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DeSoto County Schools

DeSoto Digest Newsletter April 2019

DCS’ Parent of the Year: The Secret to Happiness Is Helping Others

     “I need these kids more than they need me.”

     Mike Webb says this often.  The students, teachers, and parents at Walls Elementary School disagree. Their nomination earned him “2019 DeSoto County Parent of the Year.”

     “Cowboy Mike” or “Pawpaw” are two names he is called because he is rarely seen without his cowboy hat, and he is the grandfather to third-grade student, Brylee, and 6th grade student, Parker.  His daughter, Shauna Gardner, is the math/science specialist at Walls Elementary.

     Webb founded Walls Elementary School’s PTA in 2011 when his grandson was in the first grade. Their organization now has 130 members.  This year, the PTA has raised more than $72,000 for the school. These funds have stocked the Parent Resource Room, provided free books for students, established a clothes closet, organized a Health Fair for families that attracted 1,500 participants, paid for field trips, hosted a Veteran’s Day event, sponsored the Daddy/Daughter Dance for 300 dads and their daughters, and paid for a Field Day at the end of the school year.  He has led toy drives, canned food drives, spearheaded landscaping projects, and helped pay for playground equipment.     

 “Mr. Webb is one of the first people at school every morning.  He is there to make sure the teachers have free coffee and breakfast items available,” said 4th Grade Teacher Toni Glass.  “He provides incentives for good behavior in my classroom, and supplies for students who do not have them.  Whatever a child needs, Mr. Webb is there to make sure the child gets it, often with no recognition for himself.”

     Webb said he had serious complications from diabetes in 2007 that caused him to lose his right foot and left leg.  Doctors told him he would never walk again.  By 2008, he was walking. A phone call from former WES Principal Rebecca Kelley gave him added incentive. She told him she really needed a volunteer to run the Parent Resource Room and launch a PTA that would support the vision she had for her school.  

     “I could not sit at home,” Webb said.  “My health ended my food service career.  For the working world, I was a broken down cowboy.  But for these kids, I have become John Wayne.”

     Kindergarten teacher Jamie Branning said, “Mr. Mike loves the smiles on all of the faces of our students.  To many of these students, he is the closest thing to a grandparent they will have.”

     “He works very hard to make sure our students and teachers have fun, and have what they need to be successful,” said WES Principal Erica Armstrong.  “His goal is to make our school shine.  We truly appreciate his many acts of kindness and thoughtfulness.”

     Fourth Grade Teacher Marsha Morgan added, “Mr. Mike plans many school activities that provide opportunities to bridge the school with the surrounding community. These events provide our students and their families with experiences and memories that they will always cherish.  His devotion and love for Walls Elementary cannot be measured.”   

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Eighteen DeSoto County School District Students Named National Merit Finalists

Supt. Cory Uselton, Megan Lindsey, Caleb Owens, Sydney Boone, Natalie Jeffries, Trenton Kirkland, teachers Tracy Hunter and Patricia Clayton, and Lewisburg High Principal Chris Fleming

     Eighteen DeSoto County School District seniors are National Merit Finalists, an elite group of the country’s top students who are now competing for National Merit scholarships.  DeSoto County Board of Education recognized this distinguished group.

Supt. Cory Uselton, Center Hill Principal Doug Payne, Jonathan Greganti, Mary Lindsey, Zoe Kinggard, and teachers Michelle Jones and Judy Terry

     The Finalists are:  Center Hill High School—Mary Lindsey, Zoe Kinggard, Jonathan Greganti; DeSoto Central High School—Brett Baltz, William Walker, John Barch, Quinlan Kurtycz, Carolyn McPherson; Lewisburg High School—Sydney Boone, Natalie Jeffries, Trenton Kirkland, Megan Lindsey, Caleb Owens; Southaven High School—Reo Weaver; Hernando High School—Sophie Hirt, Grace Owens, Dylan Pledger, and Bailey Terrell.

Supt. Cory Uselton, Brett Baltz, William Walker, John Barch, Quinlan Kurtycz, Carolyn McPherson, teachers Phyllis Hicks and Arlisa Wylie, and DeSoto Central High Principal Cliff Johnston

     “Our National Merit Finalists have shown dedication to excellence throughout their high school careers,” said Cory Uselton, Superintendent of DeSoto County Schools. “They have all worked very hard and have formed great working relationships with their teachers. We are so proud of their accomplishments."

