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DeSoto County Schools

DeSoto Digest Newsletter - June 2018

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30+ Club

     The 30+ Club is unique at all eight of our high schools. In order to be a member, a student must have a composite score of 30 or more on their ACT. Our school district has a total of 136 seniors in the 30+ Club, and they were recognized by the DeSoto County Board of Education for this major accomplishment. While not all could be present for this special recognition, their names were called and their hard work was acknowledged.

 Southaven High School

Olive Branch High School

Lewisburg High School

Lake Cormorant High School

Horn Lake High School

Hernando High School

DeSoto Central High School

Center Hill High School

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KJ Wright Comes Home to Olive Branch

     It is not every day a Super Bowl star comes to visit a DeSoto County School. KJ Wright, NFL player for the Seattle Seahawks and starting linebacker in Super Bowl 50, flew home to return to his Alma Mater, Olive Branch High School. He met with the OBHS boys' basketball players and made a donation to pay for their 2018 state championship rings. In a brief ceremony, Principal Jacob Stripling thanked Wright for his generous donation, and former teachers reminded everyone that Wright was a strong student at OBHS and a leader in the classroom. 

     Wright started kindergarten at Olive Branch Elementary and graduated from OBHS in 2007. He was a 3-sport athlete in basketball, track and football at OBHS, and his childhood home is a few blocks from the high school where his parents still live. After high school, Wright had a stellar college career at Mississippi State University. "I wanted to give back to my high school and my community. I am blessed to play for the NFL. This is a small contribution, " KJ Wright said. 

KJ Wright (middle) with his cousins, Kelvin Allen and Cameron Matthews

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It's a Great Day to be a Jaguar!

     DeSoto Central's baseball team defeated George County in a three game series to become the 2018 MHSAA 6A State Baseball Champions. Game 1: George County 5, DeSoto Central 4; Game 2: DeSoto Central 5, George County 1; Game 3: DeSoto Central 10, George County 1. DCHS Head Coach Mark Monaghan was named 6A Baseball Coach of the Year.

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DeSoto Central Lady Jags Win MHSAA State Title

     There is power in a group of people who work together as a team. According to Cliff Johnston, principal at DeSoto Central High, this power is what propelled  their softball team to win the 2018 MHSAA 6A  Fast-Pitch Softball Championship. Phyllis Hicks, head softball coach, agreed.  “This team had a great balance of all aspects of the game—good pitching, hitting and defense. Talent wins games. Teamwork wins championships.”

    This was Coach Hicks' third time to make it to a state championship round, and the third time was a charm. The Jags defeated four opponents in the playoffs to win the state championship. They defeated Madison Central, Clinton and Northwest Rankin to make it to the championship series. They defeated Harrison Central in two straight games to win the title. “All of the teams had different strengths.  Each team brought a challenge. Our team is talented and combined experience with that talent—especially pitching—to  win the state championship,”  Coach Hicks said.

     Besides being great players, these girls are community oriented and are involved in their school, clubs and the community. “DCHS’s Most Beautiful and 1st Alternate are our pitcher and our catcher,” Hicks said. These two are good examples of our well-rounded team.

     “These girls have worked hard.  They know they are standing on the shoulders of those before them,” she added.  “They wanted to do something other DCHS softball teams have not. They wanted to win a state championship.” Since most players will be returning next year, Coach Hicks feels their future is as bright as ever. 

     Even though this was the first state championship for Hicks as a coach, this was not her first state championship for DeSoto County Schools. She won two state championships as a Southaven High School player in 1997 and 1998 under late SHS softball coach Morris Hunter.

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5A MHSAA State Champions

     Center Hill High School Girls’ Track team is the Mississippi High School Athletics Association 2018 5A State Champion Winner. Impressive? Yes. What is more impressive is that these young women started working for this title at a track camp when they were in the 4th grade under the direction of their PE teacher and coach, J.J. Downs. 

     The original camp began with 10 to 12 students ten years ago. The coach's comprehensive track camp now has 50 to 70 students, and his high school track team has 100 students, about 50 girls and 50 boys.  Nineteen of his Girls’ Track Team qualified for state, and they “brought home the gold” this year.  

     Camaryn McClelland, a senior, won four events at the meet, with each event earning points for her team.  Camaryn will attend Austin Peay University on a track scholarship in the fall.

     “Our kids work hard to succeed,” Down said.  “They are strong academically and have excellent conduct.  Watching this group grow and develop has been an amazing experience for me. This has been a team effort.  I have excellent assistant coaches.  Winning is just a byproduct.”

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DCS School Board Honors State Champions

Southaven High School 4x400 State Relay Champions in 6A are Eboni Stevenson, Aaliyah Lacy, Shelby Olford and Kelaiah Williams Ball.  The relay team set a new state record time of 3:57.52. They are pictured with Coach Jarrod Dudley, Coach Amy McCrory, Principal Shane Jones and Superintendent Cory Uselton.

