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Outgoing school chief appointed to state post

Less than a week after announcing his retirement from the Forsyth County school system, outgoing Superintendent Buster Evans has been tapped for a new post.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced Thursday that Evans will join the Department of Corrections as the assistant commissioner of Education effective July 1.

“I’m as excited as I’ve ever been,” said Evans, who has led the Forsyth district since 2008. “I’ve had two superintendent [posts] that have been in two outstanding districts. I’ve been blessed beyond what I deserve. But I really see this as an opportunity to hopefully affect change in a different setting.”

According to a statement from Deal, Evans will lead education initiatives within the department and assist in the implementation of the governor’s criminal justice reforms.  

“With seven out of every 10 Department of Corrections inmates lacking a high school diploma or GED, it is of the utmost importance that while individuals are in our criminal justice system, we do a better job of raising their education and skills to an adequate level,” Deal said.

“If an offender has been equipped to enter the work force upon release, that person will stand a greater chance of avoiding relapse.”

Evans said more than 90 percent of those incarcerated will eventually leave the prison system, with an average stay of about three years.

During that time, there’s a chance to make a difference. This program, he said, could give them “an opportunity to be successful in life and become people who actually contribute to society.”

“Any form of rehabilitation has got to include some form of educational programming,” Evans said. “Somebody’s son or daughter, somebody’s mom or dad will hopefully be able to return to society and instead of being a recidivist or repeat offender, be someone who their family can be proud of and break the cycles of poverty, break the cycles of criminal behavior that can sometimes be generational ... We can create hope and opportunity.”

Despite his years in education, Evans’ background is in criminal justice. He graduated from Valdosta State University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in sociology, with a concentration in criminal justice. Most of his postsecondary teaching experience has been in those two areas.

Evans said while the prison system has an education component, it’s not reached its potential. He plans to use a combination of online programming, particularly for literacy and GED programs, as well as career pathway opportunities and technical education programs. 

In his new role, he will draw from his criminal justice background and his success with Forsyth County’s schools implementing career pathways, focus on technical colleges and encouraging students to learn technology and related skillsets.

Deal described Evans as “a leader in our state’s education system for more than a decade” and applauded his continued service to the state.

“His years of experience and commitment to education will serve Georgians well in his new role,” Deal said.

Evans has led the local school system since 2008. He came to Forsyth from Bleckley County in middle Georgia, where he was assistant superintendent of schools and then became its first board-appointed superintendent.

Evans expressed gratitude for the opportunity.

“While the decision to retire [from Forsyth] was not an easy one, I look forward to helping nonviolent offenders achieve the kind of quality education that will allow for new growth and prosperity in Georgia’s work force,” he said.

“This is really a win-win for the individual, the state and the taxpayers … when we can create hope and opportunity, we will be successful in helping people enrich their lives and … have a more employable work force.”

A graduate of Leadership Georgia and a three-time finalist for the Georgia Superintendent of the Year, Evans is also a trustee and chairman of the Teacher’s Retirement Service of Georgia.

In addition, he sits on the Governor’s Education Advisory Board, Digital Learning Task Force, Superintendents Education Policy Advisory Group at the University of Georgia and the Georgia Education Solutions Group.

He has served as president of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders and president of the Georgia School Superintendents Association.