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DeSoto County Schools

DeSoto Digest Newsletter - August 2018

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Message from Superintendent Cory Uselton

     It has been a busy summer for DeSoto County Schools!  With staff development sessions, preparations for the upcoming school year, and construction and renovation projects, the months of June and July have been full of energy throughout our school district.

     I hope that all of our faculty and staff members have enjoyed the summer break, and now it is time for all of us to get focused for the 2018-2019 school year.   We have an outstanding group of teachers, administrators, and staff members in DeSoto County, and I am excited to see what everyone accomplishes this school year.  I know that we will all continue to "raise the bar" so that our students can receive the best education possible.

     I want to thank you in advance for your hard work and dedication, and I want to wish you the best of luck for a great 2018-2019 school year! #TeamDCS    

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New Teacher Orientation

Southaven Intermediate School administrators welcome their new teachers to DeSoto County Schools. 

     In order to provide support for a successful start to the school year, 270 new teachers attended a New Teacher Orientation (NTO) Program July 27th at Horn Lake High School.

     New Teacher Orientation is specifically designed as an introduction to DeSoto County Schools.  When new teachers arrived, they were greeted by their respective school administrators.  Attendance areas and CTC celebrated the new teachers by decorating sign-in tables. Principals and assistant principals welcomed new teachers and answered questions. The Hernando area schools won the top award for the most creative display.

Hernando area schools won the 2018 NTO most creative display award.

     Superintendent Cory Uselton spoke to the new group of educators and started their professional development session, sharing his vision of “Every student. Every school.  Every employee. #TeamDCS.”

   “We have a great group of new teachers and an excellent group of existing teachers who will serve as mentors,” Uselton said. “I have high expectations for the coming school year. It is our goal to ‘Raise the Bar’ every year, and grow every student.  It takes all of us.”

     The keynote speaker for the event was Chelonnda Seroyer, an educational consultant and international presenter who speaks around the world on 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. Chelonnda 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.

     Rashonda Riley, a new 7th grade ELA teacher at Horn Lake Middle School, moved to DeSoto County from Birmingham, AL.  Her husband was transferred to the area. “Mrs. Riley has been the ‘Teacher of the Year' in two different school districts,” said HLMS Principal Nick Toungett.  “We are excited about adding her to our teaching team.”

     Jessica Moore, a graduate of Mississippi University for Women, is a 7th grade math teacher at Horn Lake Middle School.  She came from Columbus, MS, where she has taught seven years. “I heard DeSoto County School District is one of the top educational systems in the state,” she said.  “I am excited about the opportunity to work here.”

     Payton Arnoult and Ansley Papizan will be teaching at Horn Lake Intermediate School.  Arnoult moved from Gulfport and applied at DeSoto County Schools because she has friends here. Papizan’s husband accepted a job at St. Jude Research Hospital, bringing her family to the area.

     Luke Hatcher and Rolandus Cox will teach and coach at DeSoto Central High School.  Hatcher will be the assistant boys’ basketball coach. Cox will be an assistant football coach and head track coach.

     DeSoto County School District actively recruits teachers at area colleges and introduced a Teacher Career Fair in the spring of 2018 that resulted in many of the new hires.

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Graduation Requirements Effective 2018-2019

Thomas Spencer, associate superintendent of academic services; Lucy Hasselman, executive director of secondary education; Lorie Davis, assistant director of special education; and Chereda Daugherty, high school math specialist, explain the new graduation requirements.

     Ninth grade students across Mississippi have to make some significant choices to determine the pathway they want to take in their high school careers. A special team of DCS employees have worked to explain these changes to the public through five community informational meetings, a special presentation to school board members, letters to parents, and training sessions for school counselors. 

     The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) approved a new Traditional High School Diploma that includes an option of three new endorsements. The new traditional diploma option and endorsements will take effect for incoming ninth grade students in the 2018-19 school year. 

     The Traditional Diploma requirements have 24 Carnegie Units (4 English, 4 math, 3 science, 3.5 social studies, .5 PE, .5 health, 1 arts, 1 college and career readiness, 1 technology or computer science and 5.5 electives. 