From l to r, Supt. Cory Uselton, Reo Weaver, Southaven High School Principal Shane Jones

     The National Merit Finalists represent less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors.

     Nine years ago, the school district developed a program to raise test scores on college entrance exams by improving students’ speed, content knowledge and accuracy.  This program, piloted at Southaven High School, is the “PSAT Class” (Preliminary SAT Class). Three teachers teach the class, and students work to improve their test-taking speed with a classroom set of iPads.

Supt. Cory Uselton,  Bailey Terrell, Sophie Hirt, Grace Owens, Dylan Pledger, and Hernando High Principal Duane Case

     “When philanthropist Homer Skelton heard about the class, he made a donation to our school system to give other students the same opportunity.  We have this PSAT program at all of our eight high schools.  This program  works.  With his generous investment, many students will receive college scholarships,” Uselton added.

     National Merit judges select their scholarship winners based on a number of factors, including academic records, recommendation letters, student essays, performance on college entrance exams, and extracurricular activities and leadership.

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CHHS Wins State 5A MHSAA Title

     Olive Branch is known as a basketball powerhouse.   When two Olive Branch teams—only 2.5 miles apart—squared off for the 5A MHSAA state title, fans said it was one of the most exciting games in DeSoto County Schools’ history and may be the only time two DCS teams have competed against each other for a state boys’ basketball trophy.

     Center Hill High School boys beat crosstown rival Olive Branch High School 75-73 for the state championship. This was the fourth time the teams met.  At the beginning of the season, OBHS beat CHHS 99-81, and in their second match, OBHS won 72-63.  In the district championship game, CHHS beat OBHS 49-48 on a last second shot.  The final state challenge cinched the boys’ crown with a one shot lead, earning a basketball state championship for the first time in CHHS’ history.

      “It was a special season with a special team,” said CHHS Head Basketball Coach Newton Mealer. “I have had most of these young men for four years.  It was all about chemistry.  Our slogan was ‘Championship mentality—championship play on and off the floor.’”

     Last summer Coach Mealer said he found out who his starters were, what type of offense and defense they would run, and who would lead his team. In his summer program, players ran the stairs at the football field, pulled sleds with 100 pounds, conditioned on the track, and hit the weight room hard.

     “I believe that once you have the fundamentals, are mentally strong, and ‘buy in’ to what the coaches want to do, a team has the opportunity to be successful,” Coach Mealer said.

     In addition to conditioning, Coach Mealer said, “We like to do things besides the game of basketball.  Our boys volunteered at YMCA summer camp. We helped the new principal at Overpark Elementary move into her office. We support other teams at our school in other sports and look for ways to be of service.”

     Coach Mealer pointed out that Olive Branch High has a great basketball team, and that last 16 seconds of the championship game will be the moment in his coaching career he will always remember.

     “OBHS took a run and were ahead with 16 seconds left to play.  We called a timeout, and drew up an inbound play. We made a layup with 8 seconds left.  OB got the ball, took a shot and missed.  We got the rebound with 1.1 seconds on the clock.  They fouled us.  We made one of two free throws.  OBHS tried a full court shot and missed. An electrifying crowd of more than 10,000 people rocked the arena. Both teams had a passionate fan base and both teams were great representatives of our state and DeSoto County Schools,” he said.

     While CHHS will be back to defend its 5A title next season, they will not play OBHS since OB is set to move to 6A.    

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OBHS Wins 5A Girls’ Basketball Championship

     Olive Branch High Girls’ Basketball team won the 2019 Mississippi High School Activities Association 5A State Championship.

     Olive Branch had a record of 29 wins and 4 losses.  They beat the previously undefeated West Jones High girls for the state title in Jackson.  They got off to a quick start and never trailed in the game, forcing 18 West Jones turnovers.  They continued their domination throughout the second half, ending with a 61-48 win.

     “This group of girls is the most resilient and hardest working group I've been associated with,” said OBHS Principal Jacob Stripling.  “Their intensity and effort in practice and games was rarely matched and it paid off with a state championship.  Outside of basketball, they are a great group of girls, and I couldn't be more proud of what they accomplished.”

     Their coach is Jason Thompson.  The team was recognized for their championship win by the Board of Education.

     “This team had a very special bond with one another that allowed them to be very supportive of one another,” said Coach Thompson. “They really love playing with each other and care deeply about the success of others over themselves. These young ladies have a phenomenal work ethic that allowed them to be very successful this season as a team.”

