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DeSoto County Schools

DeSoto Digest Newsletter - November 2018

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"A" Rated District -- DeSoto County Schools Makes the Grade

     According to the Mississippi Department of Education, DeSoto County Schools is an “A” district, the highest academic rating a Mississippi school district can attain.

     At a recent School Board meeting, Ryan Kuykendall, DCS Director of Accountability and Research, presented the District’s state assessment and accountability results. He announced that DeSoto County Schools achieved an “A” rating for the third year in a row. He praised the District’s proficiency performance, highlighted areas of exceptional growth, and noted areas of emphasis for the 2018-2019 school year.

     “We are one of nine districts that was an ‘A’ in 2016, an ‘A’ in 2017, and an ‘A’ in 2018. These are the three years since the Mississippi Accountability Assessment Program (MAAP) testing began,” said Kuykendall.

     Superintendent Cory Uselton commended the District’s teachers, students, administrators, and staff for their hard work and commitment to student achievement. "We have an incredible group of teachers, administrators, staff, and students, and I am so proud of all of their efforts," Superintendent Uselton said. He noted the importance of teamwork and the District’s emphasis on continuous improvement. He stated that the District is already focused on improvement strategies and plans for this school year.

     “Even though we finished as one of the top school districts in the state, we have been studying our test data for months and looking for ways to improve,” Uselton said. “The larger your school district, the harder it is to achieve an A rating. As the largest school district in the state, we face unique challenges. But, it’s all about teamwork. Our teachers and administrators work hard to make sure that every student has an opportunity to be successful.”

     In his presentation, Kuykendall shared performance highlights from individual schools including the tremendous improvement in elementary schools across the District. He also celebrated the schools who achieved a ranking in the top ten in the state in individual subjects and as a school. He concluded his report by discussing the District’s emphasis on growth and shared combined growth scores.

     Supt. Uselton added, “All school districts face the challenge of meeting the needs of every individual student. Many students need extra remediation, while others need enrichment lessons to challenge them intellectually. This test data helps us look for ways that we can help individual students. We are always looking for ways to differentiate instruction to grow all learners.”

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School Board Members Recognized

     DeSoto County Schools board members Ann Jolley and Shelia Riley were recognized at a recent Mississippi School Board Association conference in Jackson. Mrs. Jolley is the 2017-2018 School Board Member of the Year for the state of Mississippi, and Mrs. Riley is serving on the Mississippi School Board Association Board of Directors.

     “Serving on a school board is the highest public service commitment in America," said MSBA Executive Director Dr. Michael Waldrop. “The decisions such people make affect the lives of countless children, not only today’s children, but also those of the past and those of the future. Having two board members such as Ms. Jolley and Ms. Riley, who are immensely dedicated to ensuring that all children experience a high-quality education, is truly a victory for Desoto County.”

     Dr. Waldrop also commended Mrs. Jolley and Mrs. Riley for their recent efforts including the allocation of money for additional school resource officers to enhance security for students and staff, the construction of a fully-accessible playground for students with disabilities at Horn Lake Intermediate School, the teacher pay raise in DeSoto County.

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DCS Superintendent Elected President of Statewide Educational Association

     Superintendent of DeSoto County Schools, Cory Uselton, led his first regular meeting as the newly elected president of Mississippi Association of School Administrators (MASA) at their fall leadership conference in Jackson.

     The Mississippi Association of School Administrators (MASA) is the oldest educational organization in Mississippi serving administrators across the state. MASA is the state affiliate for AASA, The American Association of School Administrators, The School Superintendent's Association.

     “We are absolutely delighted, as well as honored, to have Mr. Uselton take the reins to serve as MASA's President for the 2018-2019 term,” said Dr. Lisa Karmacharya, Executive Director MASA.

     “His expertise and support will be invaluable to the service of our members. Mr. Uselton will have many opportunities throughout the year to represent Mississippi educators on a state and national level, influencing policy and practice. On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, we would like to congratulate him on this appointment, and we look forward to the work and success in the year to come,” she said.