     Below are the endorsement options: 

  • The Career and Technical Endorsement requires 26 Carnegie Units. Students must meet the traditional diploma requirements plus complete a 4-course sequential program of study in CTE and earn an overall GPA of 2.5. 
  • The Academic Endorsement requires 26 Carnegie Units.  Students must meet the traditional diploma requirements plus earn two additional math credits above Algebra I. ACT subscores of 17 in English and 19 in math or completion of appropriate college-ready courses in the senior are required.  In addition, the student must earn two additional CPC electives.  Students must also earn an overall GPA of 2.5 and receive a C or higher in a dual credit or AP course. 
  • The Distinguished Endorsement requires 28 Carnegie Units.  Students must meet the traditional diploma requirements plus earn two additional math credits above Algebra I and two additional CPC electives (for a total of eight electives).  Students must achieve an ACT subscore of 18 in English and 22 in math. Students must also earn a B or higher on a AP exam or academic dual credit course. 

     There is a new Alternate Diploma Option for students who have a  Significant Cognitive Disability (SCD).  It requires 24 Carnegie Units and is open to only students with an SCD ruling.  It is not recognized by post-secondary entities that require a traditional high school diploma. 

     The approval of the new diploma and endorsement options follows a statewide effort to increase college and career opportunities for all students and a new state law that eliminates the Mississippi Occupational Diploma (MOD) option for students with disabilities. 

     The DCS launch team includes Thomas Spencer, associate superintendent of academic services; Lucy Hasselman executive director of secondary education; Chereda Daugherty, high school math specialist; Dr. April Holifield-Scott, high school literacy specialist, and Lorie Davis, assistant director of special education. 

     “The changes kick in this year for all incoming 9th graders,” said Lucy Hasselman.   “Two significant changes are these students will be required to take a college and career readiness course and will have new requirements for early release.” 

     She explained students who have not met the Mississippi postsecondary ACT remediation benchmarks of 17 in English and 19 in Math or SAT equivalency or the Silver level on the ACT WorkKeys must meet ALL 4 of the following requirements for early release: 

  • Have the required 2.5 GPA  
  • Have passed or met all MAAP assessments requirements for graduation  
  • Be on track to meet diploma requirements  
  • Be concurrently enrolled in Essentials for College Math and/or Essentials for College Literacy  

      Five community informational meetings to inform parents of the changes were held at Central Services in Hernando, DeSoto Central Middle School, Lewisburg Middle School, Horn Lake Middle School and Center Hill Middle School. 

     “We had great turnouts and parents asked a lot of good questions,” said Chereda Daugherty. “They wanted to know what the endorsements really meant, and we explained the differences.” 

     She noted that while students and their parents select a career pathway at the end of 8th grade, an endorsement may be changed with parental permission. 

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DCS Has Another Perfect “36” ACT Score

     Lewisburg High School senior Caleb Owens has an insatiable desire to achieve. He is also described as having a work ethic that doesn’t know how to quit. Principal Chris Fleming said these two things are what drives Caleb to accomplish great things. Caleb’s latest accomplishment is scoring a “36” on his ACT, the highest possible score. 

     “Caleb represents the best of what we see daily here at LHS,” said Fleming. “He is an extremely talented young man. Along with his academic talent, Caleb is gifted in music and works hard to ensure the success of our LHS Marching Patriot Band. He is a veteran letter winner for LHS swim team. Caleb spends many hours with various service projects through National Honor Society and Interact Service Club. Caleb truly lives the biblical concept of ‘to whom much is given much is required’.”

     Caleb has been playing the piano since he was four-years-old and has won national awards for his performances. He plays the trombone for the award-winning LHS band.

     “Music is a big part of my life,” Caleb said.   

     “Caleb is one of the most talented students I have ever taught,” said LHS Band Director Kim Hallmark. “He is an All-State trombone player, and he sets a great example for other students as a musical leader.”

     Caleb says he particularly enjoys the family aspect of band. “There are almost 200 members in our band and we support each other,” Caleb said. “We spend a lot of time practicing, and it is a great way to develop friendships. All of us appreciate Miss Hallmark’s leadership.  She often says that we shouldn’t try to be first—we should just try to be our best.”

     Caleb says the PSAT class helped him achieve his recent ACT score. This class has three teachers who focus on teaching students test taking strategies. They also push students to increase their speed and accuracy on the SAT and ACT tests. “Mrs. Clayton, Mrs. Dennis and Mrs. Hunter gave me the vision that I could get a top score,” he said.  “They have put me on the road to becoming a National Merit Finalist.  They believe in hard work and practice.”

     In the 7th grade, Caleb made a 25 on his ACT through the Duke Talent Program.  In the 9th grade, he made a 30, in the 10th grade he made a 35 and in the 11th grade he made a 35.25.  In the spring, he took the ACT for the 5th time and scored a “36.”  A student can miss up to two or more questions, and score a 36. His next goal is to take it one more time and not miss a question.

