Discussion with Queens Grant incoming Principal Josh Swartzlander

Incoming new Principal Josh Swartzlander. (Ed Berti)
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The new incoming Principal and Head of School Josh Swartzlander is very familiar with Queens Grant High School. He has been involved in the schools leadership and administration since 2014. His most recent role as College Counselor has opened various doors of opportunity for college bound students on campus. He actually joined Queens Grant in 2013 as a Social Studies teacher.

Josh is a highly motivated and enthusiastic educator with a passion for both education and leadership.  He comes from a family of educators having a grandfather who was a Principal and Superintendent in Ohio. His grandmother was a librarian, so he has always been around schools and books. In his junior year of college after studying liberal arts, he declared education as his major.

After graduation he tried to get a full-time teaching position and was unable to secure one at the time in Ohio. So he and his wife decided to take a trip down to Florida, and in route on their return from vacation they stopped in Charlotte and applied to Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), and was immediately hired to teach at East Mecklenburg High School. His wife was able to land a position at Oakhurst Elementary School and they moved to Charlotte.

As an educator first, it is important the teachers are able to make a difference in the classroom. “We set the example outside the home and family environment, it’s very important to have meaningful relationships with students to have a positive impact on their lives,” said Swartzlander. “Also, there is no better way to influence young people to show them how passionate you are about your job, the teaching profession.”

Josh believes small schools can become the wave of the future. The classrooms are smaller which provides for greater interaction between teachers and students. “At CMS it’s a clipboard mentality, at a smaller school we have more flexibility to change the culture, to be more involved in discipline and address the diverse interests and needs of students.”

As principal, Josh would like to focus on three areas of concentration. First, he would like to continue the pursuit of creating a passionate culture for teaching and inspiring students at the school. Second, to keep educators on campus engaged in each student who enters their classrooms, to maintain a positive atmosphere for learning, expression of ideas, and building relationships that make a difference. Third, continue with a system of consistency and fairness built into the culture and overall environment throughout the school. “Habits of consistency are important for students, the school needs to be the one constant in their lives,” said Swartzlander.

Technology is certainly important in today’s modern cyber world we live in daily. With all the good it brings to our society, rapid communications, increases in efficiencies in the business world, access to information available quickly on almost any subject matter, including education, science, medicine and much more. However, it has it’s down side when overused in the classroom, they can become a distraction, students tend to want to perform a google search instead of reading and studying the textbook, it can lead to social isolation, it can have a negative impact on social skills and emotional reactions with students, can lead to complacency, a lack of privacy, can hinder a students ability to learn to work through problem solving, pay attention to amendments and critical thinking.

“The challenge is to find the right balance between technology and fundamental learning skills, to create a blended learning environment. Technology should be a source of reference and support, not to replace educators. Nothing can replace a teachers ability to provide substance in the classroom or online as their feedback, guidance and direction are a requirement for learning to take place. How do you replace a great teacher?” said Swartzlander.

When asked about how he plans to take the school to the next level, Josh laid out a formula he will pursue with a passion. However, he will always have flexibility as we live in a world where change is constant.

  • Create an environment that is relaxed, peaceful, engaging interactions with real world applications and implications.
  • Spotlight Specific Programs which provide flexible learning with both classroom and online learning courses.
  • Expand the Community College program course selection to attend classes or go online to a virtual school for high school juniors and seniors to experience and complete college level courses. This is available to non-athletes and athletes and the school will assist the students interested to develop a schedule that fits their objectives.
  • The school charter allows up to 650 students, he would like to see an increase of about 100 more students at the school.
  • Facilities, he will do all possible to continue with the upgrade of facilities and learning tools to improve the look of the campus and give every student the opportunity to learn in a pleasant and supportive environment, while giving our teachers the ability to provide the best learning methods for a successful outcome.

Finally, he would like to thank the current principal Michael Smith for all his support, he has been a great mentor and friend,” said Swartzlander.

“Also, without the support of my partner in life, Jessica taking care of all the kids, I would not be in this position today, she has made it much easier for me to accomplish and pursue my dream.”

The bottom line is small schools can serve a community and have a unique place in the education of our children. It’s a choice for parents to make, and Queens Grant High School is an alternative learning environment where it can meet a students particular needs while assisting these individuals to grow into adulthood and responsible citizens.

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Ed Berti
Ed is retired and remains active as a freelance writer, local journalist and independent contractor. He is engaged in print and electronic media writing stories covering business, sports, hometown news and veteran's affairs including articles of interest to various media outlets. Ed is a graduate of Wagner College where he earned an MBA and holds a BBA from Pace University.
Ed can be reached at ed@minthilltimes.com, eberti7777@gmail.com and linkedin.com.