     Coach Thompson said his basketball players “held the others accountable but pushed each other to the max.” He had four seniors on his team who are still deciding if they will play basketball at the next level or if they will focus on academics.

     “I will truly miss what a senior brings to the table: leadership, experience, passion, a winner’s mentality and skills needed to help the team do the things this team was able to accomplish,” he said.  “All four girls are very sound in the classroom as well as on the court.”

     Does Coach Thompson expect a repeat performance next year?

     “With the experience gained and improvement of each of the player’s skills, the upcoming team has a chance to continue on this same path. We are excited about the possibilities, and we are collectively looking forward to the challenges,” he said. 

     Next year, OBHS will return to 6A classification.

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OBHS Wins Two State Awards

Gatorade Players of the Year Endya Buford and DJ Jeffries

     OB Pride rang true when two student athletes at Olive Branch High School were named Mississippi Gatorade Basketball Players of the Year.

     Endya Buford, a junior at OBHS, was the state’s female Gatorade basketball Player of the Year, and DJ Jeffries, a senior headed to the University of Memphis, received the statewide honor for the boys.

     “The Gatorade Player of the Year program recognizes the nation’s most elite high school athletes for their accomplishments on and off the field,” said OBHS Principal Jacob Stripling.  “It is such an honor for our school and our district that both winners are our students.”

     According to the Gatorade website, “the Gatorade Player of the Year award is presented to student-athletes not only for outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character.”

     Endya said she was three or four years old when she started having a basketball in her hand.  The point guard helped lead her team to the MHSAA 5A State Championship by earning 36 points in a 61-48 win over previously unbeaten West Jones.

     “That kid has been making phenomenal plays all season,” Coach Jason Thompson said.

     Endya is the second OBHS girl to win the Gatorade title.  Myah Taylor of OBHS, now a player at Mississippi State University, won the award three straight years in high school.  DJ Jeffries is the first boys’ basketball player from OBHS to earn the state title.

     DJ helped lead the Quistors to a 26-8 record and a state runner up finish in the 2019 MHSAA 5A championship game.

     “We came up a little bit short, but we had a great season,” said the 6’8” Jeffries.  When he was a junior, his team won the 5A state title.  According to ESPN, Jeffries is ranked as the 23rd-best player in the country.  He averaged 23.3 points-per-game, 12.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.6 blocks a contest.

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Center Hill High Dance Team Wins State Championships

     Winning state titles through Mississippi High School Activities Association is a major accomplishment.  The DCS Board of Education recognized the Center Hill High Dance team for winning two new state titles—Large Pom and Hip Hop 5A/6A.

      “I am so proud of these talented and beautiful girls,” said Kerrry Matthews, CHHS sponsor for the team.  “They have a strong work ethic and have an ability to adapt to change.  Each year, older girls instill these values in our younger students.  Since 2009, these young women have won a total of 11 state championships.  Once again, I am thrilled to bring them back to the school board to be recognized.”

     The Center Hill Dance Team coach is Chrissy Rodefer.

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#1 in Soccer at LHS

     The Lewisburg High Soccer Team won the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) 5A state soccer title with a 2-1 victory, a first for Lewisburg and DeSoto County high schools. The team was recognized by the DCS’ Board of Education. The team captains are Peyton Coker, senior, and Ben Mullins, junior.  The LHS Soccer Coach is Harl Roehm.

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SHS Students Collect Prom Dresses for Good Cause

     Southaven High Student Ambassadors are hoping to make prom season a little more affordable this year.

     This senior leadership class launched a prom dress collection at SHS and collected more than 60 gently used dresses and shoes for girls who could not afford them.

     “We were brainstorming different things that we could do to help our local community, and more so, those our own age,” said Chanelle Oletubo.  “We decided on the prom dress drive to help ease the financial burden for some girls. That is when we started asking for prom dress donations.  It truly surpassed our expectations.”

     The class set a goal of 20 dresses.  By the second week, they had collected more than 60.  Then an unexpected thing happened.

     “Lola B Boutique in Southaven contacted our teacher, Mrs. Amanda Jordan, and donated 50 new dresses from their boutique,” said Madison Hurley.  “This has truly been a blessing, and all of the feedback and support has made us all the more proud of DeSoto County.”

     Jordan Armstrong donated the dress and shoes she wore to prom last year.  She said it made her feel good to see a young lady select her dress.

     “It fit her perfectly,” Jordan said.  “It looked wonderful on her.  Prom is an expensive endeavor. By collecting dresses for others, we feel like we all come together as one to celebrate a big day in our high school careers.” 

