Fairfax’s new principal has strong ties to the community and school system

Published 8:00 am Saturday, December 9, 2023

This week has been an exciting one for Fairfax Elementary School as the staff went through a transition of principals. On Tuesday, Lauren Dabbs took up the role from the former principal Rusty Newton. 

Dabbs, like Newton, has deep roots in the Fairfax community and school. It was there that she grew up, received her education and was introduced to her own passion for teaching. 

Because of her close bond with the staff, the former Fairfax assistant principal did everything she could to make the transition on Dec. 4 as seamless as possible for her teachers and staff. 

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“They needed some consistency. They needed someone who knows the building, and they needed someone who knows them. And that’s one thing in my leadership style is building a relationship with my teachers…” Dabbs said.

Dabbs said Newton did a great job in a tough situation getting the schools merged and ready for the school year. Newton also commended Dabbs on her hard work as his assistant principal. He said she was very deserving to step into his shoes. 

“It means a lot to be able to go back to a school that you have a lot of deep roots for and try to make it as successful as can be,” Newton said. “I’m very appreciative of that, and I guess you could say it’s a dream come true.”

When he came to Fairfax from LaFayette-Lanier, it was a homecoming from himself as well. He taught there and also attended the school as a student. He said it has been a special experience that he is glad Dabbs has gotten to share.

Dabbs said it was especially unique getting to experience the welcome as the school’s new principal with her son, who is a student at Fairfax.

When LaFayette-Lanier Elementary School merged with Fairfax, it was a hectic transition. For one thing, the schools had very short notice. Newton played an essential role during that time, taking the reins to get the schools aligned. 

Another obstacle the school faced was just the sheer number of students. Fairfax is now one of the largest schools in the district. Dabbs commended her teachers and staff for their dedication and quick thinking during that time. 

“Because we are so large, our spacial issues [are] a constant, so we’ve had some challenges over the last year…” Dabbs said. “Our staff has been so resilient during any challenges that has been thrown at them.”

Because she also served as a teacher at Fairfax before taking on an administrative role, Dabbs said she approaches her duties from a teacher’s perspective. As a student, Dabbs said she often struggled with testing anxiety and had to work hard to be successful. 

That insight into some of her students’ frustrations not only impacted her teaching method but the way that she tackles her administrative duties.

“I know exactly what it feels like to sit in those classrooms,” Dabbs said. “I know exactly what they’re looking at outside that window. I know exactly which tree they’re staring at when they’re frustrated.”

Superintendent Dr. Casey Chambley said that Dabbs has a great way of handling responsibilities from an instructional point of view, rather than an administrative one. 

“She really kind of embodies that of an instructional leader,” Chambley said. “She’s very smart, very organized, and we feel like she’s going to be able to take the school in a wonderful direction academically.”

Dabbs said she hopes to ensure Fairfax Elementary School remains a stable part of the district’s future.

“There’s a lot of challenges coming for the future of Chambers County,” Dabbs said. “And so I would love to see some of our elementary schools kind of be the backbone and the stable area for them, and the consistency in our district as our high schools and secondary schools endure some of those challenges.”