     “I spent a lot of time studying for the ACT.  I had to improve my reading comprehension skills and was taught to read passages and take notes in the margin so I could quickly go to the right passage for an answer,” Caleb said, again crediting the PSAT teachers. “Another thing I did was finish the math and English sections as fast as I could so I would have time to check my work.”

     Caleb is looking at many colleges.  One of his favorite programs is offered at Northwestern University which offers a dual degree in engineering and music. He plans to enjoy his senior year serving on the school’s Knowledge Bowl, Jazz Band and National Honor Society.

     Caleb is the son of Eric and Laura Owens.  Laura is the bookkeeper at Horn Lake High School.  His father is a former criminal justice professor at Delta State University and currently works for a security firm in Memphis.    

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Foundation for Excellence in Education Grant Program Open!

     An online grant application for classroom grants went live on August 1st, according to the DeSoto Economic Council. Teachers will have until September 5th to apply. 

     A DeSoto County teacher may apply for one grant up to $500. Groups of teachers may not copy the same grant and submit it.  Each grant should be original and academically-based to provide classroom enrichment materials beyond what other funding sources cover. 

     Click the blue bar below to apply for a classroom grant:

Foundation for Excellence in Education Grant Application

     The DeSoto Economic Council’s Foundation for Excellence in Education Grant Program crossed the $1 million mark three 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 of the Mid-South, State Farm, Chick-fil-A, Krewe of Hernando, City of Walls, Entergy, Atmos Energy, Baptist Hospital-DeSoto, WW Grainger, other industries, businesses and individuals, the organization raised $59,372.64 in 2017 and awarded 136 grants to teachers in DeSoto County.

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New Southaven Middle Principal

     John Sartain has been named as the new principal at Southaven Middle School for the 2018-2019 school year.  He previously served as an assistant principal at Lake Cormorant High School.  

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Lewisburg Senior Named Commercial Appeal Baseball Player of the Year

     Bryce Brock, a recent graduate of Lewisburg High School, was named “Baseball Player of the Year” by the Commercial Appeal, a tremendous honor considering the talent in the Greater Memphis area. This accolade is one more credential for the Mississippi State signee who had a spectacular season, batting .450 with eight homers and 39 RBIs.  On the mound, the left-handed pitcher was even better, racking up a 11-1 mark with 101 strike-outs and only 10 walks.   In the spring, he was named a Lindy Callahan Scholar-Athlete, the most prestigious award in Mississippi athletics, according to Bryce’s Principal Chris Fleming.

     LHS Baseball Coach Rusty Cagle said Bryce’s strengths are his confidence, leadership and athleticism. He enjoys the “big moments in sports and in life.” Bryce leads by example. He was also a three-sport athlete at Lewisburg, excelling in baseball, basketball and football. “He is one great kid,” said Principal Fleming who served as Bryce’s principal in both middle and high school.

     While Bryce credits his parents for introducing him to tee-ball when he was three-years-old, it was his neighborhood that helped him develop baseball skills at a young age. “Until I was in 2nd grade, we lived in Olive Branch.  My brother, Brakston, was three years older and played baseball all the time with our next-door neighbors, Austin Riley and Keegan James.  Austin is now a third baseman in the Atlanta Braves organization.  Keegan is a pitcher at Mississippi State and played with Austin at DeSoto Central.  Austin has a younger brother who was my age, so we were always tagging along with the older kids.  This really was my initiation into the game of baseball,” Bryce said.

     When Bryce was in the 3rd grade, his family moved to Lewisburg.   He began playing all sports and excelled in basketball, football and baseball. “I have extremely supportive parents who got me to a lot of practices,” Bryce said.  “I am thankful for my parents.  They have helped me in everything I have wanted to do.”

     Bryce said all his life his family has cheered for Mississippi State University.  His grandfather attended MSU.  Bryce’s parents met at Mississippi State. “I have always felt at home at MSU.  When they offered me a scholarship, it was a dream come true,” Bryce said. Most likely, Bryce will find himself rubbing elbows next year with his former next-door-neighbor, Keegan James.

     What did Bryce learn from his coaches at Lewisburg High? “My Lewisburg coaches have taught me how to be a better man.  It was not just about baseball.  They definitely assisted with my development.  We got after it in the weight room.  We did a lot of skill work, but I will always remember the life lessons they taught as well,” he said. 

     Bryce plans to major in secondary education. Coach Cagle made a prediction. “I think Bryce will spend four years at Mississippi State, then eight years in the pros, and then come home and coach young men with me.” Bryce said he likes that prediction.

