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DeSoto County Schools

DeSoto Digest Newsletter - January 2019

MDE 'Celebration of Excellence' Tour

The leadership team at DeSoto County Schools

     DeSoto County School District received a congratulatory visit from the Mississippi Department of Education.

     Mississippi School Superintendent Dr. Carey Wright visited school districts that scored an “A” on the state’s accountability system. She came to Lake Cormorant Elementary School to recognize DCS leaders, school board members, principals, teachers and students for their hard work and academic achievements. LCES Principal Carol Smith opened the ceremony and introduced the Lake Cormorant High School JROTC Color Guard who presented the colors. A special Lake Cormorant School zone combined choir sang a moving rendition of “A Wish for Peace” under the direction of LCES Choral Director Christa Horton.

LCES Choir Director Christa Horton leads the combined Lake Cormorant area choir.

     “We started the Celebration of Excellence Tours three years ago, and DeSoto County Schools has been honored this way since Mississippi Accountability Assessment Program (MAP) testing began,” Dr. Wright said.  “Only nine school districts in this state can claim this honor.” Of the 144 school districts in Mississippi, the state school superintendent visited 18 “A” districts over 16 days, and DCS was her last stop on the “Celebration of Excellence” tour.  

     Dr. Wright said successful school districts have common characteristics. “A pattern I have noticed is the teachers are very committed to engaging children, making sure that all needs are being met and using data to guide decision making,” she said.  “This is happening at DeSoto County Schools.”

     She pointed out DeSoto County Schools was the only district in Mississippi to earn a spot on the AP Honor Roll in 2017-2018, has five current students who have scored a 36 on the ACT, and has 20 seniors named National Merit Semifinalists.  She also noted that Center Hill Middle School was recently named a “Blue Ribbon School,” the highest national award a school can receive. She said only 22 middle schools nationwide received this honor.

Student ambassadors gave tours of Lake Cormorant Elementary School.

     “When a district earns an “A,” it tells everyone in the community that their schools are among the very best in the state,” Dr. Wright noted.  “The system is inclusive of all students and measures how well schools help students at every level.  Schools get credit for helping those students who struggle the most make progress. Schools also get credit for challenging students with advanced coursework opportunities such as Advanced Placement and dual credit classes.“

School Board Member Michele Henley, Representative Dan Eubanks, and Board Member Sarah Doss-Thomas

     Supt. Cory Uselton introduced elected officials who attended the event, including Mississippi Representative Dan Eubanks, and DCS Board Members Sarah Doss Thomas, Ann Jolley, and Michele Henley. He introduced members of his “Teacher Advisory Council” who are the “Teachers of the Year” from their respective schools and serve as advisors to the superintendent.  Finally, he recognized principals and Central Services employees who were in attendance.

The Teacher Advisory Council with Superintendent Uselton.

     “We have such an incredible team of leaders throughout our district,” Uselton said.  “Being a former teacher and principal, I understand the challenges faced by our school leaders. Our ongoing theme is to ‘Raise the Bar.’ We want everyone to continue to reach and strive for student success.”

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Nakobe Dean Wins National Award

Nakobe accepted the national award in front of his teammates.  Behind him was a photo of the Eagles accepting the trophy for winning the 2018 6A MHSAA Football Championship ending the season with a perfect 15-0 season.

     Horn Lake High Senior Nakobe Dean has been named the winner of the 2018 Dick Butkus Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top linebacker in high school football.  He received this award one week after the Eagles won the MHSAA 6A Football Championship. Other statewide honors he has earned include “6A Mississippi Mr. Football,” “2018 Gatorade Mississippi Football Player of the Year,” and Southern Elite Sports Network’s “Mr. Elite Award.”

From left, Matt Butkus, Nakobe Dean, Head Football Coach Brad Boyette, and Linebacker Coach Dustin Hectorne.

     Dean was presented the 34th annual Butkus Award in front of the HLHS football team by Matt Butkus, son of legendary Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus for whom the award is named. While Dean knew he was a finalist, the surprise on his face showed when the California group walked into the classroom, closely followed by Nakobe’s smiling family members.

Nakobe said the most influential person in his life has been his mother, Neketta Dean.  She surprised him by attending the presentation of the Butkus Award.

     Holding the trophy in the air, Nakobe said, “I could not do any of this without the support system of my teammates and coaches.  I love y’all.” The room erupted in cheers.