Olive Branch High School Student Athlete Ethienne Smith (center) is the 5A Long Jump State Champion. Principal Jacob Stripling joined Superintendent Uselton in congratulating the new champion. 

Olive Branch High School's Fabian Lovett (center) is the 5A Shot Put State Champion.  Lovett is pictured with Principal Jacob Stripling and Superintendent Uselton. 

Principal Duane Case joins Superintendent Cory Uselton to celebrate 6A State Champion Kaitlyn Cartwright who won the 800, 1600 and 3200 for Hernando High School. Kaitlyn and Coach Walker received certificates from the School Board.

Superintendent Cory Uselton presented certificates to 5A State Tennis Champion Mikaila Coleman (Center Hill High School) and Coach Gayla Arvin.

 5A State Champions in the 4x100 Relay are Kaylen Johnson, Jada Crutchfield, Faith Williams and Kyla Johnson. Coach J.J. Downs, Coach Epting and Coach Hall are pictured with the relay team and Superintendent Uselton. 

 Superintendent Uselton congratulates Center Hill High School Student Athlete Jamyah Graham on the 5A State Championship in Pole Vault. Jamyah is surrounded by her coaches. 

 Center Hill High School Senior Camaryn McClelland made it to the podium in four events at the State Track and Field Meet. She is the 5A State Champ in 100m hurdles, 300m hurdles, long jump and triple jump.  She is pictured with her track coaches and Superintendent Cory Uselton.

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The Olive Branch Rotary Club Honors DCS Students and Educators

     The Rotary Club of Olive Branch saluted education in a big way through three scholarships, Rotary Teacher of the Year presentations, recognizing a principal as a Paul Harris Fellow, and the announcement of a project to build a basketball facility at Center Hill Elementary School.

     Three high school seniors, Amber Terry of Center Hill High School, Donovan Gordon of Lewisburg High School and Allen Bailey Saffold of Olive Branch High School, received $1000 scholarships for college.

     Each school in the Olive Branch area had a nominee for “Rotary Teacher of the Year.” The winner of Rotary Teacher of the Year was James Donald Wiltshire, Jr., a science teacher at Lewisburg Middle School. In a letter of recommendation, former student Riley Littleton said science was not the only subject Wiltshire teaches—he also teaches responsibility," Riley said.  “I am blessed to know Mr. Wiltshire not only as a teacher, but also as a role model in my life.”

     Lisa Love, Rotarian and retiring principal of Overpark Elementary, was named a “Paul Harris Fellow,” one of Rotary’s highest awards for her service to her school and her community.

     A special Rotary project was announced by Rotarian Dr. Greg Evans. Olive Branch Rotary is joining Center Hill Elementary PTO to raise funds to build a basketball court in honor of the late CHES Principal Becky Dearden. “The Becky Dearden Basketball Court will be built in loving memory and honor of an amazing educator to DeSoto County Schools, a leader to Center Hill Elementary School and the Olive Branch community, a dedicated Rotarian, and a dear friend,” Dr. Evans said.  “We anticipate a dedication at the completion of the project hopefully by the fall of 2018.”

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Cutting-Edge Technology—CTC-East Logistics Class

     A scale-model distribution center with radio-controlled forklifts, automation and drone technology is on the drawing board for the Logistics Class at Career & Technology Center--East. 

     After securing a $14,000 grant from First Books to build a storage mezzanine, instructor Mike Doss decided this raised platform would be the perfect start to comply with the activity component of his logistics curriculum. “Students will be on the mezzanine with radio-controls,” Doss said.  “They will be able to look down and operate the model distribution center using STEM systems.” Doss said he feels this addition to his program will increase the number of students enrolled at CTC-East.

   “DeSoto County is quickly becoming one of the major distribution centers in the Southeast.  The demand for a trained workforce in logistics grows daily.  After we establish our model distribution center, I think this class will be an opportunity for field trips for our younger students and will introduce them to future careers in a growing market,” Doss said.

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MS Farm Bureau Federation Ag Art Contest

     Three Desoto County School students won top awards in the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Agriculture Art Contest.  All three will have their art published in the 2019 Ag Art Calendar that is distributed statewide. The title of the contest was called “Down on the Farm.” Farm scenes, agricultural crops and animals  were the subjects of most art pieces. Mississippi Farm Bureau sponsors this contest every year to give Farm Bureau Women an opportunity to reach students in grades 1-6 and 7-12 and increase awareness of the importance of agriculture in Mississippi.  

     Kaitlyn Hartfield at Horn Lake High was the top entry in grades 7-12, plus the overall winner for all grades.  Her drawing will be featured on the cover as well as included in the calendar. She won a total of $200.  Her AP art teacher, Tammy Gill Smith, suggested using her mother’s chickens as “models.” There were hundreds of entries (391 in DeSoto County alone), and Kaitlyn's beautiful pencil drawing of nesting chickens was the Grand Award Winner,” said Dr. Sandy Slocum, MS Farm Bureau Ag Education Specialist.

