“They need to learn. That was Betty’s philosophy. She knew how to teach reading. She knew how to diagnose kids who had a reading deficiency. She loved kids. She was a good advocate for kids. She’d take the time to find out if they had a problem. She loved the whole education process, and she devoted her life to being a lifelong educator.” That is how former State Senator and Cobb Schools Board Member Lindsey Tippins described the namesake for Cobb’s newest middle school—Betty Gray.
The community recently celebrated the ribbon cutting and official dedication of Betty Gray Middle School, which serves students in grades 6-8.
“As we cut the ribbon, we opened the doors to the future, a future filled with great outstanding scholars, and we believe in each and every one,” said Betty Gray Principal Dr. Denise McGee. “I stand here before you with utmost pride and joy because I am a principal today because of Betty Gray. She was a strong advocate for me, and I became a principal because of her advocacy and championship for me.”
Betty Gray, whose name now sits atop the new middle school, was the first female principal and first female administrator in the Cobb County School District. The lifelong educator began her career in Cobb in 1957 as a high school English teacher. When she stepped up as assistant principal at Wheeler High School in 1972, she made history as the first woman administrator in the District. In 1975, she made history again. This time, she took the lead of Sedalia Park Elementary School, marking the first time a woman had served as principal at a Cobb school. Following her retirement, she was elected to the Board of Education in 1992 and served for 16 years, including several years as Board chair. According to those who served with her, a hallmark of her tenure was her ability to get people to rise above political opinions and agendas to work toward improving student education. Betty Gray passed away at the age of 88 on June 24, 2022.
“She was smart, she was articulate, she was funny. She had a great sense of humor, and she was quick-witted. She was a great conversationalist. She loved children. She loved Lisa, [her daughter], more than anything else in this world,” Senator Tippins told the crowd gathered at Betty Gray Middle School. “She loved teaching. She loved seeing children learn. She understood first and foremost that no education takes place in a kid’s life if they don’t know how to read, and Betty honed in on that.”
Despite the arrival of brisk fall temperatures, a large crowd of educators and friends gathered for the official ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony of Betty Gray Middle School. Joshua Smith, a member of the inaugural 7th-grade class of Betty Gray Middle School, performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” while cadets from Pebblebrook High School’s Air Force JROTC raised the flag over the new school.
The Betty Gray school building was originally built for Pebblebrook High School in 1962. It became Lindley Middle School in 1975. When a new facility for Lindley Middle School opened in 2001, the facility was repurposed as the Barnes Educational Services Center before reopening as Lindley 6th Grade Academy in 2009.
Thanks to Ed-SPLOST funds, the school building received updates before welcoming the first class of Betty Gray Middle School students in August 2023. The updates include a new 17,500 sf administrative and six-classroom addition to the north side of the building. The existing school was modified to add six classrooms for a total of 12 instructional units and can now support 937 students in grades 6-8. With the new location of the administrative offices, the main entrance was also moved to the north side of the building. The existing bus parking and drop off became the new car parking and drop off area. The old car drop-off area became the new bus drop-off area.
Ahead of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Lisa Gray toured the new middle school named for her mother. She was still mourning her mother’s passing a year prior, but something happened when she walked into Betty Gray Middle School. She said it was magical to see the students learning, teachers teaching, and everyone being respectful to each other. It was just how her mom would have wanted it to be. For Lisa Gray, Cobb’s newest middle school is the “living embodiment of Betty Gray” and what she valued, and that was education.
“Betty Gray exemplifies the kind of educator that made Cobb County one of the best places to learn. She committed her life to education, and her life’s work will continue inside the classrooms of the new Betty Gray Middle School. We are grateful to the community for giving us the ability, through Ed-SPLOST, to make the needed updates to the school building that will serve students for years to come,” said Board Chair Brad Wheeler.
Following the ceremony at Betty Gray, the Cobb community gathered at Eastvalley Elementary School to cut the ribbon on the new Ed-SPLOST-funded replacement school.