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LHS Interact Club Feeds the Hungry in DeSoto County

     At Lewisburg High School, the Empty Bowls Project uses ceramic arts to fight hunger in DeSoto County.   Organized and run by the LHS Interact Club, students, potters, and artisans donate hand crafted bowls.  Guests select one of the bowls and are served soup and bread, donated by local sponsors. They take home their bowl as a reminder of how many go empty around the world.  This year the Interact Club split proceeds between the Interfaith and Olive Branch Food Pantries.

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Wax Museum at OGCES

     History came alive at Oak Grove Central Elementary—literally—when a student’s thumb was touched and he or she began telling the life story of the American history figure represented.

     Research, prepared speeches, costumes, and storyboards helped students understand why characters were remembered in history.

King George is also known as Colton Mobley.

     “I liked King George, but I don’t think Americans did,” said Colton Mobley.

     That is a good deduction since King George hired thousands of mercenaries to assist the British troops crush the rebellion in America, according to his storyboard.

     There were many sightings of Betsy Ross, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams.   

Benjamin Franklin had multiple appearances.  This one was represented by Mason Robertson.

     Margaret Corbin was a lesser known hero of the American Revolution, according to Lilly Anderson, and “the first woman to receive a military pension for dressing like a man and joining her husband as they fired a cannon.”

Lilly Anderson studies the life of Margaret Corbin.

     Margaret Corbin was a lesser known hero of the American Revolution, according to Lilly Anderson, and “the first woman to receive a military pension for dressing like a man and joining her husband as they fired a cannon.”

Kylie Faulkner dressed as Phillis Wheatley.

     Kylie Faulkner’s favorite historical figure was Phillis Wheatley. Kylie explained Wheatley was the first African American female poet to have her poetry published in America.

     Parents, grandparents, friends and fellow students, walked the aisles of the OGCES gym, touching “buttons” on students’ thumbs to bring the students to life and begin their presentations.

     “Our students have been studying the American Revolution in their history classes. Oak Grove Central’s Living Museum was a creative and effective way for our students to research, study, and create unique presentations about various contributors during our American Revolution,” said OGES Principal Stacey Pirtle.
     "Hundreds of parents came to participate and experience our museum first hand, and we are so grateful for their support. All of our students worked so hard, and did such an amazing job. Our Tigers persevere, do hard things, and strive for excellence each day. This is a shining example of their efforts.”

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Two Schools Recognized by PREPS for Excellence

 DeSoto Central Middle School Principal Bryon Williams and Supt. Cory Uselton

     Two DeSoto County Schools received special recognition for performing significantly better academically than projections anticipated.

 Horn Lake Middle School Principal Nick Toungett and Supt. Uselton.

     DeSoto Central Middle School and Horn Lake Middle School were given plaques by the PREPS Value Added Awards Program, under the direction of Mississippi State University.  The DCS board members recognized DCMS Principal Bryon Williams and HLMS Principal Nick Toungett. Supt. Cory Uselton presented the awards.

     DCMS received plaques for their accomplishments in math and Language Arts, and HLMS received a plaque for their improvements in math.

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Knowledge Bowl Time at DeSoto County Schools

Olive Branch Middle School--(Team A) walked away as the 6th Grade 1st Place Team from the DCS' District Knowledge Bowl Competition. The winners include: Teacher- Allyson Brigance, Evan Brown, Caleb Trainer, Tyrique Newby, Tiffany King, and Ethan McDurmon.

     It is a team sport where students have to “buzz in” when they believe they can answer a question. 

     It is the 27th year DeSoto County Schools has held a district Knowledge Bowl competition for grades four-through-eight .

DeSoto Central Middle School won 1st place in DCS’ 7th Grade Knowledge Bowl contest. The teacher is Wendy Hunt.  The DCMS team included:  Carter Juzeszyn, Sarah Perry, Jeremiah Tisdell, Mary Claire Herring, and Omair Jamil.

     “This is a chance for students to shine as they make quick decisions and bravely attempt to answer a question about history, math, language arts or current events,” said Emily Nelson, Director of Leadership Development for DCS. “A strong Knowledge Bowl competitor has a certain kind of gift to recall information, hit the buzzer, and if they happen to be wrong, life goes on.  He or she then regroups before the next question.”