     Dr. Karmacharya explained how MASA provides leadership in educational affairs and works on behalf of the children of Mississippi to coordinate the resources of all affiliate representative groups in matters of public education. As an association representing superintendents and school administrators, she said that they provide professional development and services designed to enhance respective leadership roles in support of improving schools and outcomes for children.

     Cory Uselton was elected as Superintendent of Education for DeSoto County Schools in August 2015. Uselton was named the 2015 Mississippi High School Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and was recognized as the 2013 Administrator of the Year for the First Congressional District of Mississippi. He serves on the Superintendents’ Advisory Council for the Mississippi Department of Education, and is Vice-Chairman on the Board of Trustees for Northwest Mississippi Community College.

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Lewisburg Elementary Teacher Receives Presidential Award

Angela McKinnon, a fifth-grade mathematics and science teacher at Lewisburg Elementary School, was honored with a Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching or Mentoring in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). President Donald Trump presented her award in Washington, DC. The Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching is the highest recognition that a kindergarten through 12th grade mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States. The DeSoto County Board of Education recognized her distinguished honor. From left, Supt. Cory Uselton, McKinnon, former Lewisburg Principal Amanda Samples (now Executive Director of Elementary Education, Academic Services), and LES Principal Sherry Anderson.

Fellow educators from Lewisburg Elementary attended the board meeting to celebrate Angela McKinnon’s presidential award. Pictured from left,  Robin Lampkin, Laurie Poppenheimer, Holly Engberg, Jennifer Morrison, Angela McKinnon, Amanda Samples, and Sherry Anderson.

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CHHS Algebra Teacher Nationally Recognized

     Algebra Nation recognized Center Hill High Math Algebra 1 Teacher Sara Flowers as their “National Teacher of the Month” for October.  As Algebra Nation’s Teacher of the Month, Flowers received an Amazon gift card to purchase supplies for her classroom.

     Algebra Nation is an online (and printed workbook) resource that helps students master Algebra 1 – the gateway math course that has implications for students' success in middle/high school and beyond.  Each month, they recognize teachers who foster a community of growth and learning for students and teachers throughout Mississippi.    

      Although DeSoto County Schools has only been using Algebra Nation for a short time, Flowers said the feedback from parents has been positive.  "Many parents are watching the videos, and that allows them to help their students at home,” Flowers said.  “This resource is as if parents have free tutors right in their homes."

     Flowers said she uses Algebra Nation in many different ways. Sometimes she shows a video for the whole group as an opener to a lesson. She also uses it to launch discussions about different problem solving strategies, or to show different approaches to solutions.  

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Helping Local 8th Graders Find Their Future

     Operating a drone, moving a radio-controlled miniature forklift, trying robotic surgery on a simulator, learning how electricity is produced and delivered—these were a some of the activities 2,500 8th grade students got to experience through an interactive, hands-on career expo at the Landers Center.

     The DeSoto County Economic Council joined Pathways2Possibilities (P2P) to bring a two-day event to public and private middle school students. More than 60 local and state employers were on hand to guide the students through hands-on activities that simulated job activities or skill sets needed for specific jobs.

     Dr. Jerry Floate, principal of Hernando Middle School, said, “This career expo had something for every one of my students. It was very diverse and interested both college and career bound students.”

    Jim Flanagan, President/CEO of the DeSoto Council, recognized the necessity for this event in DeSoto County. Flanagan stated, “The DeSoto Council has recognized the critical need of informing our students at an earlier stage of the employment opportunities that exist in their backyard. Thanks to our P2P partners, we believe this will be the catalyst that will peak the interest of students as they consider future careers and fill the need of an emerging workforce for our companies.”

     The Economic Council chose nine career pathways, aligned with the federal and state Departments of Education and pertinent to economic development in DeSoto County, for the students to explore: Architecture & Construction; Energy, Engineering; Finance; Health Science; Hospitality & tourism; Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security; Manufacturing, and Transportation, Distribution & Logistics.

     Jason Lentz, an 8th grade student at Hernando Middle School, said, “I want to go into architecture. I really liked their exhibit.”