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Commercial Appeal Announces Sports Awards

 DeSoto Central graduate Mattie Meine is the Commercial Appeal Girls' Public School Athlete of the Year for 2018.

     Each year the Commercial Appeal hosts the Sports Awards ceremonies at the Orpheum in Memphis.  This event recognizes the “Athletes of the Year” in every sport and all-metro spring boys and girls teams. 

     DeSoto Central High School’s Mattie Meine—a star in both volleyball and softball—was named Girls’ Public School Athlete of the Year. Mattie played infielder for the Jaguars’ softball team and helped win the MHSAA 6A state title.  She batted .453 with five homers and 21 RBIs.  She also made only one error all season. Her team finished 22-6-1. In the summer of 2017, Mattie was selected to play on the MAC All-Star volleyball and softball teams and was selected as MVP for both.

     Lewisburg High School’s Bryce Brock is the Commercial Appeal Sports Awards Baseball Player of the Year.  He is a left-handed pitcher and helped finish the season with 11-1.  He had 101 strike-outs and 10 walks.

     DeSoto Central freshman Blaze Jordan, an infield player, was selected for the baseball All-Metro First Team.  He was just 13-years-old when he committed to Mississippi State.  He had a terrific season for the 6A state champs, batting .417 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs. 

     DeSoto Central’s Junior Kamren James was selected for the All-Metro Second Team.   He helped DCHS earn their 6A state championship.

     Six of nine slots on the Softball All-Metro Team were DeSoto County School students. The first team winners were:

  • Mattie Brower, Lewisburg sophomore, Infielder, and chosen because she helped lead the Patriots in homers (five) and RBIs (40) while batting .427 for a team that spent much of the year ranked first in The Commercial Appeal’s Elite Eight.
  • Madison Haley, Lewisburg senior, Infielder, was a recognized contact hitter. Haley posted a .468 average.  She also had a .510 on-base percentage and stole 15 bases in 16 attempts. She was a nominee for the Commercial Appeal’s Softball Player of the Year.
  • Mattie Meine, DeSoto Central senior, previously mentioned as receiving one of the Commercial Appeal’s top awards, was also nominated for the Commercial Appeal’s Softball Player of the Year.
  • Saige Kocka, Southaven High junior, Outfielder, batted .507 with two homers, 24 RBIs and an .808 slugging percentage. She batted .600 with runners in scoring position, struck out only once all year and threw out five base-runners.  She was a nominee for Commercial Appeal Softball Player of the Year.
  • Sterling James, DeSoto Central junior, Pitcher, helped compile a 7-3 record for the Class 6A state champs. She posted a .95 ERA and struck out 54 batters in 37 innings.  She was a nominee for Commercial Appeal’s Softball Player of the Year.   

     Three of the eleven CA’s Softball All Metro Second Team were DeSoto County School students.  They were:

  • Haylee Alberson, DeSoto Central High, Freshman
  • Caroline Casey, Hernando High, Senior
  • Oakley Laughter, Lewisburg High, Junior         

     For the CA’s All-Metro Girls Track and Field Team, Katelyn Cartwright, a junior at Hernando High, was named to both the First Team and the Second Team.  In the Class 6A state meet, Cartwright won the 1600 in 5:17.03 and the 3200 in the 11:50.77. Her times were the best of any area runner this spring.  She was a nominee for the Commercial Appeal Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

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Greenbrook Elementary Shows Charger Pride!

     The Greenbrook Elementary PTO decided to brighten up the school’s entry with a new painting of the Southaven Charger mascot.  Principal Melynda Crockett said the PTO commissioned Carl Brown of Batesville to paint the life-size Charger.

     “Students love it,” said Crockett.  “It will help build school spirit and adds color and interest to our school entry.  We are appreciative of our PTO and all they do for our campus, including commissioning this new painting.”

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Lewisburg Elementary Math, Science Teacher Earns National Award

     Angela McKinnon, a 5th grade mathematics and science teacher at Lewisburg Elementary School, will b honored with a presidential award for excellence in teaching or mentoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), according to the Mississippi Department of Education.  It is the highest recognition that a kindergarten through 12th grade mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States.

     Angela McKinnon of the DeSoto County School District and Angela August of the Gulfport School District will represent Mississippi at the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) Program.  More than 140 teachers nationwide will receive Presidential awards and $10,000 each from the National Science Foundation which manages the PAEMST program on behalf of the White House.

