If Lindley Middle School was a ship, it would have been sinking fast three years ago.
The school was ranked one of the worst in the state, and had been in “Needs Improvement” status for the past six years.
Parents, teachers and community members say Sandra Ervin, the school’s new captain, took the wheel, turned the ship around and gave it wind for its sails. Since she came aboard, the school made Adequate Yearly Progress every year and was even recognized for its dramatic progress.
So, on the first day of school, many parents are left to wonder what happened to Ervin, whose retirement was announced publicly Wednesday.
“Parents are still in a fog about it. All of us were crushed,” said Terri Robinson, who has one son attending Lindley this year and another who attended under Ervin. “I was shocked…We all think the world of her and the results that she has gotten from our kids.”
Lindley faculty received letters notifying them of Ervin’s resignation during the first week of August, just two weeks before the new school year begins.
Concerned parents requested a meeting with Cobb County School District officials to get answers about the school’s leader. At the meeting held Monday at the school, parents were told that they CCSD officials cannot release information about Ervin’s resignation.
By Monday afternoon, South Cobb Patch Editor Kiri Walton had received several emails, text messages and calls wondering what happened to Ervin.
CCSD spokesman Doug Goodwin told South Cobb Patch that it’s district policy to not release personnel information.
At Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting, Ervin’s resignation was announced publicly. She is now retired effective two weeks before the first day of school. Dr. Mitchel Bivens, former Green Acres Elementary School principal, will replace Ervin as principal at Lindley. (Although Ervin has been removed from the school's website, the site lists the new principal as Mike Bivens, not Mitchel Bivens.)
As of Thursday, no letters had been sent to Lindley Middle parents notifying them of the administration change, according to Goodwin.
With Ervin at the helm, the school became a Distinguished Title I School.
Ervin began her educational career several years ago as a teacher in North Cobb. Except for a four-year stint as a principal in Fulton County, she has spent her entire career in Cobb schools.
When she returned to Cobb, she said she wanted to go to a school where she could make a difference.
“I didn’t want to go where I wasn’t needed,” she is quoted as saying in the Marietta Daily Journal in June 2011. “I wanted to go someplace where at the end of the day, I knew I had made a difference.”
The MDJ Associate Editor Bill Kinney called former CCSD Fred Sanderson “an old friend” of Ervin’s, and said it was he who assigned her to Lindley Middle School.
Ervin described Lindley’s atmosphere when she arrived as “chaos” and “really a nightmare.”
She came in and helped establish a new dress code to help cut down on the fighting at the school, which was ranked by NEA as one of the most violent in the state.
In Ervin’s third year at Lindley, in a study published in fall 2011, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education identified Lindley Middle School as one of 12 middle schools in the state contributing to the success of the high school it feeds.
The GPEE credited new administration for the positive change of the school.
However, since the study has been published, Lindley has gotten a new principal and a new assistant principal. Lindley teacher Sabrina Richardson was assigned as assistant principal of the school in June.
Parents already miss Ervin.
Robinson gushed about Ervin and the results she received in just three years.
“Her passion for these kids cannot be denied. She made a difference in the lives of our three sons,” Robinson said. “I think she had a lot of heart and a lot of drive. She had a vision. She shared her vision and then she did it. She should start her own school.”
Parents are hopeful that the school’s success and progress will continue this school year and are open to new principal Bivens.
“At the start of the new year, parents are crushed and don’t have a lot of answers. We’re still hopeful that the culture and legacy will be enough…We’re going to give him (Bivens) all the support he needs, but we’re disappointed that Ervin will not be here,” Robinson said.