New school year brings changes to Petersburg public schools

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) – The new school year will bring big changes for Petersburg public school students. The district has a new superintendent and for the first time, some public school students will be taught by an independent company not Petersburg Schools.

A total of 240 students at the junior high school level and middle school level will be educated by a British company called Cambridge Education. Parents of students in grades six through nine could choose if they wanted their children to learn under Petersburg Schools or by Cambridge Education.

"The whole idea is to provide stronger students to hand them up from one grade to the other," said Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Alvera Parrish.

Cambridge Education was selected by the district as part of a mandate by the state to help boost student performance. The program is described as a smaller learning community within a school.

The company will teach core subjects inside Peabody Middle School and Vernon Johns Junior High.

"That's our greatest focus right now is the full accreditation of all of our schools," said Parrish.

The former Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Parrish, is now the new Superintendent of Schools for the district. She says student achievement is her top priority.

"We're not accepting excuses and we're not making excuses for where we are," said Parrish.

The school district has struggled for years to reach academic benchmarks outlined by the state. Right now, 4 of 7 schools in the district are fully accredited.

"Everyday we're going to be working with teachers and students to ensure that instruction is delivered everyday. I think we've always done it -- what I'm looking at is how we can do it better," said Parrish.

Parrish says she plans on moving the district forward by capitalizing on what works and eliminating what doesn't work.

"We believe in the school system and we believe we have what it takes to turn this around," said Parrish.

A representative with Cambridge Education says its program will ultimately help increase Petersburg's graduation rate -- which currently stands at 58 percent.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.