     Awardees represent schools in all 50 U.S. states, Department of Defense Education Activity schools and schools in the U.S. territories American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

     McKinnon has been an elementary educator for 25 years.  As Lewisburg’s “Science Guru,” McKinnon has served as the fifth grade lead science teacher, assisted with the school science fair, and judged for other schools in her district.  She has also been a mentor to new teachers, served on the Mississippi Editorial Advisory Board for MacMillan/McGraw-Hill publishers, and her students have consistently scored 100 percent proficient and advanced on the state science test.

     For several years, McKinnon served on the content, bias, and data review committees for the Mississippi Department of Education to assist in the development of the state test.  She said the Presidential Award is the greatest achievement of her teaching career.

     “Receiving this award validates my passion of bringing science education alive at the elementary level.  My hope is that I am able to instill a love of science in my students and inspire them to become lifelong learners,” she said. “I am so humbled and honored to have been chosen as a recipient of the highest honor bestowed upon teachers.  I am excited to be able to represent Lewisburg Elementary and the great State of Mississippi.”

     Superintendent Cory Uselton and the DCS Board of Education recognized her accomplishments at the July Board meeting.

     “Our school district and our state could not have a better representative of a teacher who works every day to ‘raise the bar’ through her high expectations of students,” Uselton said. “This award was established in 1983 by the White House. It allows each state to select five state finalists in mathematics and up to five state finalists in science.  Only one state finalist in each content area is selected as the Presidential Awardee for the state.  What an honor to have a DCS teacher chosen.” 

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Accomplishments Recognized by School Board

     DeSoto County Schools’ administrators and teachers are continually recognized by the Board of Education for receiving national and state awards.

     Some of the recent winners include:

  • Anthony Jenkins, DCS Athletic Director—Jenkins was selected as one of the eight finalists for National High School Athletic Coaches Association’s “Athletic Director of the Year.” Nominated by the Mississippi Association of Coaches Association, Jenkins and the other seven national finalists got to present at their national meeting in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He also serves as a board member (and past president) of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) and assists in presenting state championship awards across the state in sports and activities. He served as head football coach at Hernando High School for 26 years before assuming his current position.
  • Len Killough, Band Director for Hernando High School—The National Federation of State High School Association Committee selected Killough as the “2017-2018 Outstanding Music Educator” for Section 3. In 2014 and 2015, the Hernando High School band won back-to-back MHSAA 6A state championships.  At the board meeting, Killough was recognized for being “detailed, compassionate and taking great pride in the product he puts on display.”
  • Vicki Sullivan, dance team sponsor at Olive Branch High (and Career & Technical Education Chair), was selected as the 2017 Girls Spirit Coach of the Year. She has served as sponsor at OBHS for 19 years.  During this time, her teams have won numerous State Championships in Pom and Hip Hop, plus three National Championships in Small Varsity Hip Hop.
  • Heath Dudley, Southaven High Schools’ Head Track & Cross Country Coach, was selected as a finalist for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Girls’ Track and Field Coach of the Year Award. He has just completed his first year at SHS.  He previously worked at JZ George High School before joining DCS.  His teams won a total of 18 State championships (1 Girls Cross Country, 4 Boys Cross Country, 6 Boys’ Track, and 7 Girls’ Track and Field).  At the board meeting, he was described as being “big on kids working hard and holding them accountable.”
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Two SROs Retire

 School Resource Officer Lt. Charles Hopper is recognized for his commitment to DeSoto County Schools and congratulated on his retirement by Superintendent Cory Uselton.

     School Resource Officers, or SROs, are members of the law enforcement community who teach, counsel, and protect the school community.  DeSoto County School District has a total of 16 SROs through partnerships with local municipalities.

     Two long-term SROs, with a combination of 22 years of service, have retired. Lt. Charles Hooper of Horn Lake Police Department, and Sgt. Tomas Aguilar of the Southaven Police Department, were recognized for their service by the Board of Education.

School Resource Officer Sgt. Tomas Aguilar is congratulated on his retirement and commended for his dedication to DeSoto County Schools by Superintendent Cory Uselton.

     “It was a joy and a privilege to work with two outstanding professionals who deeply care about their communities as well as the schools they served.  Through both prevention and intervention techniques, these two men have made our schools safer,” said Freddie Joseph, DCS’s executive director of safety and risk management.  “We wish them the best in their retirement.”

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Administrative Staff Development 2018: Raising the Bar...Again

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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
Katherine Nelson, Director

Geri Hill, Editor & Graphic Designer

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