Leonard Starnes II, a 2003 Reynolds graduate, has returned to his alma mater to serve as an assistant principal. Starnes, who was hired in September, began his duties at Reynolds on October 3 and is excited about the opportunity to join the Reynolds administration.
“Reynolds provided me with a wonderful education,” Starnes said. “I really wanted to come back and provide support to the community which helped shape me.”
Starnes was born and raised in Winston-Salem. He attended Reynolds for high school and was extremely involved, most notably in the JROTC program. Starnes was the Cadet Lt. Colonel of the drill team, the color guard commander and even served on the Brigade Staff, which was a district-wide JROTC leadership team. Additionally, Starnes assisted with athletic training and was a member of the Senior Executive Committee during his time amid the pines.
English teacher Ruth Sartin remembers Starnes and the impact he made when he attended Reynolds.
“When he was in school, he was such a leader,” Sartin said. “He was one of those names that you don’t forget.”
After graduating from Reynolds, Starnes attended Virginia Union University in Richmond and then began his career as a high school Business and Information Technology teacher in Virginia. After three years of teaching, Starnes became an assistant principal in and even served briefly as the Interim Principal at Options Public Charter School in Washington DC.. Starnes then spent some time working on the foundational side of education in the Baltimore area and had been the Director of Program Operations for the organization Building Educated Leaders for Life, a nonprofit that helps provide learning opportunities for students in grades K-8, when he elected to leave and take the job at Reynolds.
Even though Starnes was having success with his professional career he never believed that it would lead him back to his hometown.
“When I got the phone call to interview for this position, I laughed,” Starnes said with a smile. “I was extremely surprised. I never would have imagined coming back to Winston-Salem so soon.”
Coming back to Reynolds was not just a return to where Starnes grew up, it is a true homecoming since his entire family resides in Winston-Salem and it will allow him to be apart of the family business in addition to his duties at school.
“We have a very prominent family business here, so I’m really excited to be able to tackle both passions: business and education at the high school I graduated from,” Starnes said. “It’s a win-win for me at such a young age.”
Starnes has high expectations for Reynolds stemming from his time as a student at the school and wants to reinspire the school spirit and pride that he remembers at Reynolds.
“One of the things I plan to bring back to Reynolds is a sense of pride,” Starnes said. “Back in the day, the students at RJ Reynolds had a true sense of pride for our school and our name. We knew that we were the best and the brightest across Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and we showed it in everything that we did.”
Reynolds is vastly different now than when Starnes attended and he’s looking forward to working with the Arts programs, a staff that is committed to the success of the students and the students at the school in order to help provide access to college and career opportunities after graduation. Starnes is also thrilled about the proposition of a new on-campus stadium that could be coming in the near future.
“The opportunity of having a stadium on our campus is really going to seal the deal for what a high school experience should feel like for the students whom RJ Reynolds serves,” Starnes said.
Students are also looking forward to having Starnes on campus.
“I think he’s a hard-working and exciting guy,” senior Carson Almomani said. “He’s going to provide Reynolds with the ability to improve in the areas that it needs to.”
Starnes’ experiences have allowed him to work with many different types of people from different backgrounds and he believes that they will help him make a positive impact at Reynolds, which is known for its diversity.
“Reynolds has a lot of different cultures that exist on the student side and on the staff side and a lot of different needs that exist on the student, family and community sides,” Starnes said. “I look forward to being able to blend all of my experiences together and provide some assistance.”
Photo from Elizabeth Gunter