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DeSoto County Schools

DeSoto Digest Newsletter March 2019

Greenbrook Elementary Principal Selected as DCS Administrator of the Year

     Each morning, after announcements, Greenbrook Elementary Principal MeLynda Crockett starts the day leading “Minds and Motions.” Frequently, she can be found with some of her 546 young students as they make their way through a simple maze of tasks as they juggle beanbags, walk backwards up the steps, or stomp through the cafeteria -- activities designed to strengthen the balance and coordination of students.

     “Research supports that this program improves brain function, increases core strength, improves mood, emotional well-being, and balance,” said DeSoto County Schools’ 2019 Administrator of the Year. “Students love this time of day. It is the perfect way to start, as well as see specific students grow in confidence, academics, and social skills.”

     This is the second time MeLynda Crockett has been selected for a school system’s top administrative honor.  She received Tate County’s Principal of the Year in 2006-2007.  In 1998, she was Tate County Optimist Club Educator of the Year. In 2000, she was recognized by the University of Mississippi with the Andrew “Ike” Mullins Award for the school of education.

     Jeannie Taylor, a former DCS Teacher of the Year and kindergarten teacher at GES, said, “Mrs. Crockett truly loves the students and makes all her decisions with them in mind.  I love the way she asks about my family and cares about me as a person and not just an employee.”   

     Crockett earned her undergraduate degree in elementary education from Delta State University. She later received her certification in gifted education, a master’s degree in school counseling, and her specialist’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Mississippi.  She worked at Walls Elementary School for one year, and then taught close to her home at Strayhorn Elementary School.  In 1997, she became the assistant principal at Strayhorn and rose to the rank of principal from 2000-2011. She also worked at the Coldwater Attendance Center before accepting a position of assistant principal at Southaven Intermediate School in 2012. She became principal at GES in 2014.  

     Any GES student can quickly describe their positive behavior system that uses Charger coins to purchase items at their market, eat lunch with their favorite teacher, buy necklaces, stuffed animals, or other toys. “When our students are ‘caught being good’ they earn wooden coins.  Each nine weeks, there is a PBIS celebration.  Students have had a glow-in-the-dark dance party and a splash party.   Students work to attend these parties, and teachers are excited to see improvements in behavior.”

     Crockett believes in having fun every day. On the 100th day of school, for example, students have a rare opportunity—they get to duct tape their principal to the wall.  “I am always amazed that duct tape can support me and my assistant principal on the wall, but it works,” said Crockett.

     Leslie Heyman, principal of Center Hill Elementary School, has known Mrs. Crockett as a colleague and a friend, and said, “She displays love and compassion for all children.  She is very goal oriented with one mission in mind, and that is to grow her students socially and academically. Many children, parents, teachers, and colleagues have been impacted by her gracious service.  Her example of leadership has taught me so much.”

     Always humble, putting others first, Crockett said she was surprised to receive DeSoto County Schools’ Administrator of the Year award.  “There are so many great principals in this school system.”

   When a reporter pushed her to state why she thinks she was selected, she replied, “I do love the kids. I do not have any of my own.  I do believe even on my worst day, I might be the best hope a child has. I work to build a positive and safe environment in this building. I hope students and teachers know I care.”

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School Board Honored

     February is School Board Recognition Month and DeSoto County Schools made a special effort to thank five public servants for their commitment to public schools through cards, posters, treats, letters, and a surprise choral performance by the Oak Grove Central Elementary School Choir.

     Sarah Doss Thomas, Ann Jolley, Michele Henley, Shelia Riley, and Milton Nichols were honored by Supt. Cory Uselton for receiving the Mississippi School Board Association Lighthouse School Leader Beacon Award for the District receiving a letter grade of “A” and the Gavel Circle Award for their participation in continuing education training.

     Lee Caldwell and Bill Russell, two members of the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors, , read a Resolution of Appreciation recognizing  “School Board Members for the countless hours they work to make public education in DeSoto County the best it can be for every child.”  They noted in a climate of change and challenge, School Board Members develop policies and make tough decisions on complex educational and social issues that affect the entire community and the lives of individual students. They bear responsibility and oversight for DCS’ annual budget; 34,457 students, in grades K to 12; 4000+ employees; and 42 campuses.

