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franklin county times

Official ceremony recognizes RMS Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School status

Russellville Middle School was recently named a 2023 Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School – the first time RMS has been awarded this honor. 

This is truly a testament to the hard work, dedication, and passion of the administration, faculty, staff, and students at Russellville Middle School,” explained Dr. Natalie Bendall, RCS Curriculum Coordinator.  

“This designation is not easily earned, and it serves as a recognition of their commitment to academic excellence, innovation, and community involvement. I am very proud of the work Mr. Bonds, Dr. Moon and their team have done.  This is a well-deserved honor,” she added. 

The designation lasts for five years, at which point the school will be eligible for renewal. 

“This is extremely exciting and so well deserved,” said Russellville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Heath Grimes. “I feel RMS is kind of like our diamond in the rough. The middle grades are often overlooked by outside organizations, even at the state level.” 

The honor is based on the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence national validated assessment process. In addition to the comprehensive review process for the nine performance areas, stakeholder surveys, interviews and a two-day onsite review were also completed. 


“Mr. Bonds has quietly and effectively made positive changes to the culture at RMS,” Grimes praised. “He and Dr. Moon and their leadership team are highly talented and highly effective.” 

Bonds, 40, is the 2023 CLAS Alabama Association of Middle School Principals (AAMSP) Principal of the Year.  

“To see people recognize the effort we put in for our kids here is pretty awesome,” said Bonds. “We challenge our kids, and we are doing some really good things.” 

Representatives April Stansbury, sales director, and Mike Stansbury, assessor, from the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, officially presented the award to RMS in a ceremony May 11 at 10:00 a.m. in the school gym.  

“Tony Bonds is an outstanding instructional leader, and it is proven by the quality of the teaching and learning that go on in Russellville Middle School!” said April Stansbury. “We are excited to announce Russellville Middle School as a Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School of Excellence.” 


He said RMS has a shared goal of a “kids first” approach, noting they all strive to do what’s best for the students. “I think we do a really good job of that,” he added. 

He said what RMS teaches students goes beyond the textbook, including teaching them “how to be productive human beings.” 

Grimes said a key accomplishment is how quickly the school was able to achieve the status. 

“Some schools work for a couple of years or more to gain this level of recognition, while others never achieve it,” he explained. “RMS accomplished this task in a matter of months simply because they didn’t have to change much in order to achieve the recognition because they were already doing most of it.” 

RMS met 28 out of the 30 indicators, as well as the required criteria in the nine performance areas required: student focus and support; school organization and culture; challenging standard and curriculum; active teaching and learning; technology and integration; professional community; leadership and education vitality, school, family and community partnerships; and indicators of success. 

“It’s pretty impressive. What an accomplishment for our students, teachers, staff, administration and community,” said RMS Principal Tony Bonds. “Reaching this recognition is a pretty remarkable thing for us.” 

Bonds said the Blue Ribbon group conducted interviews and surveys with students, parents, teachers and members of administration, taking time to make sure what they were told matched with what they were seeing on campus during their two-day visit, in order to ensure teaching at a high-quality level was taking place. 

Bonds added the school will be changing to A+ curriculum next year. 

“It’s a pre-AP type program with a rigorous curriculum for our students,” he explained. “This is another piece of making sure we are aligned with what we’re doing as far as our standards, our curriculum and our instruction.” 

He said he is thankful for the commitment of everyone in the school and school system, working to make sure students receive the best education they can. 


“We’ve got some remarkable students, and the middle grade years are very difficult,” Bonds added. “The fact that our kids are thriving with the social and emotional changes and everything that goes along with being a middle school student – seeing them thrive while being educated at a high level – is really impressive.” 

“Our teachers have done a really great job of that, including outside-of-the-box thinking to best reach our students.” 

Bonds said the recognition validates what the school is doing for its students academically, socially and athletically. 

“These are all areas where we strive for excellence in what we’re doing,” he added. “It’s rewarding to have this assurance that we’re on the right path. It’s an awesome feeling, and we’re certainly proud of this accomplishment.” 

Blue Ribbon Lighthouse Schools commit to sharing expertise and exemplary practices with other schools on a local, regional, and national level as well as providing mentoring and networking to schools seeking guidance and assistance in school improvement initiatives. 

“I am so proud of the hard work and commitment of our teachers, students and administrators to achieve this honor,” said Russellville City Schools Board of Education president Kim Clonts. “This is a great accomplishment for Russellville Middle School.” 

The award will be presented during the Blue Ribbon Lighthouse Schools Conference in Orlando, Fla., at Disney’s Contemporary Resort at the Awards Luncheon on Friday, December 1. 

Among other recent RMS news:

Russellville eighth-graders 3-D print prosthetic arm
RMS science gets $5K
RMS students demonstrate projects at STEM Expo
RMS presents 101 Dalmatians children’s musical
RMS students present projects at Good Characters Expo


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