New Petersburg Public Schools superintendent sworn-in

Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 6:55 PM EDT
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PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - Petersburg Public Schools now has a new leader as Dr. Tamara Sterling is officially sworn in as superintendent Tuesday.

Dr. Sterling was chosen from a pool of about 27 other superintendents vying for the Petersburg position. She believes her experience has equipped her to push the school division toward success.

“It’s just the right time and the right fit for me, and I’m excited to bring my skills to support Petersburg in continuing to move forward,” said Sterling.

Prior, Dr. Sterling led successful school transformation teams as a principal in Chicago, Illinois, Houston, Texas and Providence, Rhode Island.

Most recently, Sterling served five years as superintendent of Franklin City schools which, back in 2017, was one of the lowest-performing divisions in the state.

The division was under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Virginia Department of Education. Still, in 2018, Dr. Sterling helped the school system make significant improvements, leading Franklin City Schools to successfully exit the MOU with the Virginia Department of Education.

Sterling says she hopes to make similar gains in Petersburg.

“I truly believe Petersburg will set the tone statewide for student achievement,” said Sterling.

Sterling’s appointment comes just a day after the release of the dismal state report card, which showed only 32% of students are proficient in reading, with 38% proficient in math.

But the new superintendent says she doesn’t want that report to overshadow the progress made in the school division.

Back in September, Petersburg High School became fully accreditated. Currently, the school division’s four elementary schools and its middle school are accredited with conditions.

Under that distinction, the school division must undergo a review conducted by VDOE or under its guidance to develop and implement a corrective action plan as a component of the school’s comprehensive, unified, long-range plan.

“If you look back through, a lot of our schools are accredited with conditions they made tremendous gains, so it shows you the work are teachers, students and administrators are putting in to ensure their success,” said Sterling.

Sterling will be taking the reins from Dr. Julius Hamlin, who has been serving as the division’s interim superintendent since the spring. He says he will continue his duties as deputy superintendent. He says the school division’s next goal is to become fully accredited.

“Dr. Sterling and I both come from high-needs school districts, and it’s really about the fight and the challenge that drives both of us,” said Hamlin. “The next task is not just achieving it but maintaining it, and other school districts are right there on the cusp. We just have to stay the course.”

Dr. Sterling will officially begin her duties next week on Nov. 1.

“I’m looking forward to moving the envelope even further than we imagined, and I look forward to us doing this work together,” said Sterling.