     In addition to the hands-on activities, students were given a handbook that outlined what education level was required to qualify for a particular job, the salary range and the skill set needed. For example, the skills an architect would need are “good with hands and tools, strong math and science background, good time management skills and a team player.”

     Presenting sponsors included the Mississippi State Workforce Investment Board and C Spire. Gold sponsors were Atmos Energy, Baptist DeSoto, Entergy, Landers Center, Methodist Hospital, Northcentral Electric Power Association, TVA, and Wells Fargo.

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PHES Students Inducted into the National Elementary Honor Society

     Pleasant Hill Elementary parents took pride as they watched their children walk across the school stage to receive recognition for achieving academic excellence and demonstrating personal responsibility. The 54 students were the newest members of their National Elementary Honor Society (NEHS).

     “I see more parents, grandparents and visitors here than we have inductees,” said Supt. Cory Uselton. “I want to encourage our inductees to thank their family members for their support. These students have worked very hard to receive this honor, and it is an accomplishment for their entire family.”

     Principal Bettye Magee explained how NEHS has four qualifications for membership: scholarship, responsibility, service and leadership.

     “Our goal is to provide students with an opportunity to see the value in striving to succeed academically, while encouraging them to serve others in their school community,” Magee said.

     The officers of the Pleasant Hill Elementary NEHS discussed the four pillars of the organization. Vivek Hira, president, discussed scholarship, Maggie Marable, vice president, addressed responsibility, Ella Bryan, secretary, explained leadership, and Nathan Jewell, treasurer, discussed service. Students received a certificate and a pin and a reception followed.

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Think Pink

Central Services employees and DeSoto County School Board Members wore pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Day to honor the millions of women who have fought the disease. Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetimes.

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"Raise the Bar" Award Winners

Supt. Cory Uselton recognized Hernando Middle School’s Principal Dr. Jerry Floate, faculty, staff, administrators, and students for winning a DeSoto County Schools’ “Raise the Bar” award. HMS increased in 5 of the 7 accountability measures from 2017 to 2018.

Supt. Cory Uselton recognized Walls Elementary School’s Principal Erica Armstrong, faculty, staff, administrators, and students for winning a DeSoto County Schools’ “Raise the Bar” award. Walls Elementary School increased in 5 of the 7 proficiency growth categories, and their students actually increased in all 4 of the growth categories.

Supt. Cory Uselton recognized Lake Cormorant  Elementary School’s Principal Carol Smith, faculty, staff, administrators, and students for winning a DeSoto County Schools’ “Raise the Bar” award.  Lake Cormorant Elementary School increased in all 7 areas by double-digits and improved their grade from a “C” to an “A".

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Community Helpers Come to Hope Sullivan Elementary School

     Students at Hope Sullivan Elementary School got a firsthand look at five types of Southaven Community Helpers as they learned about their job responsibilities during “Community Helpers Week.”

     Six stations were organized as kindergarten students learned what they do and how they help the community. There were bankers, police officers, firemen, emergency dispatchers, postal workers, librarians, and EMT personnel. The visitors were generous with their time. They showed the students the their tools, athletic apparel, coins and bills. The students had the opportunity to ask questions about the services each provides to the community.

     “I learned firemen have really long ladders,” said Kindergartener Chloe Davis.

     An added treat was a visit from “Eddie Eagle,” the mascot of the NRA, who warned students to never touch any type of weapon. “Eddie Eagle” suggested to “Stop. Don’t touch. Run away. Tell a grown up.”

     Teacher Ashley Petty said, “All presentations were ‘kid appropriate’ and not scary. All had good messages.”

     Betty Park and Rebecca Jaco, Southaven Postal Service employees, explained how the mail service works and announced a special “Letters to Santa” campaign where students can use the special stickers they provided to “mail” their letter and have a response returned to them postmarked from the North Pole.

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DeSoto County School District Earns Budget Presentation and Gold Medallion Award

DeSoto County Schools' Chief Financial Officer Stacey Graves earned the Mississippi School Public Relations Association Award for the 2017-2018 School Year Budget/Finance Presentation. Supt. Cory Uselton and the DCS School Board honored Graves by presenting the award at a recent School Board meeting. 