 District Knowledge Bowl 4th Grade 1st place winner is Oak Grove Central Elementary School. The team is comprised of Gavin Vincent, Emma Lenihan, Kyle Kicker, Brooke Gilbert and Louis Harrell. Sponsor is Traci Greg.

     Moderators read questions. A student on a team who knows the answer presses his or her buzzer and answers the question.  If correct, a team earns five points.  If incorrect, the other team has the chance to answer and “steal” the points.

     Longview Baptist Church in Olive Branch allows the schools to use their facilities for five days of competition on general areas of knowledge.

Pleasant Hill Elementary School-Team A won 1st place at the 5th Grade DCS District Knowledge Bowl Competition. Sponsors are Helene Weigel and Anne Cagle. Team members are William Jones V, Nazizala Farr, Rowan Giamportone, Harlee Hurst, and Hunter Baggett.

     “Each round has 20 questions, and the team with the most number of answered questions at the end of each round is considered the winner of that round,” Nelson explained.  “At the end of seven rounds, teams with the most number of wins in their bracket advance forward.  If we have a tie, we look at points awarded to break the tie.”

Hernando Middle School earned the #1 spot in DCS’ 8th Grade Knowledge Bowl.  From l to r, Coach Brian Avant; Team members: Quincy Silva, Graham Williams, Alexandra Trigg, and Maryn Ludwig; Coach Catherine James, and Hernando Alderman Mike McClendon.

     Large trophies are awarded to the final winners.

     ‘It is exciting to see students so engaged in competitive, academic, and interscholastic activities,” Nelson said.  “Knowledge Bowl has almost a game-show quality which makes it fun for all involved.”

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Service Learning With Math: OES Makes the Most of the St. Jude Math-A-Thon

The top fundraisers for the OES Math-A-Thon were, from left, Dylan Arnold, Destinee Williams, Garrett Dawkins, Faith Price, Brooks Bourbonais, Ryleigh Dodson, Olivia Springer (in wagon), Ella Grace Richardson, Ava Davis and Anissa Brown.

     Students at Overpark Elementary School believe they help others by solving math problems.

     For the past 13 years, students at OES raised funds for patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with a Math-A-Thon campaign, bringing their total contributions to more than $177,000.  Students presented a check this year for $11,290 to St. Jude Representative Courtney Tarena.

     Andrea Payne, 4th grade math teacher, and Helen Wright, assistant principal, were the coordinators for the drive this year.

     “Giving back has made our students know that even their small contributions can make a big difference in the lives of others because of their illnesses,” said Payne.  “Great things happen when students work together.”

     Former Principal Lisa Love kicked off OES’ participation in the Math-A-Thon program in 2006 when one of her kindergarten teachers had a daughter with kidney cancer. The amazing care the child received made Mrs. Love want to embrace this organization to help fund research at St. Jude.  Current Principal Aisha Maxwell and Assistant Principal Helen Wright have continued the tradition of getting donations for completing correct math facts.

Anissa Brown raised the greatest amount of $415 for solving math problems to help children at St. Jude through social media.

     OES students who raised the most money were introduced in front of the student body.  Olivia Springer, a happy, healthy 4th grade student at OES, also joined the group riding in a red wagon donated by BankPlus.  As a three-year-old, Olivia was treated for melanoma at St. Jude and had 56 weeks of chemotherapy. Olivia’s mother, Holly Springer, an assistant teacher at OES, counted and kept up with all the money the students raised.

     Garrett Dawkins, a 2nd grade student at OES and one of the top fundraisers, said, “St. Jude helps kids with cancer and they try to find cures.  It feels good to help other kids.”

     “Red wagons are often used at St. Jude rather than wheelchairs,” said Cody White with BankPlus. “Our bank supports the great work these students are doing.” 

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2019 Graduation Schedule

All graduation ceremonies will take place at the Landers Center.

  • Desoto Central High - Tuesday, May 21st, 2019 (7 pm)
  • Southaven High - Thursday, May 23rd, 2019 (7 pm)
  • Center Hill High - Friday, May 24th, 2019 (7 pm)
  • Lewisburg High - Saturday, May 25th, 2019 (10 am)
  • Hernando High - Saturday, May 25th, 2019 (3 pm)
  • Olive Branch High - Saturday, May 25th, 2019 (7 pm)
  • Horn Lake High - Sunday, May 26th, 2019 (3 pm)
  • Lake Cormorant High - Tuesday, May 28th, 2019 (7 pm)
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Principals' Meeting

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2019-2020 Tentative Academic 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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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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