‘And that’s where we’re not seeing the gains that we should be,’ Avila added. In addition, Avila intends to help wipe out the perception – whether false or true – that the district is not responsive to parents and community leaders. Parent empowerment groups formed over the past few years in the district have also foundered. ‘If the community feels this way, then we’re not doing something right,’ she said. ‘We need to make this a transparent process, make it an open school district where parents and other community members are welcome.’ Fellow board member Deborah Pacheco cqsaid Avila has already proven herself to be a quick study, and her extensive professional knowledge and experience in education will be an asset during her four-year term. ‘She just has to familiarize herself with the specific issues we’re dealing with here in South Whittier, like declining enrollment,’ Pacheco said. ‘But I think she’s going to be just fine,’ she added. ‘She’s going to be just great.’ So long as people are willing to rally around the fact that South Whittier students, no matter what background they come from, can successfully raise their test scores, Avila says anything is possible. ‘It’s a lofty goal, but we have to set our expectations high,’ she added. ‘If you set your goals high, there’s no telling what you can achieve.’ [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3051160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SOUTH WHITTIER – High expectations have never been a problem for Layla Avila, cqthe newest member of the South Whittier School District board of trustees. The high expectations of a public school teacher led her from a low-income, single-parent childhood in East Los Angeles to the prestigious campuses of Columbia and Harvard universities, where she successfully earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Now she’s setting her sights on her South Whittier community, determined to bring the district’s students up to national academic standards set forth in the federal No Child Left Behind Act. As an educational consultant, Avila says she’s seen many national examples where elementary school districts have gone above and beyond expectations to improve student achievement. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake It was her involvement in the Whittier Latino Coalition and the SPIRITT Family Services group that caused her to turn that professional focus on her own community. She was surprised to find that this year’s AYP data said two local elementary schools – Loma Vista and Telechron – failed to show at least 24.4 percent of students were proficient in English language arts. Graves Middle School also missed its federal math benchmark. Not making AYP could affect the extra federal money these schools get for having large numbers of low-income students. ‘When I saw the data, what I thought was that it really was possible to make tremendous improvements in academic achievement,’ Avila said. ‘Nationally, the gains that have been seen are at the elementary school levels, and there are lots of reforms underway that target literacy and numeracy at elementary schools.