     When cameras quit flashing, Matt Butkus stepped to the side and dialed his father.  He then announced, “Nakobe, Dick Butkus wants to speak to you.”  He handed him his phone with the speaker turned on for all to hear.    

     “Hello Nakobe.  Do you know what this award means?  It means you are the best linebacker in the country.  You are a heck of a player, man.  Welcome to the club,” Butkus said.

     Dean beat out finalists De’Gabriel Floyd, Westlake-Westlake Village, CA; Owen Pappoe, Grayson—Loganville, GA; Brandon Smith, Louisa County—Mineral, VA; and Henry To’oto’o, De La Salle—Concord, CA; to claim the honor.

     “Nakobe is a great kid in every area,” said HLHS Athletic Director Donnie Weeks.  “He is a student athlete and a team player.  He is very deserving of this award.”

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State Champions Recognized at School Board Meeting

     Before DeSoto County Schools’ Board of Education honored students for winning state championships, Superintendent Cory Uselton noted accomplishments of board members themselves at the December board meeting.

     Superintendent Uselton displayed the three statewide awards the Mississippi Association of School Boards (MSBA) presented to the five DCS Board Members for “their extraordinary effort in enhancing board skills through attending professional development training.” These included the Board of Merit Award, Diploma Circle Honor (only five districts in state earned this award), and MSBA Red Apple Attendance Award (the School Board with the highest number of MSBA-approved board training hours earned.)   

     “Our board members are state champions. Today I wanted their accomplishments recognized,” he said.

     Board members include Ann Jolley, Sarah Doss-Thomas, Shelia Riley, Michele Henley and Milton Nichols.

     Nakobe Dean, a senior at Horn Lake High, was named “6A Mississippi Mr. Football.” One player from each of the six MHSAA classification was selected as Mississippi Mr. Footballs for the 2018 season. The New Orleans Saints, Mississippi High School Activities Association, and the Mississippi Association of Coaches present this award annually.

     Katelyn Cartwright, a senior at Hernando High School, won the 2018 MHSAA 6A Individual Championship in Cross Country.  Her winning time for running a 5K (3.1 miles) was 19:23.  This is her second state championship.  Katelyn was also named 2017-18 Gatorade Mississippi Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.  

     Nic Thornton, a senior at Hernando High School won the individual MHSAA 5A-6A state championship in swimming in the 50 free and 100 freestyle events.  Taylor Williams (not pictured), a junior at Center Hill High, won two state titles and will be recognized at the January Board Meeting.

     Horn Lake High School is the 2018 MHSAA 6A State Football Champion, ending a perfect season 15-0. All HLHS football players and coaches were recognized by the Board. Pictured are the seniors with their certificates.

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National Math Super Stars Visit OBHS

Algebra Nation Teachers sign OBHS math students workbooks.

     Olive Branch High math students stood in line to get the autographs of two Algebra Nation’s study experts Darnell Boursiquot and Amy Adams, who made a surprise visit to their school.  These study experts are the stars of algebra videos the students watch on a regular basis. 

     “They chose DeSoto County Schools because of the large number of students working with Algebra Nation.  OBHS has the highest participation in the district,” said Chereda Daugherty, DCS math specialist.

     Algebra Nation is an online (and printed workbook) resource that helps students master Algebra 1 – the gateway math course that has implications for students' success in high school and beyond.   This program was funded by the Mississippi state legislature to provide math resources to all school districts in Mississippi.  Mississippi Senator David Parker observed math teacher Patty Burse’s class to get teachers and students reactions to this new program.

Algebra Nation Study Expert Amy Adams, from left,  Mississippi Senator David Parker, OBHS Principal Jacob Stripling, Algebra Nation Study Expert Darnell Boursiquot, and OBHS Algebra Teacher Patty Burse.

     “I will teach a lesson in class.  Students have an app to watch five lessons on the same subject with five different teachers.  Two of those five teachers were here today,” said Burse.  “This company provides content videos, workbooks, online practice and collaboration tools, and teacher materials 24-hours a day, 7 days a week from the web and mobile devices.  They also provide wonderful teacher resources. It was exciting for my top math students to meet part of the Algebra Nation teaching team.”

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Industry Open House

Baptist-DeSoto Hospital CEO James Huffman, CTC-West Principal Allyson Killough, and Supt. Cory Uselton were presenters at the Industry Open House.

