Petersburg faculty ready to face school year with ‘I believe’ theme

Posted at 1:19 PM, Aug 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-29 13:19:04-04

PETERSBURG, Va. - Hundreds of teachers and faculty packed the auditorium at Petersburg High School Monday for the annual convocation.

The theme at this year's convocation was "I believe."

The new superintendent, Dr. Marcus Newsome, said they'll have some funding challenges, but that also means they'll have opportunities as well.

Johna Vazquez has taught with the Petersburg school system for more than 20 years and said the proposed $4.1 million budget cut for schools won't impact the students' education.

"It's dire and quagmire but one thing I know about Petersburg City Public schools educators -- we're resilient and we'll provide a quality education no matter what," said Vazquez.

It's a positive sentiment echoed among fellow teachers and Dr.  Newsome, their leader. He's starting his first year as Petersburg superintendent after leaving Chesterfield County.

"Obviously, we need every dollar when can get for our students," said Dr. Newsome. "But our city is in a very difficult position -- and we know that everyone is going to have to make sacrifices."

Petersburg City Council voted to make cuts in order to reduce the $12 million budget deficit.   Part of the plan includes closing museums, closing a fire house, and reducing school funding.

"I do feel like it's unfair because you're supposed to invest in the kids," said Italia Tallley, a teacher. "I think it's the most important thing for our future."

Still, most teachers say they're up for the challenge.

"We've got students who seem really interested and like they really want to come and learn," said Hakeem Ali-Ber, a middle school teacher. "You've got educators here who really want to put everything into it, one hundred percent. We can make it work."

Newsome said he's dealt with budget problems before, and they'll just have to be more efficient.

"The loss in funding may delay some of the progress, but it will not hinder the progress," he said.

Newsome made it a point to talk about all of the generosity the school system has seen while dealing with these budget issues.

He said churches and residents have donated uniforms, backpacks and school supplies for students.

Petersburg City Council will vote on what exactly will be cut after a public hearing, September 6.