     Sergio Torres from Southaven Elementary School and Anson Yan at Overpark Elementary were selected as top picks.  They received  $100 each and will also be published in the calendar. 

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     The Superintendent’s Youth Leadership Council (SYLC) fosters growth in communication skills, develops confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills, teaches financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and opens participants’ eyes to the political world. This year they studied Entrepreneurship and culminated their studies to the financial district in New York City.

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Spotlight Students Become Seasoned Investors at SIS

     Three teams of Spotlight students in Kathryn Lander’s classes at Southaven Intermediate School won 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the Northern region of the Mississippi Council for Economic Education’s Stock Market Game, a program of the SIFMA Foundation.

     These students coolly decided whether to buy or sell, without getting fixated on what they paid for a particular investment. They learned markets are unpredictable and that it is extremely hard to earn market beating returns. Their favorite stocks included Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Intel. “I had to learn about investing before my students started this game,” said Lander. “This program teaches students to think critically and problem solve.”

     The top place team included Alex Blevins, Cameron Thomas, Gabriel Peppers and Kamarien Smith.

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Hernando Hills Welcomes Students from Hernando Elementary

     When the new school year starts, Hernando Elementary students will already know their way around Hernando Hills Elementary since they spent the day touring the second and third grade school. 

     Third graders Eason Goss and Analeigh Daves were two of the guides.  They led their group to the cafeteria. 1st graders grabbed a cookie and listened to the choir and ukulele players perform. Their next stop was the PE room to meet Mrs. Carr who incorporates academics with exercise. With students walking in straight lines, the tour guides led them to the Red Hall where they will have art classes, the Green Hall where they will study music, the Yellow Hall to see the library and the learning lab. The biggest hit of the day was the playground. Avery Gunter summed up the day by saying, “I am going to like it here.”

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CHES Grants Make-A-Wish

     Three-year-old John Hobbs spent more than seven months at St. Jude Research Hospital to be treated for a rare cancer in his sinus cavity. It is called Mesenchymal Chondrosarcoma. The radiation, chemo and lengthy treatment were put behind him while John, Center Hill Elementary School students and staff celebrated his recent cancer-free diagnosis with a “Make-A-Wish” event. 

     “On the Farm” was the theme of the all-school celebration. Students waved signs that said, “Ride “Em Cowboy” and “Giddyap John.”  A pink pig and the Chick-fil-A cow added to the excitement. John and his three sisters who attend Center Hill Elementary stood together as the school ambassadors unfurled a banner that said, “You are going to Disney!”

     “There are no words to describe how touched we are by this generous gesture,” said John’s mother, Lyzz Hobbs.  Lyzz recently graduated from Ole Miss and will teach 6th grade at Southaven Middle School in the fall.

     The afternoon event ended with John petting farm animals and feeding a bottle of milk to a baby goat. The family was also treated to cake and punch provided by the YMCA staff.  Spotlight teacher Emy Rutland chaired the event. This is the 15th wish CHES has granted, an annual event started by the late Principal Rebecca Dearden who wanted CHES to be known as “the giving school.” “I think this program teaches students to give back to others and be kind,” said CHES Principal Leslie Heyman.  “This was a total school effort. “

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Southaven High School Awarded American Theater Wing Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative Grant

     The American Theater Wing announced the Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative Classroom Resource Grant award winners for 2017-18.  Southaven High School was one of 14 recipients out of 200 applicants. 

     "Arts education, and making theater available to all young persons, is vital to the growth of culture and society. The grant proposals received have shown the widespread need for arts funding in primary and secondary schools across America. I am proud that we are now entering the second year of this program, and am excited for the years to come," said Andrew Lloyd Webber.

     With this foundation's grant program, public schools are able to receive more of the resources they need for quality drama instruction. Funding provides instruments, lighting grids and other necessary materials to help create and enhance existing theater programs.

     Theater teacher Cassie Cox said a new LED lighting system for Southaven High School's auditorium will be safer for students to use. Students will learn how to effectively use color in lighting design firsthand instead of in theory.     

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Retirees 2018

     "To educate is to touch lives forever." The DeSoto County School Board and Superintendent Cory Uselton celebrated 32 retirees at a special retirement breakfast sponsored by SouthGroup Insurance Services.

     Whether the retiree was a bus driver, a cafeteria worker, a classroom assistant, a teacher or in administration, the sentiment was the same. DCS will always hold a special place in their hearts. These adults have made an impact on the lives of students, but more often than not, students have left memorable marks on these adults. 

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Senior Walk

     The tradition continues at DeSoto County Schools. During the last week of school, seniors put on their caps and gowns and walked through nearby elementary and middle schools. The seniors inspired younger students and had the opportunity to see teachers who helped them get where they are today. Congratulations to the Class of 2018!

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The DeSoto County School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs and activities and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups.

DeSoto County Schools

Communications Department
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5 East South Street
Hernando, Mississippi 38632
Phone: 662-429-5271
Fax: 662-429-4198