     Leaders in industry, business, government, and education came together to learn about the programs offered and the opportunities for involvement at both DCS Career & Technical Centers—East and West at an Industry Open House.

     Hot cocoa, homemade cookies, and sausage cheese balls were prepared by the Culinary students and served to more than 50 guests.  The event, held at CTC-West, began with Principal Allyson Killough welcoming all visitors and playing a video that showcased the programs offered at both facilities. It was recorded and edited by the Digital Media Technology students with assistance from North Central Electric Company’s media department.    

Student ambassadors took guests on a campus tour.

     Health Sciences, Engineering, Digital Media Technology, Information Technology, Culinary, Automotive, Construction Technology, Logistics, Law & Public Safety, and Welding are some of the key programs offered. 

     "Our mission is to prepare students for college and careers," Killough said. "We have some students who are college bound, and some who go directly into the workforce."

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“Tis the Season” at Hope Sullivan Elementary School

     There was an elf sighting at Hope Sullivan Elementary School.  She was wearing a cap with flashing colored lights.  On the front of the cap was a tiny stapled symbol of the United States Postal Service.

     On most days this elf is known as Betty Park, a customer service representative in Southaven.  During the holiday season, she changes into one of Santa’s helpers, complete with a giant mail carrier sack to gather the “Letters to Santa” that 200 HSES kindergarten students had written.

     “I will get your letters to the North Pole and you will get a return letter from Santa,” she said.  “You will know it is from Santa because it will be stamped from the North Pole.”

     A month earlier Elf Betty had visited HSES for Community Helper Day.  She left every kindergarten teacher sheets of stickers that would serve as stamps for the special letters each child was assigned to write.

     “This exercise introduces students to letter writing skills, “said HSES Principal Kenneth McKinney.  “Teachers have no trouble getting students to participate. This program is also about hope and expectations.  It is good for students academically and socially. We appreciate the Postal Services partnership.”

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Chickasaw Elementary School Students Try to Catch the Gingerbread Man!

     Run, run, run as fast as you can.  You can’t catch me.  I am the Gingerbread Man. 

     Second grade Spotlight students at Chickasaw Elementary School were challenged with a STEM unit on building traps to catch the runaway Gingerbread Man. 

     Spotlight teacher Jo Faucher said, “They had to plan and build a trap to ‘catch’ their paper Gingerbread Man.  It involved engineering, physics, creativity,  communication, and thinking skills as students  had to design and plan their process on paper and build their traps with paper, tape, glue, pipe cleaners, and straws.”

     “We put our pipe cleaners inside our straws to make the trap stronger, “said Jake Freeman.  “This project required a lot of brainstorming.”

     Jake’s partner was Jonah Fetters. They decided to test their trap upon completion.  They said it worked so well that their Gingerbread Man got caught, ripping him in half. 

     “We had to make a new Gingerbread Man for our project. We were able to show our trap could catch The Gingerbread Man,” Jonah said.  “At first we thought about using bait.  I was going to use part of the apple in my lunchbox, but I got hungry and ate the bait, so we had to come up with another idea.”

     Abbie Cooper and Sanarie Evans designed their trap in the middle of a miniature living room, complete with a falling ceiling that would collapse when a straw was pulled.

     “Our plan was kind of sneaky,” Abbie said.  “It is fun to be an engineer,” the second grader added. 

     The Gingerbread Man unit will continue after the holidays as students plan to build catapults to launch cheese “cannon balls” (physics) towards the Gingerbread Man, build an aluminum boat to hold 100 pieces of “silver” (engineering and physics), and make instant snow (chemistry).

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"Raise the Bar" Award Winners

     Congratulations to Hernando Hills Elementary School for winning a DeSoto County Schools “Raise the Bar” award! HHES improved in 5 of 6 proficiency and growth categories from 2017 to 2018 and once again received an “A” rating from the Mississippi Department of Education. 

     Congratulations to Lewisburg Elementary School for winning a DeSoto County Schools “Raise the Bar” award! LES improved in 5 of the 7 proficiency and growth categories from 2017 to 2018 and received an “A” rating from the Mississippi Department of Education. 

     Congratulations to DeSoto Central Elementary School for winning a DeSoto County Schools “Raise the Bar” award! They improved in 5 of the 7 proficiency and growth categories from 2017 to 2018, and they also raised their MDE letter grade from a “B” to an “A.” 

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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

Katherine Nelson, Director, Communications

Geri Hill, Graphic Designer

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


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