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Back to School 2019-2020

New Teachers Welcomed to DeSoto County Schools

     In order to provide support for a successful start to the school year, 200 new teachers attended a New Teacher Orientation (NTO) Program July 30th at Southaven High.

     This program was specifically designed to be an introduction to DeSoto County Schools.  When teachers arrived, they were greeted by their respective school administrators.  There were booths for eight attendance areas, and principals and assistant principals were on hand to welcome the new teachers and answer questions.  

     Supt. Cory Uselton spoke to the new group of educators and started their professional development session.  He shared some of the district’s recent accomplishments--$97 million in scholarship offers to seniors,18 National Merit Finalists, 148 Seniors Scored 30 or above on ACT (5 High School students scored a Perfect 36), and MHSAA State Championships in football, baseball, softball, girls basketball, boys basketball, soccer, dance, cheer, and band.

     “We have a great group of new teachers and an excellent group of existing teachers who will mentor and share what they know,” Uselton said. “I have high expectations for the coming school year. You will bring a new energy, new excitement to our schools. It takes all of us.”

     Elizabeth Richardson, a second grade teacher and a former DeSoto County Schools Teacher of the Year, challenged teachers to ponder and proceed with action as they develop their purpose, passion, people skills, prayer and planning to work toward “greatness and nothing less.”

     “Today I will spread love; today I will do more,” is a simple phrase that Richardson said can transform the heart of a teacher. She encouraged the new teachers to meditate on this thought every day.

     The keynote speaker for the event was Chelonnda Seroyer, an educational consultant and international presenter who speaks around the world on the subjects of classroom management and effective teaching. She often shares the stage with Dr. Harry Wong and Dr. Rosemary Wong and is one of the featured teachers in Dr. Harry Wong’s online classroom management course, as well as on the DVD accompanying the latest edition of Dr. Wong’s bestselling The First Days of School.  Seroyer is a contributing author of the Wongs’ new release, THE Classroom Management Book.

     All new teachers received a copy of the First Days of School.

     Sheng Bergeron, a new 3rd grade teacher at Lewisburg Elementary School, moved to Mississippi from Massachusetts.  Her husband was transferred to the area to work in the plastics industry.

     “We heard how DeSoto County Schools had many of the top schools in the state, and we wanted our children to be a part of this school system,” Bergeron said.  “We had a great school system in Massachusetts, and we wanted to continue their education with a top school district.”

     “Rebecca Blake will teach English at Horn Lake Middle School,” said HLMS Principal Nick Toungett.  “We are excited about adding her to our teaching team.  She is a recent graduate of Mississippi State with an outstanding resume. Her husband is starting law school in Memphis, but they chose to live here.”

     Kelsey Wilson will be a speech pathologist at Lake Cormorant Elementary School.  A graduate of the University of Mississippi and Jackson State University, she worked for Madison County Schools for five years.

     “I wanted to come home.  I am a graduate of Southaven High School.  I knew DCS had a great reputation,” Wilson said.  “I heard DeSoto County Schools was one of the top educational systems in the state,” she said.  “I am excited about the opportunity to work here.

     Gwen Petty, formerly an Assistant Girls Basketball Coach in Starkville, will be the new Head Girls Basketball Coach at DeSoto Central High School.

     “I have a 14 year-old son.  I wanted him to go to one of the best high schools in the state,” she said. “The DeSoto Central schools have a great academic reputation, and this was a wonderful opportunity for me to move up to a head coaching spot.”

     DCHS is also getting a new Head Boys Basketball Coach.  Blake Ormon is in his eighth year of teaching.  He is the former Head Basketball Coach at Independence High School.

     “We already lived in Olive Branch, so I am excited to be close to home,” Ormon said.

     DeSoto County School District actively recruits teachers at area colleges and held a Teacher Career Fair this spring that resulted in many of the new hires.  SouthGroup Insurance sponsored a breakfast for the new teachers, and BancorpSouth hosted a luncheon.  After the professional development sessions, the teachers went to their schools to meet with their principals.

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Administrative Staff Development 2019

     DeSoto Central High School was the setting for Administrative Staff Development, an event that marks the beginning of a new school year.

     The theme of the meeting was “Everything Comes Down to Leadership,” a quote from Essential Truths for Principals by Danny Steele and Todd Whitaker.  Administrators read this book during the summer.

     Superintendent Cory Uselton opened the meeting with the district address, recapping significant academic and athletic accomplishments of the district of the past year, and challenging leaders to “Raise the Bar” in the 2019-2020 school year. 

     Fifteen minute concurrent sessions soon got underway where administrators were updated on finance, nutrition, federal programs, English learner policies, human resource subjects, athletics, technology, safety and security, testing, discipline, records management, guidelines for purchasing, ways to conserve energy, and positive behavior techniques.

