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Meet Jillian La Serna, a former principal newly elected to the CHCCS board

CHCCS Board of Education candidate Jillian La Serna speaks during the PTA and NAACP education panel in Chapel Hill Town Hall on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019.

Jillian La Serna is not afraid of a challenge, and she is ready to bring change to Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools.

On Nov. 5, Jillian La Serna, Deon Temne and Ashton Powell were elected to serve their first terms on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools Board of Education. Returning member Rani Dasi was also reelected.  

La Serna is confident that her experience in education will lead to success in her role on the board. She has worked on all levels of education, ranging from kindergarten to college. She received her doctorate in educational leadership from UNC-Chapel Hill and currently serves as an assistant professor of educational leadership at UNC-Charlotte.

“I hope to bring my expertise on education,” La Serna said. “I’m bringing that background knowledge to ask questions and to make data-based decisions for our district to try to improve education for every single student in the district.”

She cited the opportunity gap as a major issue she is ready to combat. A study run by the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis found that Chapel Hill-Carrboro has the second-largest Black-white achievement gap in the United States of the schools it surveyed.

“I think that our primary concern continues to be the opportunity gap,” she said. “It has been an issue in the district for years and ensuring that when we make decisions, that everything that we are moving toward addresses that opportunity gap.”

In addition, she said she recognizes that the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district has a lot of other concerns to address.

“I think there is a wide array of other things that will come before the board in the next several years ranging from paying a competitive wage for maintenance workers as well as our custodial crews, making sure our older buildings are well maintained and a whole gamut of other initiatives,” La Serna said.

She is not concerned that three of the four members elected Tuesday will be new to the school board this year, she said. She feels nothing but trust and confidence in her colleagues. During the campaign, she said she recognized that all of the other candidates shared a similar growth mindset and love for the students.

“I feel really fortunate during the campaign to have four other candidates who were vying for a position on the board and who I think are all really dedicated to the students in this district and making an impact,” La Serna said. “I felt like I learned a lot from my conversations with the other candidates and really look forward to serving with those who were elected.”

One of her mottos during the campaign was tienes la palabra (you have a voice). She encourages all of her constituents to speak their minds and guarantees that their voices and opinions will not be overlooked.

La Serna is ready to see what she can do. She said she thinks having so many new faces on the board is a chance for the school district to make change happen.

“I think it offers some opportunity to continue capitalizing on areas that the district is doing well and to really push for growth in areas where it's needed,” she said.

This story is the second in a series featuring the newly elected members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.


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