in the music field and other inquiries about their show business lives.
Janet told students she looks fondly on those younger days with her family. "I miss those times when I was with my brothers and sisters and we would all be performing together," she said.
When asked advice for going after dreams, Janet said "Stay focused and keep your dream." She added there's much out there to detain people from reaching their goals.
Randy added, "Be the best you can be, work hard and keep God in it."
"Yes, that's most important, " Janet stressed. "Always keep God close to you."
Janet said she had a number of favorite musical artists but her main inspiration in the business definitely has roots with her brothers.
When a student asked what a favorite past album of hers was, she singled out "Rhythm Nation." "When I was writing it, the things (that were happening then) are still happening." She pointed to "drugs, ignorance, racism" and the other tragedies and evils currently going on in the world.
Photo caption: Thom Jackson (fourth from right) joins Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt (far right), Gary School Board members, and Roosevelt students at the Indiana State Board of Education meeting yesterday in Indianapolis.
The State Board of Education gave its approval Wednesday to a partnership between the Gary Community School Corp. and EdisonLearning Inc. to operate the Roosevelt College and Career Academy.
The plan goes into effect in July. The resolution, with performance goals for five years, approved Wednesday stated Roosevelt's designation as a state turnaround academy would remain.
Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and EdisonLearning CEO Thom Jackson told the state board they are moving forward with a transitional model to improve achievement and the career potential for students.
Roosevelt's entanglement with the state began in 2011 when six straight years of F grades triggered the state to label it as a turnaround target. The state hired EdisonLearning to run the school for five years and it's being paid with Gary's share of tuition support money for Roosevelt, about $3 million to $4 million annually.
"The climate, safety and the graduation rate has improved," Pruitt said.
The school's test scores have improved, and its graduation rate improved from 41 percent in 2012 to 57 percent last year. Today, 85 percent of graduates are enrolled in two- or four-year college or vocational programs, compared to 60 percent in 2012. Attendance has increased from 71 percent to 92 percent.
Under the agreement, EdisonLearning will continue running the school, but both parties would oversee academics and performance goals.
Together, they plan to transform Roosevelt into an innovation network school under the state law that established state turnaround guidelines.