Supt. Cory Uselton used Todd Whitaker’s quote on what great leaders do.  “Leaders come to work each day to remove barriers for our teachers. They strive to create a safe school environment for students.  They commit to leading a school where teachers want to work, and students want to learn.  They create a vision for our school community that encourages students to dream big and ensures teachers can help students achieve those dreams.”

Chief Operations Officer Rob Chase and Associate Superintendent of Business and Operations Keith Williams  

Hernando High Principal Duane Case and Lewisburg High Principal Chris Fleming

Executive Director of Elementary Education Amanda Samples

DeSoto Central Elementary Principal Lisa Nye and Asst. Principal Lindsey Millbrooks

Amber Melton, Monika Newson, and DCAC Asst. Principal Tyrone Hall

SOES Asst. Principal Tiffany Ketchum, SOES Principal Michaela Smith, and LCHS Principal Conell Phillips, Jr.

The DeSoto County Association of Educators had a snack table for DCS administrators.

SHS Asst. Principal Jeremy Russell and LCMS Principal Brad Meadows

School Board Members, from left, Michele Henley, Shelia Riley, Sarah Doss-Thomas, and Ann Jolley

SHS Principal Shane Jones and SMS Principal John Sartain

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DCS School Board Elects New Officers to Begin New School Year

Superintendent Cory Uselton, School Board Secretary Michele Henley, and Board President Milton Nichols

     July 1st, the official date of a new school year, is when DeSoto County Schools Board of Education elects new officers.  Milton Nichols became the new board chair, and Michele Henley was named Board Secretary for 2019-2020.

     Other board members include Sarah Doss-Thomas, Shelia Riley, and Ann Jolley. Thomas served as board chair in 2018-2019. Riley and Jolley have previously served in the leadership chair to operate the business of DCS.

     What do school boards do?

     According to GreatSchools.org, the main responsibilities of the school board are to:

  • Set the vision and goals for the district
  • Adopt policies that give the district direction to set priorities and achieve its goals
  • Hire and evaluate the superintendent
  • Adopt and oversee the annual budget

      A typical school board meeting will include many business items, such as approving the school calendar, adopting curriculum, overseeing construction, and approving contracts with outside vendors.

     “I have said many times that DeSoto County Schools has one of the best school boards in America,” said Supt. Cory Uselton.  “They provide great insight into overseeing the business of our district while paying close attention to the district’s priorities for academic achievement.”

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Music is the Key

Interns are, from left, Angel Morgan, Blake Carson, and Tanner Smart.

     A group of students has given up part of their summer vacation to become interns on a project that connects their classroom to a real world experience.

     Second year Digital Media students at DeSoto County Schools Career & Technical Center—West were given the opportunity to collaborate with Northcentral Electric Power Association and Justin Jaggers for “Musicians for Le Bonheur.” This group provides a promotional platform for Memphis area musicians, as well as a way to raise money for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.  The result will be an album of original songs by Memphis area artists that will be sold to the public.

     The students are Blake Carson, Angel Morgan and Tanner Smart.

Teri Gordon checks Tanner Smart’s setup before the show.

     Since the Digital Media students showed such interest in music-driven projects, Jaggers invited students to become summer interns on a program he started in college, “Musicians for Le Bonheur.” His goal was to produce a music video to promote the album featuring 40 Memphis-area musical groups.

      Artists were allowed to perform a set of songs in the Le Bonheur performance area one day a month. During the performances, patients who were able to leave their rooms circled the performance area in red wagons, swaying to the music. Other patients watched the live performances in their rooms on closed circuit-television.

     “It is very emotional for me to see that we were bringing joy to sick children,” said 11th grade student Blake Carson.  “As we helped record the performances, we also saw parents pause from dealing with a sick child and all the stress that comes with it.”

     Working on this project had special meaning for Blake since she spent the first month of her life as a patient at Le Bonheur.

     “I had a condition known as ‘failure to thrive,’” she said.  “My parents said I would not eat and became dehydrated.  I was also treated here when I broke my arm, and again when I had a concussion.  My parents have said this hospital is my second home, so it is great to be a part of a project that will raise money for this special place, see adults relaxed, and patients happy.”

     “Giving back is a core belief of Northcentral Electric EPA,” said Jaggers. “We believe in supporting schools and giving back to the community.  This project does both.”

Digital media teacher Teri Gordon, from left, helps Tanner Smart, Northcentral Media specialist Justin Jaggers, Blake Carson, and Angel Morgan set up sound equipment.

     Teri Gordon said she is so appreciative of Northcentral’s involvement, and noted that Jaggers has given his time, talents, resources, and knowledge to these student interns.

     “Justin knows how difficult it is to be an intern and learn the mechanics of recording and filming,” Gordon said.  “It has been a gratifying experience to see my students use the skills they are learning in the classroom and apply them to such a wonderful and heartwarming cause.  The joy the musicians have brought to the children at Le Bonheur will remain with me forever.” 

