Anthony and Shanna Darnell have dedicated an extensive amount of time, energy, and passion into Russell County Schools.
From teaching in the classroom to serving in administrative roles and counseling positions, coaching, and seeing their children grow up in Russell County Athletics, the last several years have saw Anthony and Shanna spend a large chunk of their lives involved in the school district.
“We’ve invested a lot of time into this school, a whole lot of time,” Anthony said. “We’ve seen it be successful. We’ve seen it go through different principals, different leadership. All of it has been good. Collin started school here and went all the way through here from Kindergarten on. Lindsey was right behind him and has gone here all the way through her junior year here. It’s been a really good experience.”
“You know, Russell County has really raised our kids in a way,” Shanna added. “They have been raised Lakers.”
But the Darnells also loved the idea of moving back to Adair County, where they lived for several years and where a lot of family resides. So when opportunities arose for both of them at Adair County High School, they had to consider the unique opportunity in front of them.
“We had never entertained the idea until this opportunity came about, and then it was just like that door was open for us,” Shanna said.
Anthony and Shanna have long worked together. While some couples would never fathom the idea of working in the same place as their spouse, that was a deal-breaker for the Darnells. One of them wasn’t leaving if the other wasn’t coming too.
An Assistant Principal position opened at Adair County High School, the same role that Anthony held at Russell County High School. Along with it, a College and Career Readiness Counselor position also opened at the school, a job that intrigued Shanna, who worked as a guidance counselor at RCHS.
Adair County High School has a new principal, and Anthony said coming in as an assistant at this time was a great opportunity.
“I told him that I thought we’d work really well together because with my experience here, I’ve welcomed challenges here and learned to do new things. Having done that, I feel confident being in charge of a building myself. I feel like I can come in and play a big support role for him and allow him to focus on things that a head principal needs to focus on. Even though he’s getting a new assistant principal, he’s not getting a rookie assistant principal.”
“I’ll be taking on a new role, but still a counseling position as a college and career readiness counselor,” Shanna added. “I’ve spent a number of years in the classroom here and then as a guidance counselor, which has been wonderful. Taking on that new opportunity is exciting.”
It was almost like a perfect storm, but that didn’t make the decision to leave any easier.
“You know this has all been bittersweet,” Anthony said. “The decision to leave was not easy. In fact, it was a very tough decision for both of us.”
“No, it wasn’t easy at all,” Shanna added. “We’re not gladly running away. We just believe this is a good opportunity for a change, but it wasn’t something we decided easily.”
Change can be a good thing, Anthony said. A lot of times, change can be viewed as a negative, but in this case, Anthony said it’s a positive thing.
“Change isn’t always a bad thing,” Anthony said. “Change is a good thing. It’s healthy for everybody. While we leave behind a lot of good memories and friendships, we’re looking forward to this new opportunity and whoever comes in here and fills these roles will also have a new opportunity.”
Fifteen years is a long time. It’s enough time to create long-lasting friendships and plenty of memories. Those friendships and memories are things the Darnells say they will always hold close from their time at RCHS.
Anthony said memories through athletics stick out in particular.
“I think people have to understand how important athletics are to the school,” Anthony said. “Those coaches and those mentors help to develop the people who are going to possibly be the future leaders of the community. The football games, the baseball games, basketball games, softball games, all that. There have been so many memories of championships won and heartbreaking defeats. All those things are great memories we’ll always take with us.”
Anthony also mentioned that he was really appreciative of local media outlets in Russell County covering the school district and Russell County Athletics.
He also mentioned Russell County Schools Superintendent Michael Ford and the board of education as people he has excellent relationships with.
“I told Mr. Ford the other day that the beauty of working here is that I can call on you as a superintendent but also as a friend and get good advice and you’ll steer me in the right direction,” Anthony said. “Same with our board. They’ve been awesome to work with.”
Darnell also said the administrative team at RCHS has been wonderful, along with people he’s coached with like Ryan Richardson, Charlie Anderson, Michael Carpenter, Darren Gossage, Stacy Anderson, Keith Ellis, Bill Sharp, Scottie Weston, and many others.
“I could go on and on about the number of people who have helped us along the way,” he said. “I just appreciate each and everyone of them tremendously.”
As their time in Russell County comes to a close, the Darnells say they’ll always hold fond memories of Russell County.
“We were welcomed from day one into this community,” Anthony said. “They never looked at us as outsiders. They welcomed our entire family. I appreciate that because we’ve developed a lot of life-long friends through our work here and this community and school will always be a part of our life.”
“I always tell people not to be sad that we’re leaving,” Shanna said. “Russell County and Adair County are both like home to us now. We have home in two places and I think that’s a really great thing.”