Petersburg’s new superintendent sets priorities to improve classroom performance

Petersburg Schools Superintendent

PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - It’s Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin’s second month on the job as superintendent at Petersburg Public Schools. Now she’s setting priorities after troubling SOL pass rates showed Petersburg dropped in about half of the testing areas.

"I'm so excited to be here and so confident that we can do some great things in Petersburg,” Pitre-Martin said.

She has a history working to turnaround struggling schools and districts. She came to Petersburg after leaving her post as the Deputy State Superintendent for North Carolina. She’s already identified a big priority for Petersburg.

“We want to ensure that everyday we have 95% of our students in classrooms, every single day at a minimum,” Pitre-Martin said.

Get ready to see a major attendance campaign across the city. She wants to see police and local businesses partnering with school and city leaders to cut out truancy. When students are in class, the superintendent says they need reinforcement in areas they may struggle in.

"We have invested a lot of time in this district in after school tutoring and Saturday School, which we know certainly have their place, but what we also need to focus on is during the school day, carving out time so students can work on the standards that they need additional support in,” she added.

Pitre-Martin says focusing on those standards must happen year-round.

"No. Because it’s really teaching to the standards, not the tests, because there are standards upon which students should know and be able to do certain things. If we teach that, the tests will come along. It really has nothing to do with teaching to the test,” she said.

While recent pass rates were alarming, there was a glimmer of hope. All elementary schools in Petersburg improved in math.

The superintendent says she will now begin classroom visits to make sure improvement becomes the new normal.

"Hopefully when I walk in, they won’t be alarmed,” she said with a smile.

In the past few weeks, leaders from the state have come into Petersburg schools to familiarize teachers with new standards that are being rolled out. It’s a collaborative effort as the district works to improve its literacy scores.

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