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DeSoto Central High School Receives Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Grant

DeSoto Central Nurse Ellen Bickley accepts a $2,885 grant from Lowe’s Southaven Assistant Manager Jeremy Wilson.  From left to right, Brooks Turner, athletic trainer with OrthoSouth, Wilson, Bickley, and DCHS Assistant Principal Timothy Chrestman.

     DeSoto Central High School will soon have emergency medical kits on hand for each wing of their school, thanks to a $2,885 grant from Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant.

     DCHS School Nurse Ellen Bickley wanted emergency kits on hand for all areas of her school. DeSoto Central High is one of 545 schools across the United States to be awarded a Lowe’s education grant this spring for improvement projects.

     “We wanted to be able to provide immediate care to our students,” Mrs. Bickley said.  “Our students, faculty, and staff are dispersed among six large hallways with one of those hallways being detached from the main building.  We wanted to be proactive and ensure that we had enough first aid/emergency medical supplies to care for our students. Our goal is to have the new emergency packs ordered and in each hallway near the beginning of the new 2019-2020 school year.”

     Lowe’s Toolbox for Education has provided nearly $45 million in grants to more than 10,000 schools, benefiting more than 6 million school children.

     “The Lowe’s Toolbox for Education program delivers on Lowe’s commitment to improve the educational environment for students across the country,” said Maureen Ausura, chairwoman of the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation.  “We’re honored to work with DeSoto Central High School to support the needs of our local students, teachers, and families.”

     Since 1957, the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation has helped improve communities across North America through financial contributions and support for employee volunteerism.

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Lake Cormorant Elementary School Students Get Early Introduction to STEM Education

LCES SPOTLIGHT teachers Elizabeth Rowell, left, and Crystal Engles, right, join former LCES Principal Carol Smith to organize their PLTW classroom supplies.

     For the third year in a row, students at Lake Cormorant Elementary School are learning critical reasoning and problem solving skills through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.

      Students are benefiting from a multi-year grant from Entergy called “Project Lead The Way” (PLTW).  Two teachers at LCES have been involved with ongoing classroom teacher training and have received teaching supplies to have students build robots, learn coding, and design and build engineering projects. Next year, LCES will have six teachers trained.  The school received $7500 the first year, $2500 the second year, and $5000 the third year. This is a four-year program.

     “This year approximately 60 students in grades 2nd—5th had the opportunity to participate in PLTW as enrichment,” said Crystal Engles, gifted teacher at LCES.  “Also, 90 students in SPOTLIGHT got to participate.  I have watched 150 students grow in math and science and become more tech savvy.”

     “Entergy has offered this program to 24 teachers in the state, and six of them are our teachers,” said former LCES Principal Carol Smith (new principal at Horn Lake Intermediate School). “This program follows a rigorous STEM education curriculum. Normally, middle and high school students study these concepts.  LCES has been a case study on the effect of introducing STEM concepts at an early age. Teachers have had amazing results.”

     Engles said she has received wonderful feedback from students who have participated in PLTW.

     “A 2nd grader stated he loves PLTW because he wants to be an engineer to invent things when he grows up,” Engles said.  “One fourth grade student said he has enjoyed making his own computer games.  Another said he wants to become an aerospace engineer. He loves to assemble and disassemble things, so I know he will enjoy the Robotics Unit as a 5th grader.”

     Smith said one interesting project was students drew designs for model roller coasters, and the welding students at CTC-West built their designs out of metal. These models are displayed in the school's foyer.

     “STEM education is at the heart of today’s high-tech, highly skilled global economy,” Smith said.  “I believe teaching problem-solving and critical thinking skills at an early age will give our students the ability to succeed.  We appreciate Entergy’s investment in LCES.”

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New Faces New Places: 1st Year Assistant Principals

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DeSoto Central High Student Selected for Statewide Honor

     The Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) has selected junior Omar Jamil for its student representative program, which began in July.

     Student representatives will be non-voting members but will provide input on policy decisions that affect Mississippi public schools. Two students were selected through a competitive process from 52 applicants statewide. After the senior representative graduates, the junior representative will promote to the senior representative position. A new junior representative will be appointed annually.

      “All the students we considered for the representative program are highly accomplished and reflect Mississippi’s outstanding public schools,” said Dr. Jason Dean, SBE chair.

     Omar is a junior at DeSoto Central High School, scoring a 30 on the ACT in the 9th grade. Omar maintains a 4.266 grade point average.  In his sophomore year, he served as president of the Student Council. He is also a member of the Knowledge Bowl Team, the Interact Club, the Future Business Leaders of America, the International Club, the chess team, and theatre department.

     “Every aspect of my current high school career has cultivated me into the student the Board of Education needs to represent our statewide student body,” Omar said.

