Johnson leads CES as Faircloth retires

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With several leadership changes at local schools this year, the Record will introduce new principals weekly as they prepare for a new academic year.    Callahan Elementary School Principal Sabrina Faircloth said farewell to her Little Warriors after kindergarten registration and...

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  • Melissa Johnson assumes the  helm at Callahan Elementary.
    Melissa Johnson assumes the helm at Callahan Elementary.
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With several leadership changes at local schools this year, the Record will introduce new principals weekly as they prepare for a new academic year. 

 

Callahan Elementary School Principal Sabrina Faircloth said farewell to her Little Warriors after kindergarten registration and began retirement. 

The students, faculty and staff bid her adieu with a special drive-thru parade in the bus loop in May. It was a thoughtful ending to a 35-year career that included teaching, guidance counseling and serving as an assistant principal. 

“I have a love of children and learning and you need to have those things when you’re an educator,” she said. “I never birthed children. I’ve raised children, but I’ve been able to love the children of this community for 35 years.” 

Teaching and guiding students also taught her that working with children requires the ability to stay flexible and attuned to their needs as she inspired others. 

“The children that have become educators say it’s because of me,” Faircloth said. “I feel like when one of my students becomes an educator because of my influence, my legacy lingers on.” 

Asst. Principal Melissa Johnson, who has worked with Faircloth for three years, is now principal. 

Johnson recalled how the two women became fast friends.

“She was more than a boss to people,” Johnson said. “She was an amazing leader and, to me, my best friend. It’s bittersweet. From the moment I knew I was going to be her assistant principal, we just clicked. We just became close very quickly.”

The leadership team was always on the same page, working together and always supporting each other, according to Johnson.

Faircloth expressed confidence in Johnson’s ability to lead.

“She will do a fabulous job,” Faircloth said. “I am Mama-proud of her. She will be an awesome leader. We’ve spent so much time together, learning from each other about life and education.” 

Before her exit, though, she voiced gratitude for the support she received.

“Thank you to the community for having the faith in me to help influence your children,” she said. 

No longer ruled by classroom bells, Faircloth plans to work with children at her church, First Baptist Church of Boulougne. She also plans to relax, reflect and travel.

“I like to garden. I like to read. I like to craft,” Faircloth said. “I will have time to enjoy those things.”

Johnson experienced a deep connection with Callahan Elementary School, where she attended kindergarten through second grade. 

The new principal plans to make preparations to welcome the children for another year Aug. 24. 

“I’m just excited to be the leader of Callahan Elementary,” Johnson said. “I feel like the connections to community run deep. I was born and raised here. It’s the schoolhouse that built me.” 

She plans to reinforce the sense of community predecessor Sabrina Faircloth constructed. Johnson served as assistant principal to Faircloth for three years. 

“I just want to continue the strong community this school has,” she said. “We want to be there for our families, faculty and staff, and building those relationships with our business partners.” 

She views the school’s culture as welcoming and fun.

“It’s a warm place. It’s a happy place,” Johnson said. “Our kids love to be here and adults love to be here. This school is a cornerstone of the community and we want to carry on our school traditions, keeping in mind that there are new opportunities to learn and grow from.” 

Before moving into administration, Johnson taught fourth grade at Hilliard Elementary School for a decade. She was selected as the 2012 Teacher of the Year for HES and in 2013 was Nassau County’s Teacher of the Year. In 2020, she was
selected as the Assistant Principal of the Year. 

Johnson is ready to lead the school. 

“For me it’s an honor,” she said. “I feel like with my faculty and staff that I have built those relationships. And they know that the decisions that I make will always be in the best interest of the students and I will support them.” 

Johnson expects that her students will grow academically and expand their knowledge base.

“My biggest desire for them is that when they leave CES, they have developed a strong academic foundation that they can be successful throughout their lives and that they are loved and cared for,” she said, adding that it is vital for children to realize they are valued.

“I speak to students by name, and I ask them how they’re doing,” she said. “I value everybody on this campus and what their job is – if they do it, I will do it, too.” 

As the students view her on campus in her leadership role, along with Asst. Principal Kristy Collins, she wants the children to feel confident that they have support in their endeavors. 

“We do have high expectations,” Johnson said. “I believe high expectations are important and when they do meet those expectations, you celebrate with them.” 

Collins previously served as reading coach at Wildlight Elementary School. Before that, she was reading coach at Hilliard Middle-Senior High School. 

Collins looks forward to working with the faculty, students and parents.

“Melissa Johnson is an amazing person to walk alongside and I am looking forward to learning from her,” she said. 

The educator also appreciates the sense of community she has already experienced at the school. She views her position as a long-term investment into the community. 

“I am excited to be in that small town and lead and guide and work among wonderful people I have already met,” Collins said. 

She is already preparing to welcome students this fall. 

“I’m just looking to see how far they will grow after the years they’ve had,” Collins said, adding that she is eager to exhibit love and support so they can begin to have a return to normalcy. Her career path coincides with her passion for excellence and a love for children. 

“My goal is to kind of just build that guidance and support for the children and the teachers,” Collins said.