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DCS: Claims against Foust unsubstantiated

A Tennessee Department of Children’s Services investigation regarding Ben Foust closed on Monday, and the claims made were deemed unsubstantiated.

That’s according to state DCS Communications Director Alex Denis.

“There was no evidence found to support the allegations,” Denis said.

It concludes a DCS investigation that lasted more than two months, which may have been longer because results have to be presented to the Child Protective Investigation Team and the CPIT team in Campbell County only meets monthly.

Foust was suspended back on March 17, but he was reinstated on April 12.

A Campbell County Sheriff’s Office investigation earlier this year found no evidence for criminal charges.

“Our case has been closed, no evidence to sustain criminal charges,” said Sheriff Wayne Barton in April.

Eighth Judicial District Attorney General Jared Effler said in April, “We reviewed the results of law enforcement’s investigation, and there was insufficient evidence to support a criminal charge.”

A press release from Isaacs Law Firm on April 12 read: “Campbell County High School Principal Benjamin Foust has been reinstated, effective immediately. Investigations by the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office, in addition to our firm’s independent investigation, determined that there was no substance to the anonymous telephone tip that led to the malicious and false allegations that were intentionally and illegally leaked to numerous media outlets. Principal Foust is extremely pleased to put this behind him and return [to] the Campbell County High School family of students, teachers and staff.”

In a completely unrelated matter, Foust was arrested by the Tennessee Highway Patrol last Thursday night on a Claiborne County failure to appear, according to Barton.

Claiborne County officials said it was due to a failure to appear on speeding and financial responsibility charges from 2006.

He was in Campbell County Jail on Friday morning, to be transported to Claiborne County.

According to a THP preliminary report, the arrest happened on State Route 66 at North Street.

“A Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper stopped the vehicle for a traffic violation,” per the report. “Upon further investigation, the driver had an active warrant out of Claiborne County. The driver was arrested and transported to the Campbell County Jail.”

Campbell County Director of Schools Jennifer Fields did not immediately return a call or text regarding this matter.

As of 9:37 a.m., on Friday morning, there had been no official notification to CCHS faculty.

Foust was released from jail, and he was present for Campbell County High School graduation on the stage on Saturday night at the CCHS football field.

  • Updated

Jellico hospital administrator resigns

Jellico Regional Hospital Administrator Kelly Christie has resigned.

In a letter, dated May 8, to the city council, Christie writes, “I would like to sincerely thank you and the community for welcoming my family and I to this wonderful area. Although it was a challenging and winding road in re-opening the hospital, the reward of the meaningful work in re-establishing the needed healthcare services for the community certainly exceeded any challenges experienced.

“Upon some reflection in recent months, I decided that my time serving within the administrator role was coming to an end. It was truly a rewarding experience working with and serving the gracious people of the Jellico community. Nevertheless, most things in life are not permanent and such was the case regarding my time in leading the hospital. An interim administrator is now in place for this transition, and I am confident that the hospital will continue to develop and thrive.

“Although I have truly appreciated the immense natural beauty in the Jellico area, I have been most impressed with the great humility of the people within the Jellico community. Thank you again for having supported me and having allowed me to serve this wonderful community.”

The hospital partially opened earlier this year after being closed for around two years — but is still not yet fully open, as of last Thursday.

The Jellico Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to have Boa Vida Healthcare take over operations of the hospital back in April 2021. Part of the reasoning behind that vote was expediency of returning hospital operations to the city. The vote was 4-1, with Sarah McQueen voting no.

Christie has not returned a call from the Press.

Jellico Regional Hospital officials confirmed last Thursday that Christie has resigned.

On the agenda under new business for the Jellico Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting that night was the resignation of Christie.

“He came by the other day and gave me a resignation where he was going to be resigning from the hospital and moving onto another job,” Jellico Mayor Sandy Terry said. “He didn’t go into any details.”

No vote was taken on the matter.

“It’s not anything we need to vote on,” Terry said. “It’s just something that I wanted to bring to the council’s attention that he did come by and speak with us, and he did appreciate everything that we had done for him and the hospital while he was there.”

The Jellico board also voted to approve a resolution to honor Pastor Jerome Walden and to put up a sign honoring him. An outside group will buy the sign.

