PETERSBURG, Va. -- Middle and High School students in Petersburg can now solve a problem on a Chromebook instead of using a traditional textbook.
Their teachers can visit a store for free school supplies, and school leaders said students will soon be mentored by nearly 1,000 community volunteers.
But, like any good musician, the Superintendent of Petersburg City Schools recognizes the system needs a tune up.
"We have a steep hill to climb. None of our schools were fully accredited this year," Dr. Marcus Newsome said while speaking to a coalition of people who provide wrap around services to Petersburg this week.
He subtly referenced the system's recent SOL cheating scandal.
"Walnut Hill was only two students short in Science, and I'm glad they didn't do anything irregular to get those two students across," Newsome told the group.
The meeting highlights some of the efforts made by Newsome to improve the city's schools since taking over the job a-year-and-a-half ago.
"It's a new day for our students. We think they will be engaged in a way that some were not perhaps engaged in the past," Newsome told CBS 6 Problem Solver investigator Melissa Hipolit during an interview at his office.
But first, Newsome said he had to root out problems that started before his tenure, including cheating.
"Prior to coming to Petersburg, I had heard rumors about cheating with officials at the state over a year ago, and I shared with our leadership here that will not be tolerated," Newsome said.
Newsome said an allegation of cheating at AP Hill Elementary School in June led him to request that the state come in to investigate.
Five teachers ended up being fired, and the principal, Kori Reddick, was moved to Petersburg High School, where she is now an assistant principal.
"So, you feel confident in the personnel decisions that you made based on this entire investigation?" Hipolit asked Newsome.
"We made a decision that based on the evidence we would hold people accountable, and the evidence lead us to the decisions that we made," Newsome said.
Yet, a CBS 6 investigation raised questions about the decision to retain Reddick.
A former AP Hill teacher who reported possible SOL cheating to the state back in 2015 said he believes Reddick was aware of what was happening.
"I think she knew. I really think she knew," James Orbin, a former teacher at AP Hill said.
And, documents uncovered by CBS 6 show teachers interviewed by investigators indicated the same thing.
One said, "no chance Reddick/Parham (the assistant principal), no way they don't know what is going on."
"Are you confident she did not have knowledge of the cheating?" Hipolit asked Newsome.
"We don't discuss specific personnel decisions, but I will say we made decisions that were in the best interest of our students, and we made decisions in consultation with our colleagues at the state," Newsome responded.
Newsome said he could not specifically address the allegations raised by the former teacher because that took place before his tenure in Petersburg.
He did, however, respond to allegations made during the investigation that Reddick attempted to intimidate teachers.
"Do you feel like that possibly impacted the investigation at all in a negative way" Hipolit asked Newsome.
"We have no concerns about the way the investigation was conducted, as a matter of fact, I commend our team for the outstanding work they did to get to the results we got," Newsome replied.
Newsome said he welcomes tips from school employees related to cheating and said anyone who is caught doing it will absolutely be held accountable.
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