     “We proudly salute these education advocates as they provide vision and leadership for student achievement, academic programs, district funding, and school facilities,” said Supt. Uselton.  “I see the job they do, and I believe we have the best school board in the state.”

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Patriots Win MHSAA 5A State Soccer Title

     It was a true Patriot Pride send off to State Finals for the Lewisburg High Soccer Team.

     Dressed in blazers and ties, the team marched through the hallways of the school with the rocking sounds of the Lewisburg High Band and student body cheering on the North Half champions as they boarded buses to meet the South Half winner, Long Beach, at Brandon High School.

     The LHS 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 captains are Peyton Coker, senior, and Ben Mullins, junior.  The LHS Soccer Coach is Harl Roehm.

     “Ben scored both of the goals in the come from behind win,” said Coach Roehm.  “Peyton set up the plays.  It was a total team effort. Our state title was a culmination of hard work.  This year we had a motto—a battle cry—that was ‘every inch every day.’  One inch is the difference in winning and losing.  This team found that extra inch.”

     Roehm added that this group of boys has been ‘knocking on the door’ of a state title for several years.

     “For several years, this group has lost to the state champ by one goal,” he said.  “We had to quit chasing the trophy and focus on national rankings,” he said.  “At the end of the season, based on strength of schedule and our record, MaxPreps ranked our team 15th in the nation.  This title fulfills a promise the program made years ago and also puts Lewisburg soccer into national prominence.”

     The team finished at 19-1-1, a statistic that changes weekly, Roehm noted. He explained Mississippi only allows 21 regular season games and playoffs. Other state teams play 29 games and playoffs.

     “I am really going to miss these guys.  I have watched them grow up.  I have known most of them since they were in second grade.  We have nursed injuries, worked through relationship breakups, and shared a lot of hours of conversation,” Roehm said.  “They are my children.  This group took my heart.”   

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CHMS Student Wins 1st Place State Reading Award

 Center Hill Middle School student, Kacy Carson, won 1st place at the State Reading Fair at the Mississippi Department of Education in Jackson.

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A Soldier Returns Home

      A solder surprised his eight-year-old daughter during class at DeSoto Central Primary School in Southaven

     Shelby Kate had not seen her father this past year. He had been deployed to Kuwait with the Army National Guard, and her parents wanted to make sure his return home was extra special.

     SFC Joshua Stokes and his wife, Macy, called their daughter’s school to ask if such a reunion was possible.

     Their child’s teacher, Tammy Haire, quickly responded by setting activities in motion. Shelby Kate and her family would have a homecoming all would remember. SFC Joshua Stokes would have a hero’s welcome.

     In less than an hour, teachers and students made posters, signs, and gathered flags for classmates to wave.  All, except Shelby Kate, were in on the secret, and no one gave it away. Shelby Kate thought her Dad was returning in five weeks. She had a calendar to count down the days.

     It was school as usual. While working on a computer with headphones, Shelby Kate turned around when a soldier in fatigues tapped her on the shoulder.  She recognized, then stood, and embraced her dad.  There was total silence in the room, and then her classmates burst into applause.

     “I think you have grown since I saw you,” Stokes said as he hugged his child.

     “I have,” she replied.

     Stokes told those watching the scene,” “I’m just happy to see my girl.”

     The reunion quickly ended the school day with the blessings of Haire to leave school an hour early.  Stokes and his family, including two year-old daughter, Selby, gathered up Shelby Kate’s things, including her backpack.  Following a hug from her teacher, the family made their way out the door.

     They were going home.

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Archery in DCS Continues to Grow and Thrive

Gavin Miller (LCHS) and Brady May (LHS) both scored 282 and had a “shoot out” round to determine the champion.

     The DeSoto County Schools Archery Tournament was held March 2, at Southaven High School. Teams participating were Southaven, Lake Cormorant, Hernando, DeSoto Central, Lewisburg, and Center Hill. 

     The top three teams in the tournament were Center Hill (score 3162), Lewisburg (score 3110), and Southaven (score 3091).

     “This is Center Hill's third year in a row to take the top spot in the annual tournament. The teams are preparing to compete in the North Half Tournament during the last week of March,” said CHHS Head Coach Judy Terry. “Teams who advance to the State Championship will compete in Jackson, MS, during the first week of April.” 