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Unsuspecting Student Receives Theron Long Memorial Scholarship

     As Hernando High students practiced their graduation exercise, HHS Principal Duane Case took a break to make an announcement. 

     "Today, one student in our audience is going to get a special gift.  This student is the recipient of the Theron Long Memorial Scholarship.  But first, I want to give you a brief history about the man whose former students and athletes wanted to remember him by organizing on ongoing scholarship fund,” Case said.  “Every year, a Hernando High graduate will be awarded a scholarship in his honor.”

     Case told the students that “Coach” Theron Long was, for over 44 years, a beloved coach, teacher, principal and administrator for Hernando High School.  He also served two terms on the DCS Board of Education.

     “In 1969, his girls’ basketball team won the state championship, and he encouraged all students to achieve their best in both athletics and academics,” Case said.  “Our gym was named in his honor in 2007.  He served as principal of Hernando High for almost three decades.  No one loved our school more than Coach Long.”

     Case told the students how Coach Long mentored countless students through the years and became a respected figure both during and after his career.  “He knew not only his students, but the parents and grandparents as well.  He encouraged kindness, forgiveness, and respect toward others, setting an example for several generations of students,” he added.

     “The winner of the Theron Long Memorial Scholarship is Makayla Swinford.  She plans to attend Delta State University and become a teacher,” Case said.

     Rachael Wacker, English teacher at HHS, nominated Makayla.

     “Makayla has wanted to be a teacher since I met her,” Wacker said.  She has a job after school working with special needs children.  At times, she has experienced the discouragement that every teacher faces.  She has come to me and asked questions on how to handle situations.  She is invested in the lives of these kids and loves what she does.  She has the heart that will make her a great teacher.”

     The scholarship program is through the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi. An anonymous donor started the “Theron Long Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund.” There are ten people on the committee who vote and make decisions for the fund.  All gifts to the fund are invested, and 4% of the balance is given each year to a student who meets the scholarship criteria.

     Melba Wooten is one of the ten committee members.  “This scholarship is especially important to our group,” she said.  “We feel very strong about not only keeping his memory alive, but also to help encourage students, educators, and administrators strive to excel in both their academic and their personal lives as Coach Long taught us. He lived by example.” 

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Retirees Honored

Superintendent Cory Uselton hosted a breakfast to honor retiring employees.  Each retiree was recognized for their years of service and the contributions he or she made to DeSoto County Schools. SouthGroup Insurance sponsored the event.

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Foundation for Excellence in Education Grant Program Open!

Click here to apply for a DeSoto County Foundation for Excellence in Education classroom grant.

     An online grant application for classroom grants is live, according to the DeSoto Economic Council. Teachers will have until September 4th to apply.

     A DeSoto County teacher may apply for one grant for up to $500. Groups of teachers may not apply for the same grant. Each grant should be original and academically based to provide classroom enrichment materials beyond what other funding sources cover. The budget should reflect the actual cost of the requested items, similar to a purchase order.

     The DeSoto Economic Council’s Foundation for Excellence in Education Grant Program crossed the $1 million mark four years ago, providing classroom grants to DeSoto County teachers since 1989.

     “We are on to our next million now,” said Susan Fernandez who coordinates the non-profit program for the Council.

     Funded by donors such as United Way, State Farm, Chick-fil-A, Krewe of Hernando, City of Walls, Entergy, Atmos Energy, Baptist Hospital-DeSoto, Grainger, other industries, businesses, and individuals, the organization raised $57,699.65 in 2018 and awarded 133 grants to teachers in DeSoto County.

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2019-2020 DCS Calendar

August 2, 2019                       Teachers’ First Day

August 7, 2019                       Students’ First Day

September 2, 2019                 Labor Day Holiday

October 14, 2019                    Columbus Day Holiday

November 5, 2019                  Professional Development Day

November 25-29, 2019           Thanksgiving Holidays

December 20, 2019                End First Semester

December 23, 2019-               Christmas Holidays

January 1, 2020

January 2 and 3, 2020            Professional Development Days

January 6, 2020                      Students return

January 20, 2020                    Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

February 17, 2020                  President’s Day Holiday (Tentative)

March 9-13, 2020                   Spring Break

April 10, 2020                         Good Friday Holiday

April 13, 2020                         Easter Break (Tentative)

May 21, 2020                         Students’ Last Day (Tentative)

May 22, 2020                         Teachers’ Last Day (Tentative)

Tentative Make-up Days: February 17, April 13, May 22, and May 26

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PERKS: DCS Educator Discounts

     Click the PERKS logo (above) to view a complete list of businesses who partner with DeSoto County Schools to provide educator discounts and special offers. To receive your special offer or discount, you must show your DCS ID badge. These offers are for DCS employees only and are not extended to family members unless otherwise stated.

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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
www.desotocountyschools.org

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