The resolution, in part, reads: “In recognition of Pastor Jerome Walden’s service to the Jellico community and in honor of his dedication to the service to fellow mankind, North Florence Avenue from South Main Street to Dairy Avenue in the city of Jellico will hereafter also be known as Reverend Jerome Walden Way and appropriate signage will be erected in honor of Pastor Jerome Walden.”

JHS guidance counselor appealing suspension, which is set to end June 15

Jellico High School guidance counselor Cortney Evans was initially reinstated May 15, but then her suspension was extended through June 14.

That’s according to the final director’s report, filed on May 22 with the state board of education.

Per the final director’s report, “the employee was originally reinstated on May 15 with training and an improvement plan. However, under advisement from Board Attorney Dail Cantrell, the suspension was changed to a suspension from April 27 through June 14. There is still an ongoing investigation regarding this employee regarding additional complaints.”

The date of final employment action was listed as May 11.

Evans is appealing the suspension, and she has retained attorney Scott Tift.

“Ms. Evans loves her work and looks forward to returning to it on June 15,” Tift said. “Concerning her suspension, Ms. Evans hopes and believes it will be vacated on appeal.”

It is again noted in the final director’s report that there is no Department of Children’s Services case associated with this matter, and this matter is not being investigated by law enforcement.

Evans was suspended on April 27, due to allegations of inappropriate, non-explicit communication with a student; alleged inappropriate usage of school property; and “conduct that calls into question the fitness of an educator to hold a license,” according to the initial director’s report filed with the state board of education.

Evans declined to comment to the Press.

“Cortney Evans is alleged to have done a host of offenses in a short period of time,” according to the initial report. “Here is a list of them: 1) Allowing a student to sneak into school through a window and lay out of class in her office all day. 2) Inappropriately gaining access to a student’s IEP to complain about their testing accommodations. 3) Shared an email between her and a principal with students to defame the principal.”

The investigation file provides more detail on these complaints and additional allegations.

“A teacher inquired about one of her students not being in class but found out that the student had skipped class and was in Cortney Evans’ office,” per the initial report. “It was discovered that Cortney had woken up the student and asked her to bring her breakfast. Cortney created a Snapchat video of the student sneaking through the window with the caption, ‘How many kids sneak in school.’ Cortney Evans posted this video of the student crawling in the window with the help of another student. This incident occurred on March 30, 2023.”

Jellico High School Principal Danny Oakes declined to comment.

“It was brought to the principal’s attention that a Snapchat was circulating with an email he had sent to Cortney Evans regarding a decision to deny a field trip request,” per the initial report. “A student who had posted the Snapchat was asked where she got the email. She said Cortney Evans had sent it to her and said it was OK to share it because it was part of the Open Records Act. The screenshot of the email could have only come from Cortney Evans’ email.”

Campbell County Director of Schools Jennifer Fields did not respond to a phone call or text message regarding this matter.

“Cortney Evans asked a special education case manager for a student’s IEP,” per the initial report. “He provided her with the IEP at a glance, and she said she wanted the entire document. He gave her the entire IEP, thinking it had something to do with her counseling duties. After she looked through it, she started asking the case manager about the student’s accommodations and why he was able to get extended time on the ACT. The case manager responded patiently to the inquiry until she said that it was unethical. At that point, he ended the conversation, realizing that she did not have a legitimate educational need to see the IEP.”

Fields sent a text message to school board members on April 26, saying that a counselor had been suspended, pending a school district internal investigation.

“Cortney Evans verbally and through text messages embarrassed two students on several occasions,” per the initial report. “These students are the sons of a co-worker. One of them is the student in the previous incident regarding the IEP. One incident was reported by a former counselor who was visiting the building that day, and the other incident was reported by the father of the students who had text messages of them being berated in a group chat.”

The initial director’s report promised more detail into further complaints in the final director’s report, once the investigation was complete, but the final director’s report had no new information regarding complaints and stipulated that investigation into other complaints was still ongoing.

“There are several other complaints that involve insubordination, the Tennessee Teacher Code of Ethics and use of the internet that will be enumerated in the director’s final report after the investigation is complete,” according to the initial report.