DeSoto County Schools' Teacher Career Fair was awarded the "Gold Medallion" Award by the Mississippi School Public Relations Association (MSPRA). Personnel Employee Ashley Bryant was recognized by the DCS School Board for her vision, effort, and success of this event. Supt. Cory Uselton presented the award. DCS earned additional awards in Audio, Brand/Identity, and Newsletter categories. Katherine Nelson is the DCS Communications Director. Geri Hill serves as the 2018-2019 MSPRA President. 

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WES and LCMS Grant Wish in Memory of Former Classmate

     Walls Elementary and Lake Cormorant Middle School worked two years to grant a wish to a beautiful five-year old with a big smile who has spent most of her life struggling with her mobility. The two schools organized a joint effort in memory of Zoe Tate, a former student who died from complications of a heart defect in 2017.

     Make-A-Wish is a nonprofit organization that provides “wishes” to children who have dealt with life-threatening medical conditions. Annelise was asked by the Foundation what her one wish was, she said, “I want to have a princess tea party.” 

     Annelise Peacock was born with Spina Bifida. Her mother, Heather, said it took years of physical therapy to strengthen her muscles to hold up her head, but added, “You would never know it now. She scoots everywhere in her wheelchair.”   

     Since wearing her blue princess outfit is nothing out of the ordinary for this little girl, Annelise assumed she was dressing in her favorite costume to go to a Trick or Treat event. Instead, as her family escorted her into Lake Cormorant Middle School, she was greeted by five Homecoming Court members, also wearing long gowns and crowns. As they entered the gym, cheers arose from more than 1600 WES and LCMS students. Annelise saw a long table, beautifully decorated with roses, balloons, cookies, and tea, waiting for her. Her mother stated that it was perfect for her little princess who was the guest of honor.     

     Miracle Davis, an 8th grade member of the Homecoming Court, said, “We heard you liked tea parties, so we wanted you to have a big one. We have one other announcement. The students in this gym are sending you and your family to Disney World where a tea party is planned with Sleeping Beauty!”

     Thunderous applause rocked the gym from students who bought T-shirts, brought in their change, attended a student/faculty volleyball game, and paid to wear hats, and pajamas to school to raise money for Annelise's wish. The two schools raised $8000 for the event.

     Lisa Steiner, principal at LCMS, said, “Granting a wish teaches our students to build compassion for others, to learn how to give instead of receive and to see how great it feels to help someone else. Honoring Zoe's memory is important for them since so many of these students went to school with her at Walls and Lake Cormorant Middle.”

     Natalie Luckey, Homecoming Queen at LCMS, said, “For me, seeing Annelise’s expression was the best part. She was completely surprised and appreciative of the gifts, trip, and all-school event. Everything was exactly what she wanted.”

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HHS Choir Sings at I-269 Ribbon Cutting

 The Hernando Choir helped celebrate the completion of  the nation’s newest superhighway, I-269.  They sang the National Anthem and God Bless America.  More than 700 people gathered for the ribbon cutting.  Mike Tagert, Northern District Transportation Commissioner, said the construction project has been in the works for more than 20 years and cost $612 million. The HHS Choir Director is Dale Beech.

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Lewisburg High School Band MHSAA 5A State Champions…Again

     Lewisburg High School earned the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) 5A State Championship for the seventh time in the school’s history.  This year, however, they won first place in every category the judges review, including Color Guard, Percussion, General Effect, Music Performance, and Visual Performance. The name of their show was “Malala” and revolved around Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.

     Kim Hallmark is in her sixth year as band director. Her assistant band directors include Ben McLemore, Nelson Coile, and Paul Morgan. The LHS band director said, “The overall attitude and work ethic combined with a perfect performance, helped our band sweep the competition.  It is the first time for our school. Our goal is to be better than we were the time before. I remind them we are only competing with ourselves and to be the best version we can be. They did that this year.”

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Homecoming Around the District

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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

Cory Uselton, Superintendent

Katherine Nelson, Director, Communications

Geri Hill, Graphic Designer

Jennifer Weeks, Assistant Superintendent, Editor

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


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