Center Hill Mustangs

     Terry explained how archery is a sport of mental toughness, technique, and consistency that involves students of all ages and sizes.  After the district competition, an All-County DCS Team was selected consisting of the top 12 boys and top 12 girls in the tournament. The Top Male Archer was Brady May—LHS (282) and the Top Female Archer was Randi Terry—CHHS (275).

The Top Male Archer was Brady May—LHS (282) and the Top Female Archer was Randi Terry—CHHS 

     A novelty at this meet was a tie with the top two male archers, so a “shoot out” was implemented.

     “If there is a tie between two archers, the rules say the tiebreaker goes to the archer with the highest number of perfect 10 point shots. Brady May (LHS) and Gavin Miller (LCHS) both scored 282, each with fifteen 10s, twelve 9s, and three 8s, leaving no way to break the tie,” said Terry. “All coaches discussed it and determined there would be a shoot off. The two archers would shoot on one target and go through rounds at 10 and 15 meters, including practice rounds, simulated like a regular tournament flight. The first archer to outscore the other in a round that was not a practice round would be the winner. After one practice and two scored rounds, Brady edged out Gavin by one point and was named to top male archer for the tournament.” 

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Two DCS Middle School Students Win County Spelling Bee

From left, Associate Supt. Van Alexander, 1st Place Winner Iris Xue, Runner-up Elisia Campbell, and HMS Principal Dr. Jerry Floate

     It took 68 rounds and 268 correctly spelled words to determine first and second place winners in the 2019 DeSoto County Spelling Bee, a countywide event that included Northpoint Christian School, Sacred Heart and DeSoto County Schools.

     The winner was Iris Xue, a 7th grader from DeSoto Central Middle School. The runner-up was Elisia Campbell, an 8th grader from Lewisburg Middle School. Both received trophies. Iris will compete in the Mississippi Association of Educators’ statewide Spelling Bee in Jackson in March.  In the event Iris is unable to attend the competition, Elisia is eligible.  The winner at the state level will be eligible to compete at the National Spelling Bee, which is televised.

     Van Alexander, associate superintendent of DeSoto County Schools, welcomed participants and guests and awarded the trophies at the end of the 3.5 hour event.

     “All students studied very hard, and each one of them is a winner,” Alexander said.

      A total of 33 students began the competition before a packed room of family and friends at DeSoto County Schools’ Central Services boardroom in Hernando.  All students participating won school competitions to be a part of the County Spelling Bee.  Each school, representing grades 4-8, had two students eligible per grade.  They received a syllabus of the words to study.  Dr. Jerry Floate, Principal of Hernando Middle School, was the “pronouncer” for the event.

     Judges for the Spelling Bee were Center Hill Elementary School Principal Leslie Heyman, Walls Elementary Principal Erica Armstrong, and Horn Lake Intermediate Principal Carrie Speck.  Jo Cox, Director of Continuing Education at DCS, was the Spelling Bee Coordinator.

     The first round took out ten participants.  Round two eliminated five, and round three took out four, leaving fourteen students who continued to correctly spell words such as cooperage, guava, hibiscus, gangrene, and offal. It was a close match in the final rounds between the two middle school students.  Iris correctly spelled minaret to win.

     “We had an exceptional group of spellers this year.  Usually, a winner is determined after about fifteen rounds,” said Jo Cox.  “Words seemed to get more difficult as we moved through the syllabus.  However, these students put much time and effort into preparing.  To my knowledge, this was the longest competition we have had.  Our winner spelled 68 words correctly.  It is my hope that we see her on the national stage.”

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Homer Skelton Executives Tour Career & Technical Center--West

     Career & Technical Center--West has a variety of ways in which schools and businesses have combined forces to benefit students, teachers, and DeSoto County.  Homer Skelton Ford & Homer Skelton Hyundai executives toured the facilities to see how they could help. From left to right, are Ronald Free, Kris True, Brian Chapman and Marty Tant.  CTC-West Principal Allyson Killough gave this group a tour of the facilities.

     Brian Chapman, Vice President and General Manager, Homer Skelton Ford, and the Homer Skelton Foundation, have helped equip the Automotive Section of the Career & Technical Center -West.  In addition to a $100,000 start-up grant, they also provided a $52,000 virtual welding simulator so students can master welding techniques in the safest manner possible.

     Automotive Instructor Austin Miller described the two-year curriculum students follow and explained how important it is for students to have a real-world connection to the automobile industry.

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Empty Bowls Project at Lewisburg High School

LHS students working on the Empty Bowls Project are from left to right, Julia Kirkland, Dalton Cooper, Olivia Kraft, Camille Howell, and Racheal Embry.

     The Lewisburg High Interact Club is feeding the hungry in DeSoto County, one bowl at a time.

     For the 5th consecutive year, the LHS Interact Club sponsored the Empty Bowls Project.  It was held on March 5th, 5 to 8 p.m. in their school cafeteria. A $20 ticket purchased a handcrafted, ceramic bowl and unlimited, steaming hot soup, donated by local restaurants. 

     The bowls were made in art classes at Lewisburg High (250), DeSoto Central High (50), and Hernando High (35) Schools.  Proceeds supported Olive Branch Food Pantry and Hernando Interfaith Council on Poverty. 

     Two LHS seniors co-chaired the project.  They were Camille Howell and Dalton Cooper.  Dr. Lacey Fitts, chemistry teacher, served as the Interact sponsor.  Terry Boler, World History teacher, also served as sponsor.

     “This project has been rewarding on several levels,” said Camille Howell.  “We have connected with students in our school, in neighboring schools, and with leaders in our community. This project forces you to develop organizational skills. Dalton and I have both worked on this since we were freshmen.”

     Some of the principal soup sponsors for the program included:  Chick-Fil-A, AC’s Steakhouse, Junior’s, Ronnie Grisanti, Sharon Gilliam with Memphis Chef, LaBelle Haven Baptist Church and Maples Memorial United Methodist Church.  Many other sponsors provided bread, desserts, T-shirts, and drinks.

     Dalton Cooper added, “It is rewarding to know that we are giving back to our community and doing something that helps prevent hunger in our hometown communities.”

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DeSoto Central Middle School Cheerleaders Recognized by Board

     The achievements of DeSoto Central Middle School Cheerleading Squad were recognized by the Board of Education.

     In 2019, this group of 21 girls won Mississippi’s Middle School Game Day State Champions, sanctioned by the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA).  Their sponsors are Kimberly McDaniel and Caitlin Stark.

     “In Orlando, we were awarded the title as 4th in the Nation of Middle School Cheer Teams and 7th in World Competition,” said McDaniel.  “With the help of our cheer coach, Trey Griffin, my co-sponsor, Caitlin Stark, the parents of these cheerleaders, and these talented young ladies, we have had an extremely successful year!”

     McDaniel added that this was the first year for a DeSoto County Middle School Cheer Team to win a State Championship Title.

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Teacher Career Fair Attracts More Than 250 Applicants

Claire Simoneaux and Natalie Keane will graduate in the spring and would like elementary teaching positions.

     More than 250 prospective teachers attended DeSoto County Schools 2nd Annual Teacher Career Fair on Tuesday, March 5th,  at the Board of Education.  Potential teaching candidates were able to meet 42 principals in one location, representing eight school zones in DeSoto County.

     “We are looking for the best and brightest teachers to join our team,” said DCS Superintendent Cory Uselton.  “While we recruit and interview at surrounding colleges and universities, this is an opportunity for candidates to meet the educational leaders in our school system and hear how DCS is committed to excellence.”

     Claire Simoneaux and Natalie Keane were two of the first teacher candidates to arrive at the two-hour event at the Board of Education.  Both want to teach in a K-5 school and will receive their educator’s license in June.    

Jena Koren, a DeSoto Central High graduate, talked to high school principals about returning home to teach high school science. 

     Jena Koren, a graduate of DeSoto Central High School, has an undergraduate degree in business and horticulture.  She is working toward a Master’s degree in education.

     “I am teaching near Jackson, Mississippi, but this is home.  This event was well-organized, beautifully done, and I could meet principals from every area of DeSoto County,” Koren said.

     Jessica Grabowski, currently a teacher in Arkansas, wanted to explore teaching chemistry at one of the eight DCS high schools.  She began working her way around the room.  Her first conversation was with Duane Case, principal at Hernando High School.

      A mix of veteran teachers as well as college seniors attended the event.

     Supt. Uselton said, “DeSoto County Schools is a great place to work, and we are so very fortunate to have an amazing faculty that helps our students to achieve their goals. Our teachers and students perform at at the highest levels in academics, athletics, performing arts, and other extracurricular activities."

Jessica Grabowski, a veteran teacher, is talking to Hernando High Principal Duane Case about teaching chemistry.

     Besides hearing about job opportunities, school administrators were on hand to explain salaries, health insurance and retirement packages. School Board members also attended to help welcome visitors.

 DCS staff members greeted teaching candidates and answered questions regarding DeSoto County Schools.

     A number of sponsors helped make the event possible, including Domino’s Pizza, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Shelter Insurance, State Farm Insurance, Belhaven University, American Fidelity, Hernando Flower Shop, Soul Good Tees, American Benefits Brokerage, and the Rebel Radio Station.

Teacher Career Fair 2019 Sponsors

     “We have wonderful community support in DeSoto County,” said Ashley Bryant, coordinator for the event. “Our event is bigger than last year and I believe it will continue to grow.  We are appreciative of how many people worked to make this possible.”

     Van Alexander, associate superintendent of personnel, said, “Last year we had 200 teacher candidates register, and 104 are working for us now.  This is an event we will want to continue.”

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2019 Teachers of the Year for DCS

     Susan Powell, 2nd grade Spotlight Teacher from Pleasant Hill Elementary School, was named the 2019 Teacher of the Year for DeSoto County Schools and will be entered in the state competition.

     All 42 schools selected their Teacher of the Year and were recognized by the Board of Education.  This select group will serve on the Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council, a forum for direct communication and collaboration between DCS teachers and Superintendent Cory Uselton.

     “The Council adds the voice of teachers where it belongs—at the center of decisions that directly affect their students and school communities,” said Supt. Uselton.  “Our Council recently met to set our school calendar.  The new Council will meet three to four times per year. It is a tremendous honor to be selected as the Teacher of the Year for a school.”  

Dana Cashion, Career & Technical Center—East; Brittany Kay Scruggs, Center Hill Elementary; Sissy Johnson, Center Hill High; James Andrew Barham, Center Hill Middle; and Courtney P. Gilbreath, Chickasaw Elementary.

 Natalie Clayton, DeSoto County Alternative Center;  Amanda McMurphy, DeSoto Central Elementary; Leslie Pleasants, DeSoto Central High; Lisa Purvis, DeSoto Central Middle; and Julia Norvell, DeSoto Central Primary.

Sonya Sullivan, Greenbrook Elementary; Angie Riley, Hernando High School; Alayna Weiss, Hernando Hills Elementary; and Amanda Boucher, Hope Sullivan Elementary.

Brandi Mowry, Horn Lake Elementary; Cole Bostick, Horn Lake High; Laura Linneman, Horn Lake Middle; Mary Catherine Latham, Lake Cormorant Elementary; and  LtCol Gregg M. Johnston, Lake Cormorant High.

Keir L. Brown, Lake Cormorant Middle, Laurie Poppenheimer, Lewisburg Elementary; Amy W. Koonce, Lewisburg High; Cindy McCool, Lewisburg Middle; and Melissa Thompson, Lewisburg Primary.

Racheal Derrick, Overpark Elementary; Susan Powell, Pleasant Hill Elementary; Morgan Massa, Shadow Oaks Elementary; and Candice Wood, Southaven Elementary.

Ashley Knotts, Southaven High; Crystal Jones, Southaven Intermediate; Erma Lowery Southaven Middle; and Melissa Auvil, Walls Elementary.

Kelly Suzanne Edwards, Oak Grove Central Elementary; Laura Arnold Ford, Olive Branch Elementary; Meredith Talley, Olive Branch High; Jerrica Barnes, Olive Branch Intermediate; and Tracie Shannon Blake, Olive Branch Middle.

Jonathan Newson, Hernando Middle.

Susan Powell, Teacher of the Year for DCS, with Supt. Cory Uselton.

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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