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Former WBHS JROTC leader cleared after appealing 2013 investigation

POSTED: August 31, 2014 12:00 p.m.

Winder-Barrow High’s former JROTC program head has been cleared to return to instructing.

Major Thomas Evans (ret) told the Barrow County News that he recently received notification that he is once again certified to teach at a program.

The notification came following his appeal of an investigation into him last year by the army that resulted in the investigating officer recommending he be decertified due to a number of complaints brought to the attention of the Army by former Barrow superintendent Wanda Creel.

Evans resigned his position prior to the public release of the investigation last fall.

"The investigation was lengthy and thorough and was reviewed by the highest level of Cadet Command," he said via email. "I recently received notification via certified mail that the process is complete and that my certification to teach Army JROTC is fully intact with no stipulations.

"Obviously, I am pleased with this outcome."

Current Barrow superintendent Chris McMichael, who replaced Creel at the end of the last school year, confirmed that the system received word of the appeal being completed Wednesday.

"I wish MAJ Evans all the best as he moves forward in his career pursuits," McMichael said.

Evans too spoke no ill will to the system he had been with up until last summer.

"I wish only the best for Barrow County schools and in particular the Winder Barrow JROTC program," he said.

Evans was replaced last school year by Lieutenant Colonel Todd Perkins, who is still leading the program.

Evans started the program along with 1st Sgt. Frank Brown – who resigned earlier in the summer of 2013 – in 2009 after both were involved with the Cedar Shoals High program in Athens for the previous five years.

When word first came out of issues between him and administration last summer, a number of his students and parents in the program leapt to his defense, by both showing up at board meetings and signing a petition.

A U.S. Army "Informal Investigation" began in early July of 2013 - the investigating officer was assigned to the case July 3 - and, when completed July 25, recommended that Evans be decertified from JROTC. Evans resigned last August.

The officer’s recommendation, which he decided on after reviewing the case, came down to three major misdeeds: "Violating public trust, displaying disrespect, and misconduct."

"Conduct that does not meet the standards expected of an army officer/WO/NCO, regardless of the instructor's retired status."

"Conduct causing discredit or embarrassment to the Army or the JROTC program."

The report, which redacted most names for privacy reasons, went into a number of issues investigated that had been previously reported to the 6th Brigade by members of the school system, including Superintendent Dr. Wanda Creel.

"There is an ongoing situation between (Creel) and MAJ (Ret) Tom Evans, the SAI at Winder-Barrow High School that dates back May of 2012," the investigating officer stated in the report.

Creel left for the same position at Gainesville City Schools at the close of the last school year.

Prior to last summer, Evans had garnered much positive attention in his time at Winder-Barrow High, including being honored with a Pillar of the Community Award by Winder Mayor David Maynard.

Even in the investigative report from 2013, despite the issues raised, the officer did note that the JROTC program that Evans founded and ran was "an incredibly good JROTC Program." He mentioned that Evans had volunteered to host the 6th Brigade's Raider Challenge four years in a row, coached track and football, hosted a benefit concert for a wounded veteran and even worked with disadvantaged children in the evening hours as a part-time job, among other things.

Evans served in the military for just over 20 years, according to his Winder-Barrow High profile, and is a 1979 Winder-Barrow High graduate.

 

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