North Georgia Technical College President dies of COVID-19

Community, News
North Georgia Technical College

CLARKESVILLE, Ga – On September 13 at 8:17 a.m., North Georgia Technical College announced on social media that its President Dr. Mark Ivester passed away from COVID-19 on September 12, 2020.

Ivester, 57, battled the virus for several weeks before passing away late Saturday evening in a Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Braselton, Ga. The Acree-Davis Funeral Home will be handling the funeral arrangements. Anyone wishing to send condolences or flowers can do so on the funeral home’s website.

Ivester dedicated his life to the technical college for almost 20 years. He became president of North Georgia Technical College in 2016. Previously, he served as the vice president of economic development. Additionally, Ivester earned a doctorate in education from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Brenau University, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Condolences are pouring in from the community and across the state either on social media or the Acree-Davis Funeral Home condolence wall. One individual wrote:

“Had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Ivester working at NGTC and he was always so sweet and had a vibrant smile upon his face. Prayers for the family, friends, and colleagues during this time. Sorry for the loss.”

North Georgia Technical College has not released details about an interim president or memorial services at this time. The technical college has campuses in Clarkesville, Blairsville, and Toccoa.

Ivester is survived by his wife, Eleanor, and their children.

North Georgia Technical College suspends classes

Announcements, Community
north georgia technical college

UNION COUNTY, Ga – North Georgia Technical College will suspend classes and activities across all campuses until March 20.

From the school:

COVID-19 update:

In light of the current health issues and concerns resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19), North Georgia Technical College has made the decision to suspend classes and activities on all campuses until March 20, 2020.

Faculty and staff will be on campus next week. Dorm students will be allowed to stay in dorms and meals will be provided.

We have made this decision to address the health concerns surrounding COVID-19 while minimizing the disruption of delivering educational services. While a variety of factors influenced this decision, be assured that the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff is always our primary concern. The emergency management team is meeting daily and will continue to develop answers, adjust plans as necessary, and communicate frequently. Please monitor the NGTC website for updated information and resources.

Feb. 15 is a day of prayer for women of Union County

Community, Featured

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – During the January Union County Commission meeting, Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris proclaimed Feb. 15, 2020 as a day of prayer for the women of Union County.

Cindy Bailey, of Notla River Baptist Association, spoke about the event being held all-day on the 15th at North Georgia Technical College (NGTC) Blairsville Campus as part of a global women’s prayer movement.

“As an answer to a lot of hurting people, especially hurting women throughout the country. The call came out at the National Day of Prayer that they should gather the women as Psalm 68:11 says,” stated Bailey.

NGTC will be take place from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is open to all women or women’s group. It is non-denominational and non-political. The event is purely to pray for women as part of the She Loves Out Loud movement. For those that can’t attend She Loves Out Loud is offering a free interactive livestream.

“She Loves Out Loud is a movement for all women who choose to love without judgement and to pray in earnest for the healing of America.”- She Loves Out Loud Facebook

The organization invites women to “pray in the Gap between trauma and triumph, anger and peace, [as well as] bitterness and forgiveness.”

“We’re there to pray for healing and hope for women: abused women, women who have been sex trafficked, [and] women who are seeking motherhood through fostering or adoption,” explained Bailey.

The first half of the event will focus on those special needs in Union County. The three areas that will be covered are suicide, mental illness, and community connectivity.

“Women throughout the ages have prayed,” said Bailey, “Prayed for the children they’re carrying. Prayed for the children that were born. Prayed for their husbands that have gone off to war. And likewise, on Feb. 15, women will be gathered together for the first time in prayer unity.”

Dispose of Old Electronics Saturday at NGTC

Press Release

BLAIRSVILLE, GA – Keep Union County Beautiful (KUCB) in partnership with Document Destruction Services and Atlanta Recycling Solutions are taking old electronics on Saturday, Nov. 9 from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m at North Georgia Technical College. It will be rescheduled if rain is forecasted for that weekend, so please check with KUCB before making the trip.

The organization will request a $5 donation for Mountain Animal Shelter. Over the past four years, the event has raised around $4,000 for shelter animals.

The even is accepting TVs for a $20 fee and old CRT monitors for a $10 fee. The cost is what it takes to recycle televisions and monitors due to the high amounts of mercury in the glass.

Before arriving and to keep the line flowing, please remove and bag all cords/ cables from your devices. The address for North Georgia Technical College is 121 Meeks’ Park Ave., Blairsville, Ga 30512.

