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DeSoto County Schools

DeSoto Digest Newsletter - March 2018

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Fifth DCS Student Earns Perfect Score on the ACT

     DeSoto County School District has a new record—five currently enrolled students have a perfect ACT score of 36.

     Sebastian Askew at Center Hill High School is the latest student to join this elite group.  Earning this rating is thought to be one of the highest accolades a high school student can attain and it opens the door for college scholarships from the top schools in the nation.

     Other members include John Barch, an 11th grade student at DeSoto Central High, Sydney Boone, an 11th grade student at Lewisburg High, Bailey Terrell, an 11th grade student at Hernando High, and Addison Green, a senior at Lewisburg High.  The ACT is the leading U.S. college admissions test measuring what a student learns in high school to determine their academic readiness for college.

     “Sebastian is an outstanding young man with a bright future,” said CHHS Principal Doug Payne.  “I think he has raised the bar high for other students at CHHS.  This is such an amazing accomplishment.  It is also the first perfect score in Center Hill High School’s history.”

     Besides academics, Sebastian is an avid chess player. 

     “I like to play games—chess, board games, video games.  I enjoy the tactical piece,” Sebastian said. “I would like to major in Game Design and Development, a program offered at the University of Southern California.”

     Sebastian says his PSAT class and his three teachers in this class—Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Terry and Mrs. Smith—helped him do his best on the ACT exam by improving his speed, content knowledge and accuracy of both the SAT and the ACT.

     “We did a lot of practice ACT tests in class and it was really helpful,” he explained about the two year program offered at all eight high schools.  “The exposure to the test questions and opportunity to look at why I missed particular questions was very beneficial.”

     He said the class also taught him how to pace himself when testing.

     “If I feel I am taking too long on a particular question, I will come back to it,” he said.  “Usually, I just work straight through the test.”

      Michelle Jones, one of the PSAT teachers, said, “Sebastian is a kind and unassuming young man and I can’t wait to see what he does with his future.”

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School Board Honors Students

Bailey Terrell, an 11th grade student at Hernando High, was recognized by the School Board for achieving a perfect score on his ACT. Pictured with HHS Principal Duane Case and Superintendent Cory Uselton.

Lewisburg Principal Chris Fleming brought  two students to be recognized by the School Board for their perfect scores on the ACT.  From left, Fleming, Sydney Boone, Addison Green and Superintendent Cory Uselton.

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Bottle Buddies: A New Twist for Black History Month at Walls Elementary

   WES Fourth Grade Teacher Star Humphrey, Principal Elisa Goss and Fourth Grade Teacher Kisha Young

     Good ideas are made to be shared.

     Kisha Young, a new 4th grade teacher at Walls Elementary, brought the idea of “Bottle Buddies" from her former school to WES. The program is an updated way to celebrate Black History Month. "Bottle Buddies" uses inexpensive materials to make a three dimensional figure of an influential African American.

     Young allowed students to pull a name from a hat. They had to research and write ten facts about the person, make a “Bottle Buddy” from a weighted soda bottle and styrofoam head, and present facts about their person as a riddle to the class.

     “Students learned as they guessed, absorbing facts about the significant contributions these figures made,” said Young.  “Our 4th grade teachers did this unit together and we felt it was successful.”

     Star Humphrey, a 4th grade teacher at Walls Elementary, said, “I was impressed with the quality of my students’ work.  You could look at their figures and tell exactly who they represented. Students were passionate about their creations and gave excellent class presentations, explaining why their characters are significant in history.”

     “Matthew Hensen was the first African American Arctic explorer.  He is known for being one of the discoverers of the North Pole,” said 4th grader Leland Craig.  “It took him a lot of trips and a long time to get there.”

     Tyren Murphy drew the name “George Washington Carver” and learned about the products this scientist made out of peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes, with his best known product being peanut butter. His “Bottle Buddy” was dressed as a scientist, holding a bag labeled “Peanuts.”

     Abi Hilario-Vera researched Phillis Wheatley, a slave who wrote poems about her life.  “I thought it was interesting that she was named after the boat that brought her to America,” she said.

     Walls Elementary Principal Elisa Goss said that the “Bottle Buddy” project has brought about much discussion of famous African-Americans with both teachers and students.  “Our students did a terrific job with this project and all of us have enjoyed seeing their work displayed in our hallways,” Goss added.

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Tentative 2018-2019 Calendar


August  1                            Teacher’s First Day

August 6                             Students’ First Day

September 3                       Labor Day Holiday

October 8                           Columbus Day Holiday

October 9                           End of 1st 9 weeks

November 19-23                Thanksgiving Holidays

December 18                     End of 2nd 9 weeks

December 19—Jan. 2        Christmas Holidays

January 2                           Teachers return

January 3                           Students return

January 21                         ML King, Jr. Holiday

February 15                       Prof Development (tentative)

February 18                       Presidents’ Day (tentative)

March 11-15                      Spring Break

March 18                           End of 3rd 9 weeks

April 19                              Good Friday

April 22                              Easter Holiday (tentative)

May 22                              Students’ last Day (tentative)

May 24                              Teachers’ Last Day

Scheduled make-up Days – December 19 and 20,

February 15 and 18, April 22, and May 23 and 24



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DCS Recognizes School Board Members for their Commitment to Leadership and Learning

     DeSoto County School Board members got a few surprises at the recessed February board meeting.

     Hernando Hills Elementary School Choir sang an original song telling board members they were appreciated.

     The DeSoto County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation that was presented by Supervisor Lee Caldwell.  She said, “Board members give up their personal time and their family time because they understand the importance of local governance in our educational system.  They take the lead on tough choices that affect not only our school system and students, but the entire community. Today we want to recognize their commitment to the district, the students and the people of DeSoto County."

