PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Before Petersburg students return to classes next week, the city’s superintendent addressed improvements that were made ahead of the upcoming school year.

Dr. Maria Pitre Martin brings 30 years of experience to Petersburg schools and also a plan aimed to right a system that’s been on the wrong course for a long time. She spoke with 8News’ Juan Conde about her thoughts on the new school year and her plans for the future.

“When test scores may not be as we want them to be we have to look at your current curriculum you have to ensure that the curriculum is aligned to the Virginia standards of learning,” Martin told 8News, “and what formal assessment tools are you going to use to make sure our students are making progress before they take the SOLs.”

There’s progress to be made. Petersburg’s best SOL pass rate in the three years was 61% in History and Social Science in 2016. Widespread poverty means Petersburg’s students have needs most others don’t have to worry about.

“Definitely, we need to look at mental as well as physical health,” Martin said. “Because we know if those things are not addressed they can absolutely be barriers to academic performance.”

This means tailoring resources to have social workers, nurses and psychologists serving schools.

“Student needs have increased. The needs our students had maybe 20 or 30 years ago are not the needs of today,” Martin said in the interview. “Our students are living in a digital world today and so we have to ensure that what we bring to them has some air of technology and digital use but we’re also teaching them to be good digital citizens.”

The former deputy school superintendent from North Carolina said she will be on her own digital quest.

“Diving into the data to make sure we know what their needs are and matching the tools to our students needs,” Martin explained. “I’m absolutely thrilled to be here in Virginia and in Petersburg and we have a great future here in Petersburg Public Schools.”

You can find all of 8News’ back to school guides here.