At least 40 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools principals received re-assignments this summer, and two elementary schools in Matthews have welcomed new leaders to their top position.
Elizabeth Lane and Matthews elementary schools will begin the school year with new principals.
Here are profiles of the women who will lead each school.
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Elizabeth Lane Elementary
Crystal Lail is no stranger to Elizabeth Lane, a school of about 1,000 students. She spent the last year there as a principal intern.
“As soon as I knew that (former Principal Tara Lynn Sullivan) was leaving, I knew that I would be interested in applying for the job,” Lail said. “There was never any question that I wanted it.”
Lail, 35, called the way her new job worked out “a dream come true.” Sullivan was promoted to an executive director in CMS.
A native of Union County, Lail said she became interested in education while a student at East Carolina University: She helped her roommate, who was struggling in nursing school.
“She gave me the idea that this was something I was good at and should be a teacher,” Lail said. She switched her major from business to education and got a job as a teacher in Wilson County after graduation.
She and her husband, Jason, whom she met at ECU, moved to Charlotte the next year, and Lail began her first of 11 years at Olde Providence Elementary as a first- and fourth-grade teacher, then an academic facilitator.
As a facilitator, she discovered her passion for supporting teachers and students as an administrator, she said.
As part of the highly selective N.C. Principal Fellow program, Lail worked as an assistant principal at Elizabeth Lane last year while finishing her master’s degree in academic administration at UNC Charlotte. She also is a National Board Certified teacher.
Lail has two sons: Kayden, 15, is a sophomore at Butler High, and Jackson, 9, is a fourth-grader at Bain Elementary.
Matthews Elementary School
Jessica Blanchard, the new principal at Matthews Elementary, said she’s always seen her work in education as a calling.
“I got into it to do what’s best for kids,” she said. “I loved kids and wanted to do good things for them.”
She started her new job Aug. 12 after serving as principal of Weddington Elementary for three years. Blanchard replaces Mike Miliote, now principal of Jay M. Robinson Middle School.
Blanchard was born and raised in Cabarrus County, and she has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and reading education from Wingate University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Winthrop University.
She’s wanted to work in administration since graduating from college, Blanchard said. A turning point for her was when she was encouraged to apply for an administration position at Benton Heights Elementary School in Monroe, where she recently had been named Teacher of the Year.
After working as a teacher, administrator and reading specialist at Benton Heights, Blanchard served as assistant principal at Waxhaw Elementary School, where she was a finalist for the Union County Public Schools Assistant Principal of the Year award twice.
Blanchard has teaching experience with a wide array of students in first through fourth grade, and said she often can be found in the classroom. She said she believes it’s important to be an instructional leader.
Blanchard said she likes the dynamics of the Matthews Elementary community and that it’s a “small-town school in a big town.”
She hopes to maintain the school’s “family feel while doing what’s best for the kids.”
Blanchard has two children, and her oldest, 6-year-old Jaxson, will be a first-grader at Matthews Elementary. She and her husband, Matthew, with Jaxson and Malachi, 3, live in Monroe.