Ray Reynolds, a Collinsville businessman, is one of two candidates seeking the Collinsville District seat on the Henry County School Board being vacated by Merris Stambaugh.
“I lived here most of my life and I’ve been around the schools volunteering for over 20 years doing what I could,” said Reynolds. “I know firsthand what’s needed and the priorities.”
Reynolds said he didn’t think the Henry County School system was “functioning in the proper way” as evidenced by the low average amount spent per student.
Henry County allocates less per student than Patrick County and Martinsville, he said: “We are way behind.”
Reynolds blamed the Henry County Board of Supervisors for not making education a priority in Henry County by limiting the amount of local subsidy added to the funding provided by the state.
He said he also is concerned about reading rates and teacher salaries in Henry County.
“Henry County Schools is the largest employer in Henry County, and the insurance is as bad as it can get,” said Reynolds. “Although the insurance is paid [by the county] for the employee, if a teacher has two children and a spouse, it’s costs about $1,500 a month for a teacher to get family coverage.”
Henry County Public School spokesperson Monica Hatchett confirmed that “Active employees of HCPS receive the benefit of free Anthem health insurance ... To add family, the cost is $1326.42.”
Reversion in 2023 will fold the Martinsville City Public Schools system into Henry County, and Reynolds said that will create the need for a specific school to help non-English speaking students.
“We need a transition school so non-English speaking students can learn to function,” Reynolds said. “It’s possible Martinsville High School could become both a transition school and a trade school after reversion, but we’ve got to have more money to operate the school system so kids get a proper education.”
Reynolds said he agreed with Martinsville Circuit Court Clerk Ashby Pritchett’s opinion that the City and Henry County overstepped their legal authority by including the abolishment of Martinsville City Schools in the process of Martinsville reverting to a town.
“I think that Eric Monday [Martinsville city attorney and assistant city manager] and Martinsville City Council violated the laws, because the schools are a different entity,” said Reynolds. “They don’t have the right.”
Reynolds added that the low state rankings of Henry County Schools have been a deterrent to the recruitment of new industry, and a fundamental change needed to take place starting with new representation among the Henry County Board of Supervisors.
“We need new people on the board. They don’t work well together [with Henry County Schools] and that’s been proven,” Reynolds said. “I will be the voice of the people in my district. I’ll ask tough questions to the supervisors, and I will stand up for all students in schools and also make sure we’ve got the best security.
“We don’t want to wait until we have a disaster. You don’t buy a fire extinguisher after the house burns down.”
Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt.