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November 2019

DCS Celebrates Record Number of National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists

 National Merit Semifinalists were recognized by the School Board.

     Twenty-seven DeSoto County School students have been named National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists, the largest group in the history of the district.   

Center Hill High School 

     “We are so proud of the students who have been recognized as National Merit Semifinalists,” said Supt. Cory Uselton. “Through their efforts over the past four years, these students have distinguished themselves as leaders in the classroom. They are great examples of the hardworking and dedicated young people which comprise the Class of 2020.”

DeSoto Central High School 

     Supt. Uselton said the PSAT Program offered at all eight high schools has put an emphasis on helping students prepare for the PSAT/ACT tests.

Hernando High School 

     “The Homer Skelton Foundation provided the technology for these classes,” Supt. Uselton said.  “This technology, plus the hard work of our teachers and administrators, has had a great impact on students’ scores.”

Lewisburg High School 

     Over 90 percent of semifinalists nationwide are expected to attain finalist standing, and about half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title, according to the National Merit website.  

Olive Branch High School 

Southaven High School 

     The DCS Board of Education recognized the Merit Semifinalists at the October recessed meeting. They are:  Center Hill High—Wyatt Edwards and William Gibson; DeSoto Central High—William Emmich, Benjamin Hamilton, Allan Herring, McKenzie House, Yousef Mahfood, Johnny Mitias, Annie Phan, Keigh Pickens, Kaitlyn Weirich, and Steven Zombirt; Hernando High—Isaac Pearl and Matthew Robinson; Lewisburg High—Matthew Drummond, Racheal Embry, Julia Huffman, Jacob Nelson, Grace Schafer, Morgan Smith, and Brad Wiersema; Olive Branch High—Benjamin Beard, Reese Myres, Jordan Smith, Slane Steen, and Jordan Wootten; Southaven High—Jared Fontenot.

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Let the Journey Begin

Members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority delivered journals to Horn Lake Intermediate School.  Pictured from left to right are:  Warren Herron, AP at HLIS; Allison Oliver; Josh Russell, AP at HLIS; Christine Lewis-Pugh; Sarah Leach, AP at HLIS; Shirley Garrett, Chapter President; Teresa M. McGuire, Project Coordinator; Dr. Shawn Sipp Young; and Stacie Pigues.

     Third grade students at Horn Lake Intermediate received a writing journal from the DeSoto County Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

     “The ultimate purpose of journal writing is to be able to write freely about anything,” said Shirley Garrett, Chapter President of Delta Sigma Theta.  “Students need to be given opportunities to write because there is much value in writing every day.”

     “Journal for Your Journey” is a national program with this sorority.  This local chapter provided 375 journals for 15 homerooms, so every third grade student at HLIS could have this experience. Each journal was tied with a bow.

     “This program supports the state’s emphasis on literacy,” said Teresa M. McGuire, Project Coordinator for Delta Sigma Theta.  “Research shows that teachers who provide daily practice in responding to journal prompts produce confident writers and better readers.”

     McGuire, a former teacher, added, “Through journaling, studies also show that writing about experiences, thoughts, and feelings can help lower stress levels, improve memory, and boost problem-solving abilities.”

     “We think this gift is absolutely wonderful,” said HLIS Assistant Principal Josh Russell.  “Daily writing practice helps students prepare for Mississippi’s Third Grade Reading Gate.  Anytime they have an opportunity to write, it will add to their development.”

     Besides providing journals, Delta Sigma Theta has a school supply replenish program at Walls Elementary School.  They bring new supplies to the school in January when supplies start running low.

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Board Member Gets Unexpected Honor

From left, Delta Kappa Gamma President Barbara Jepsen, DCS Board Member Shelia Riley, and Angie Couch, Chairman of the Professional Affairs Committee who makes the selection for the Red Rose Award.

     Roses were the order of the day for one school board member of the DeSoto County School District.

     At an October DCS Board Meeting, members of the Delta Kappa Gamma’s Alpha Delta Chapter surprised Shelia Riley, DCS Board Member--District 4.  She received the organization’s Red Rose Award.

     Every two years, the chapter honors a woman in education who resides in DeSoto, Marshall, or Tate counties.

     Barbara Jepsen, president of the Alpha Delta Chapter and former principal at Hernando Elementary School, pointed out that Riley was chosen for her 26-year career with DeSoto County Schools and for her current work in an elected position as school board member with Mississippi’s largest school district. Riley is serving her second term.

     “We laud your dedication and advocacy for education in our community and the example you serve for women to run for office and serve as leaders,” Jepsen said.  “You have greatly impacted the lives of countless children and youth in our country, and we thank you.” 

     Shelia Riley worked at Hernando Middle School as a Title 1 Instructional Assistant in reading and math for 7th/8th grades. She continued her employment with DeSoto County Schools at the Board of Education.  She worked in Personnel and Professional Development.

      Riley assisted in the development of the Continuing Education Program for DCS teachers. She is a retired member of the Mississippi Association of Educational Office Professionals and a "Who's Who Historical Society Inductee for Achievements in Professional Management." Riley graduated from Hernando High School, attended Northwest Mississippi Community College, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management.   

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Principals’ Meeting 10.23.19

Supt. Cory Uselton reminded his school leaders it was “National Principals’ Month” in October as he kicked off the Fall Principals’ Meeting.

From left, High School Principals Chris Fleming, LHS; Duane Case, HHS; and Jacob Stripling, OBHS.

From left, Principal Stacey Pirtle, OGCES; Dir. Special Education Elisa Goss; and Principal Sherry Anderson, LES.

From left, Nick Toungett, HLMS; Cliff Johnston, DCHS; and Doug Payne, CHHS.

From left, Principals Cynthia Dixon, GES; and Jeannie Treadway, LPS.

From left, Principals Erica Armstrong, WES; Conell Philips, Jr., LCHS; and Aisha Maxwell, OES.

From left, Elementary Principals Colleen Long, DCPS; Christy Upchurch, SES; Carrie Speck, HLES; and Leighanne Wamble, OBES.

From left, Principals Andy Orr, HLHS; and Kris Perkins, OBMS.

From left, Principals Kenneth McKinney, HSES; Renee Triplett, HES; and Lisa Nye, DCES.

From left, Principals Larry Hood, CHMS; and Shane Jones, SHS.

From left, Principal Jennifer Stripling, SIS; and Principal Kristy Dunning, LCES.

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Oak Grove Central Elementary School Selected for PhRMA STEM Grant

Mrs. Stephanie Pirani’s homeroom class attended the announcement of the STEM grant.  Adults, from left, are Michael McLendon, Sandra Teague, Pete Martinez, and Stacey Pirtle.

     Eight schools in Mississippi got an unexpected surprise from PhRMA, a biopharmaceutical research company.  Oak Grove Central Elementary School was one of the eight selected for an unrestricted STEM grant.

     Mississippi Senator-elect Michael McLendon joined Pete Martinez, deputy vice president of state advocacy of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), at OGCES to announce the $2,500 STEM Pipeline education grant to support the school’s STEM curriculum.

   “Both of my sons, Dr. Hunter McLendon and Sadler McLendon, attended OGCES from 2001-2005,” said McLendon.  “My wife, Vickey, and I knew that they were getting the best education Mississippi had to offer.  The faculty taught with enthusiasm, and administrators had the proper tools to prepare them for today’s workforce.  Principal Stacey Pirtle and her staff continue to uphold the tradition that Oak Grove Central Elementary parents have come to expect.”

    According to a press release from PhRMA, teaching STEM in elementary grades opens the door for teachers and students to become tomorrow’s innovators. They stated that children provided with a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will go on to play an integral role in the nation’s global competitiveness and economic stability.

     “Every day, we work with researchers and innovators who were attracted to the STEM field at a young age,” said Pete Martinez.  “PhRMA is proud to support the students at Oak Grove Central Elementary to cultivate the next generation of innovators through STEM education.”

     Sandra Teague runs the OGCES science lab for 4th and 5th grade students.  The grant will be used in her classroom.

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New Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy at DCHS

Along with Principal Cliff Johnston (far left) and Chick-fil-A owner/operator Brandon Paulsen (far right), the DeSoto Central Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy met to kick off their new chapter at DeSoto Central High.

     Everyone can be a leader by harnessing their potential, influencing lives, and changing lives for the better.

     This is part of the philosophy of the “Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy,” or Leader Academy as it is known, which promotes leadership skills and opportunities for high school students. Two owner/operators of Chick-fil-A stores have sponsored six CFA Leadership Academies in DeSoto County, with the newest one being at DeSoto Central High School.

     Olive Branch Operator Brandon Paulsen sponsors chapters at Olive Branch High, Lewisburg High, and DeSoto Central High.  Southaven Operator Stuart Davidson started the program in DeSoto County and now sponsors clubs at Hernando High, Lake Cormorant High, and Northpoint Christian School.

     “When a community can be a part of schools, and schools can be a part of their community, great things can happen,” said Ben Richhart, director of Operations for Chick-fil-A Getwell in a “Cool School” interview with ABC24 Anchor John Paul.

      Each CFA Leader Academy takes an initial investment of $4,000 by a local owner to cover the curriculum and leadership training videos.

     McKenzie House is the new president of the DCHS Leader Academy.  All schools have different meeting schedules, but McKenzie said her group of 24 students meets before school.

     “There is a philosophy we quickly learn in this program,” McKenzie said.  “’Others first and yourself last.’  This is a guiding principle to have effective community service.”

      All chapters will culminate the year-long program with a significant community event to display what they have learned.   

Click to watch the Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy at DCHS segment.
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Hernando Optimist Club Fills HHS’s Wish List

     “By providing hope and positive vision, Optimists bring out the best in kids.”

     That’s the mission statement of the Hernando Optimist Club, and one reason they asked Hernando High School to make a ‘wish list” of their needs.

     Counselors met with teachers and compiled a list of areas that would benefit from support.

     Optimist Rachel Cook chairs the “Achievement in Education” committee. 

     “The Hernando Optimist Club is totally funded by A-Fair,” Cook said.  “We work all year to make this event a success on the historic downtown square.  This event gives us money to invest in the children of DeSoto County.  I chair the ‘Achievement in Education Committee.’  We want to support programs and equipment that will help all children.  The counselors’ list was so well stated that we decided to fund everything they asked for.”

     The Hernando Optimist Club’s total donation to Hernando High is $3,200. The projects they are funding include:

  • ACT Tutoring Program—Academic Advantage will come to HHS for a “bootcamp class” to increase average ACT scores and scholarship offers. Cost Estimate--$1,435
  • Special Education Teacher-Math Calculators—SPED teachers in the Learning Lab will work with students on the Algebra I class, a state-tested course. Five new calculators will be provided for these students to use. Cost estimate--$600
  • IEP/Learning Lab Student Organizational Support—9th and 10th grade SPED students will receive planners to help them with organizational goals. Cost estimate—$450
  • MTSS Intervention—Students in this program will also receive planners to help them with organization skills. Cost estimate--$450 
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Teachers Awarded Apple iPads

     For all students, including students with learning challenges, it is important to understand how differently some may learn. 

     The ARC of Northwest Mississippi sponsored a workshop titled "Using iPads With Special Needs Students."  Twenty-seven teachers participated in two CEU sessions.  Completing the two classes allowed teachers to apply for an Apple iPad. The Autism Assistance Fund of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi provided the iPads.

     Wayne Bartley organizes a golf tournament each year at North Creek Golf Course to replenish this fund.  This year, $9,000 was awarded for this program.

     “Special needs teachers are heroes in my book,” Bartley said at a reception to present the iPads.

     Twenty-six teachers applied for an iPad to use in their classrooms.  Eighteen iPads went to DeSoto County teachers, six went to Tate County teachers, and two went to Marshall County teachers.

     In addition to the iPads, teachers received a $50 gift card to purchase apps. 

     Connie Mah, special education teacher at Lake Cormorant High School, said, “I have a non-verbal student.  An iPad is a way we can communicate, so I know the student is learning.” 

     Rebecca Treadway is the director of The ARC of Northwest Mississippi.

     “We are so thankful for the hard work these teachers do every day with our children,” Treadway said.  “Special education teachers can customize an iPad to meet each student's needs.  The iPad’s lightweight, touchscreen design makes it easier for students with disabilities to use than a computer mouse and keyboard.”

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HES Students Make Big Impact

     Hernando Elementary School is a small school with a very big heart.  With the help and direction of passionate teachers and staff, 713 kindergarten and first grade students raised more than $23,000 in one month for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

     Kindergarten Teacher Samantha Harris was the HES Team Leader for the fundraising efforts and for the St. Jude Walk/Run.

     This effort was a lot of work, but well worth it,” said Harris.  “It is a way I can give back for my four healthy kids, plus the 23 babies in my class.”

     The HES PTA was another group that helped this school exceed their goal.

      “This was definitely a team building experience for our school,” Harris said.  “All hands were on deck to pull this off.”

     “During the month of September, gold ribbons were used to bring awareness to childhood cancer,” said HES Principal Renee Triplett.  “Since children are our world at HES, we planned several activities to support St. Jude.”

     These activities kicked off with a sale of 400 St. Jude T-shirts.  A $3 rock painting event allowed students to paint rocks that are now displayed in the school’s gardens around campus.  One week, different monies were collected—pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars.  The winning class earned a pizza party.  There were two dress up days. Students could donate $1 and come to school as their favorite Superhero “with or without super powers.” At the end of the month, students were able to make donations to pie/splash teachers or principals as another way to support St. Jude.

     A final event invited students, friends, and families to join the Hernando Elementary Team for the St. Jude Walk/Run.

     A balloon release celebrated how some of the district’s smallest students could have a big impact. Parents of students formerly treated at St. Jude were invited.

     Jacob Harris, a kindergarten student at HES, said dressing like a Superhero was his favorite activity.

     “It felt good to help the boys and girls at St. Jude,” he added.

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Ribbon Cutting at Center Hill Elementary School

     Ribbons were cut for the newly constructed “Becky Dearden Basketball Court” at Center Hill Elementary School.  The Olive Branch Rotary Club joined forces with the PTO to build a court in honor of the school’s first principal.  On hand for the celebration were, from left to right, Dr. Greg Evans, Justin Burns, Alley Ejlali, Zach Rickman, Krista Rickman, Tim Rickman, Ben Rickman, Supt. Cory Uselton, Ann Jolley, CHES Principal Sissy Heyman, CHES AP Kristy Hale, (back row) David Baker, Pat Dorr, Chip Cavagnaro, and Vickie Dupree. 

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PERKS: DCS Educator Discounts

     Click the PERKS logo (above) to view a complete list of businesses that 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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