A few items will NOT be accepted, which are:

  • Projection/Console TVs
  • Washer/Dryers
  • Vacuum Cleaners
  • Speakers (Wooden)
  • Gas Grill Tanks
  • Battery Powered Tools
  • Liquid Containing Devices
  • Alkaline Batteries
  • Car Batteries
  • Toaster Ovens
  • De-Humidifiers
  • Gas Powered Tools
  • Household Trash
  • Microwave Ovens
  • Radioactive Material
  • Humidifiers
  • Tires
  • Freezers
  • Blenders
  • Mixers
  • Ovens
  • Hair Dryers
  • Ceiling Fans
  • Refrigerators

Originally, the event was scheduled for Oct. 26 but moved due to rain. For more information on disposing of your old electronics, call 706-318-5448.

July 4th Festivities Celebrate America’s History

Community, Union County Chamber
July 4th

Blairsville, Ga – Fireworks, Revolutionary Soldiers, football, and music represented a fun-filled July 4th for everyone in Blairsville.

Union County hosted a variety of events for Independence Day, kicking off at Vogel State Day for a day of American fun from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Festivities included pedal boat races, bicycle parade, sandcastle competition, sack racing, and a watermelon eating contest.

Meeks Park and North Georgia Technical College hosted the Chamber of Commerce’s sponsored fireworks show. The large crowd began turned up around 6:30 p.m., but the majority didn’t arrive until closer to dusk. Still, the sides of Hwy. 515 were lined with cars ready to watch this year’s display.

Chamber President Steve Rowe reported they sold over 300 tickets for the fireworks show and almost sold out of t-shirts. Five food vendors partnered with Chamber of Commerce to provide food including Chick-fil-a, Kona Ice, and Hey Man Kettle Corn.

Hey Man Kettle Corn served up their product to the fireworks crowd.

Perhaps, the most special part of the whole fireworks event was the ability to bring 15 local nursing home residents to the show. They had previously expressed an interest in attending the July 4th celebration, and Chamber hired a bus from to bring residents over to North Georgia Tech for the show.

Kathie McMillan won the tailgaters package raffle sold leading up to and during the event. The $10 raffle helped to make the fireworks display possible. McMillan won a Kayak, gas grill, Yeti cooler, tent, fit bit, Yeti tumbler, umbrella, and two folding chairs.

East Coast Pyro made the entire show possible by providing the fireworks for another year.

Union County Sheriff’s Office was exceptional in getting everyone home safely.

First United Methodist Church (FUMC) provided a variety of entertainment before the Meeks Park Fireworks show kicked off. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., the church’s praise band, Overflow, performed American standards like “America the Beautiful,” “Star-Spangled Banner,” and classic rock hits.

Sons of the American Revolution, in period dress, taught the crowd about Revolutionary Soldiers and colonial life in the 1700s. They brought period toys, muskets, and flags, and set up a colonial campsite for kids to play around.

Sons of the American Revolution instructed onlookers about colonial life and revolutionary warfare.

Boy Scouts of America Troup 101 sold BBQ and FUMC’s Youth Group sold drinks. The church also had a flag football game going for kids who wanted to play.

Girl Scout Troup 11365 led a Flag Retirement Ceremony at 7:30 p.m. with the praise band playing after until dusk.

Over in Suches, the small town also held a Fireworks show for residents behind Woody Gap School thanks to the Suches Fire Department at Station 5. It started at 5:30 p.m., full of family fun and food. In case you didn’t know, the Suches show originated with locals shooting bottle rockets at the general store.

Independence Day celebrations wrap up on Saturday, July 6th with a boat parade at Lake Nottely. Starting at 12 p.m., boats will make a lap through the cove by Hwy. 129 and judging will follow.

Navy Seabees Celebrating 77th birthday


The Ball is listed as an All Military Ball is in recognition of the NAVY Seabees 77th Birthday. We hope to have representation from all Military Branches in attendance.,” stated Ed Crenshaw of NSVA Island X-3 Blairsville.

NSVA stands for Naval Seabee Veterans of America. (

All Military branches, Veterans, and Civilian Guests are invited to be with us on March 2,for this gala event.

This wonderful event will be held in the Ball Room of North Georgia Technical College in Blairsville. It starts at 5:30 pm with dinner, music, DJ, and dancing.

Tickets information can be obtained by contacting Ed Crenshaw (706)379-3472 or Keith Hunter (904)733-8698.

Final date of sales will be Friday, February 28, 2019. 

