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CONTRIBUTED Russellville Middle School’s Tony Bonds is no stranger to leadership, having worked as a coach for more than a decade and taking an assistant principal role last year, but he has now stepped into an even larger leadership position as principal at RMS.

Coaching leads to RMS principal position

When first-year principal of Russellville Middle School Tony Bonds graduated from Russellville High School in 2001, he moved to Oxford, Miss., on a football scholarship with no intentions of returning to Franklin County – until sports led him back. 

“Usually when you graduate high school, you have your plans for your life, and for me those plans never really included Russellville,” Bonds said, “but God worked his magic, and he put me back here.”

When Bonds graduated from college in 2005, he began working at a bank as a loan officer, but he said it did not take long for him to begin coaching – first at St. George’s School in Collierville, Tenn., where he helped coach the team to a state championship appearance in 2006. 

He next moved to Russellville and helped the Golden Tigers earn a state runner-up title in 2008.

During this time, Bonds still worked as a banker, but he said a move to Huntsville made him reconsider his profession.

“At first I just started (coaching) on the side, but I enjoyed coaching, and I began to realize it was something I was doing more and more, so I thought, why not take a look at it,” Bonds said.

He said he met with the principal at Buckhorn High School and was offered a teaching and coaching position on the spot. Bonds later worked at Jackson North Side High School, West Carroll High School and Henry County High School before returning to Russellville last year to take on an administrative role as assistant principal.

“I got into education because I wanted to coach, and I wanted to be a head coach and to coach football, and on the way my passion for education grew,” Bonds said. “The coaching part became second to being a teacher and wanting to advance in education and not just coaching.”

Bonds said after returning to school for his master’s degree, he decided working as an administrator was a good fit because of the lessons he learned as a coach.

”The coaching world gave me the background and the understanding of what it would take to deal with things in this office – the adversity, the sudden change, being in the hot seat all of the time and being able to deal with things quickly and dealing with things that you have no control over,” Bonds said. “For me, on the field, we always looked at how we could do what is best for the team, and it’s the same thing here. We want to do what is best for our teachers, and we want to make sure our students succeed.”

Bonds said although his first few weeks as principal have taught him a lot, he is still working toward his ultimate goal of making Russellville Middle School a better place.

“This place makes me better, so I hope that I could make it better before I leave – and I don’t mean that just on a professional level but on a personal level too,” Bonds said.

Russellville City Schools Superintendent Heath Grimes said he has been impressed with Bonds’ attitude and how hard he works at his job.

“I just recognized a lot of pride in our community and a want to give back to the community that gave a lot to him,” Grimes said. “I think he has a lot of pride and determination. He really has a desire to perform at an above-average level, both personally and for his school.”

Bonds said being back in the Russellville City Schools system means many familiar faces, with old classmates now working as teachers and some teachers still at the school – including West Elementary Principal Deanna Hollimon, who Bonds said was one of his elementary teachers.

“You always hear that once you teach a kid, they’re yours forever, so her telling me that she was happy for me and excited for me in this opportunity really meant a lot,” Bonds said of Hollimon’s encouragement.

Bonds said although he never intended to return to RCS, he is glad to be back in his hometown working to put down roots for himself and his family.

“Russellville is a special place,” Bonds said. “You know, a lot of people have looked at it as changing because of the demographics, but it is still the same Russellville we grew up in. The people here – I feel like they appreciate hard work and people trying to do what is best for their kids, for the students, and at the end of the day, that is all that I want to do.”