Union Board of Education discusses strategic planning, hears audit report

News, Panther's Corner

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – Superintendent Dr. John Hill presented a proposal for strategic planning and the Union County Board of Education heard the results of a communication audit at the board’s Tuesday, April 17, meeting.

Last month, the board voted to accept the Georgia Vision Project as a guideline of recommendations and suggestions for school boards to follow in updating strategic plans. During Tuesday’s work session, Hill explained that although some programs within the school district are updated annually, the school system’s charter renewal and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation are updated every five years and both are slated to be renewed in the 2018-19 school year.

Hill proposed to the board to hire the Georgia School Board Association (GSBA) as a third party entity to assist the school system with updating its strategic plan. Hill also stated the use of a third party to help develop a strategic plan will promote increased honest input from the community and the school system’s stakeholders.

After BOE Chairwoman Cynthia Odom asked about future needs inherent of the strategic plan, Hill answered saying, “It will basically provide us a clear five-year road map as to where the (school) system’s going.”

Later, in the regular meeting, the BOE unanimously approved the hiring of GSBA to assist with developing an updated strategic plan for the school system. Neither the terms of the hiring nor the cost were disclosed during the meeting.

Dr. Paula Davenport, federal programs director and student and staff director, presented the board the results of a communication audit recently conducted by the GSBA.

“It’s very important that our school system communicates effectively and that we’re transparent in all that we do,” Davenport stated to the board.

Davenport explained a representative from GSBA recently visited the school system and spoke with parents, students, teachers, school leaders, and focus groups while also examining the school system’s website, social media sites, and various paperwork to determine what the school system is “doing well and maybe some things that (it is) not doing well” in its approach to communication.

Regarding the reasoning for the communication audit, Davenport stated there were four main goals: to better educate the general public, to improve parent engagement, to build morale internally, and to praise achievements within the school system.

The audit, according to Davenport, reported the school system is utilizing social media quite well and especially noted Union County High School’s utilization of social media.

As far as improvements suggested to the school system, the audit stated communication in family engagement could be better incorporated into the school system’s mission statement. The audit also stated the school system’s branding is dated and pointed out inconsistencies in fonts and logos on the school system’s website. Also, the results of the audit suggested providing professional training to teachers and school leaders on communicating with parents of students.

Later in the meeting, several awards and recognitions were made. Millie Owenby, principal of Union County Primary School, presented Librarian Casey Potts with a Going the Extra Mile recognition. Owenby read a list of several responsibilities and tasks Potts has willingly performed and added, “But most importantly, Ms. Casey knows every student’s name in our building and she also knows what their interests are.”

Gwen Stafford, principal of Union County Middle School, recognized the school’s boys soccer team for going undefeated and winning the region championship this past season. Of the team’s accomplishments, Coach Chris Robbins stated, “I couldn’t be more proud of this team right here. Thank you for letting me coach them.”

Josh Davis, Career, Technical and Agriculture Education (CTAE) director of Union County High School (UCHS), recognized welding instructor Derrick Dillinger and four welding students for finishing as runner-up in this year’s Skills USA welding competition.

Gerald Bavero, assistant principal and testing coordinator of UCHS, presented eight advanced placement (AP) educators – April Krieger, Deborah Nichols, Teena Atkins, Greg Chambers, Lynn Deweese, Mark Donahue, Alecia Frizzell, and Katie Scott – with certificates of recognition for the state naming UCHS as a 2018 AP Challenge School.

“The reason our school performs so well is right here,” Superintendent Hill said of the AP instructors.

For this month’s Partners in Education award, Davenport presented three nearby colleges with plaques in appreciation of those institutions’ participation in the dual enrollment program in Union County Schools. According to Davenport, during the 2017-18 school year, 161 Union County high school students participated in at least one dual enrollment course. All told, 529 different courses were taken by Union County students at eight different institutions. Davenport also stated that all tuition fees and costs for textbooks are all waived for dual enrollment students, accounting for a savings of $760,400 to students for this school year alone.

Davenport presented the Partners in Education awards to Dr. Mark Ivester, president of North Georgia Technical College, Dr. Drew Van Horn, president of Young Harris College, and Sandy Ott, campus administrator of University of North Georgia at Blue Ridge.

“We’re so appreciative. I don’t believe that everybody realizes what we have here and the value that Dr. Davenport highlighted – three-quarters of $1,000,000 this year,” Hill stated. “These folks are so helpful, and we appreciate everything you do for our kids.”

Tiffany Setzer, assistant special education director, presented special education instructors Carla Drake and Alicia Meng as the first recipients of the Extra Mile and Service Above Self awards, respectively.


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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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