     Students from all schools made banners, pictures and letters thanking School Board members for the job they do.  Superintendent Cory Uselton individually recognized board members, thanking them for the vision and leadership they provide the district.

     Members of the School Board are:  Board President Shelia Riley, Ann Jolley, Milton Nichols, Sarah Doss-Thomas and Michele Henley.

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DeSoto Central High School Walks Away with National Championship

     DeSoto Central High School earned a National Championship in Cheer.

     Forty-four teams competed in the “Super Varsity Game Day Division” in Orlando, Florida, and DeSoto Central High took first place.

    Watch the National High School Cheerleading Championship on

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DeSoto County Spelling Bee Winners

     Excitement was high as DeSoto County students correctly spelled words like "rhododendron" and "chinchilla". It took 30 rounds to determine a first place winner. Now the 1st and 2nd place winners will go to Jackson, MS, in March for the state competition.

     Nora Johnson of Sacred Heart School won 1st place (second from left), and Amy Ba of DeSoto Central Middle School was runner-up.  Dr. Jerry Floate, left, principal of Hernando Middle School, served as the “pronouncer.”  Associate Superintendent Van Alexander, right, served as "recorder" and welcomed students and guests to the event held at the Board of Education.

     Judges for DeSoto County’s Spelling Bee included Adrienne Sims-Gross, assistant principal at Lake Cormorant Elementary; Leslie Heyman, principal at Center Hill Elementary; and Lisa Love, principal of Overpark Elementary.

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MHSAA State Champs!!!

     The Board of Education recognized two DCS high school dance teams for winning Mississippi High School Activities Association state championships.

Center Hill High:

  • State champions in “Large Varsity Hip Hop” and “Large Varsity Pom”
  • The “double title” in one year is a first for the Center Hill Dance team.
  • This is their school’s 9th State Championship.
  • Center Hill High School ranked 9th in the nation in “Medium Varsity Hip Hop.”
  • Sponsors are Kerry Matthews, Melissa Smith, and Hannah Mills.
  • Principal is Doug Payne (represented by Assistant Principal Zack Sims).

   DeSoto Central High:

  • State champions in “Small Varsity Hip Hop” and “Small Varsity Pom”
  • The “double title” in one year is a first for DeSoto Central Dance Team.
  • Sponsors are Tammy Downs and Melissa Moore.
  • Choreographer is Haley Lanter.
  • Principal is Cliff Johnston.

   The Board also recognized Katelyn Cartwright of Hernando High School.

  • 6A State champion in Cross Country Track and Field
  • Gatorade Player of the Year as the Mississippi girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
  • Involved in soccer, track and Cross Country.
  • Coach is Logan Clark.
  • Principal is Duane Case.
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Horn Lake Intermediate Students Celebrate Black History Month

     Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Rosa Parks, B.B. King,  Lebron James and  Abraham Lincoln were a few of the celebrities who gathered in the gym of Horn Lake Intermediate School, and all wanted to share their personal experiences and accomplishments.

     In celebration of Black History Month, students took part in a live “Wax Museum,” donning the clothes and characteristics of an historical African American figure and speaking in first person.

     Earlier in the month, students chose one person who made an impact on African American history.  They were required to research and learn as much about that person as possible so they could be ready to impersonate that person at the Live Wax Museum.  They prepared storyboards detailing important moments in the person’s history.

     Leslie Gullette, a 5th grade English Language Arts teacher, coordinated the event.

     “This project is hands-on and incorporates reading, writing and social studies,” said Gullette.” Students spent time researching a famous person of their choice. They learned how to take notes and how to paraphrase material they learned. They created a trifold board that displayed their person's name, interesting facts about the person, a timeline of the person's life, and the contribution the person made to society. Besides learning research skills, they got firsthand experience in public speaking.”

     A number of parents and visitors attended the event, including Chris Crawford.  His daughter, Keagan, impersonated Oprah Winfrey. 

     “Oprah Winfrey has spent her life trying to help others,” Keagan said.  “I think she is incredibly amazing. With a magazine and a microphone, she has made a difference in so many people’s lives.”

     Keagan's dad said he liked that his daughter was enthusiastic about her research and about what his daughter had discovered.

     “This event gave students experiences they would not get in a regular classroom setting,” Crawford said.  “These students learned a lot about the person they represented, and learned from other students’ presentations.”

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Restaurant Pros Help Students Obtain Professional Certifications

     John and Cindy Woods with First Choice Catering in Horn Lake wanted to do something to encourage culinary students at Career & Technology Center-West to be career-ready when they complete their two-year program.

     “John and Cindy Woods donated $200 to cover the cost of the ServSafe Food Handler Online Course and Assessment for every second-year Culinary Arts student,” said CTC-West Principal Allyson Killough. “It costs $15 for each student – and there are 13 students. ServSafe is a nationally recognized industry certification.”

     “Having this certification helps our students secure employment in the culinary industry,” Killough added. “Other ServSafe certifications/exams are possible for our students, but the Food Handler is a great start.”

     In addition to making a monetary donation, Woods shared his time and knowledge with the culinary students. He immediately made himself at home in their kitchen and got to work, showing students various cooking techniques.    

     Varina Hopper, the Executive Director of Horn Lake Chamber, bridged the gap between education and industry. She visited CTC-West during their Industry Open House, saw a need for funding, and reached out to local businesses for help.

     “Now our students have a certification that takes them straight into the workforce. They also have a friend and mentor in the Culinary Arts program. We feel that relationships are key to the success of our students and to keeping them right here in DeSoto County,” Killough added.  “John plans to continue this partnership.  Our students were delighted to get to know a respected restaurant professional.”

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Oak Grove Central Elementary Says Thank You!

     Students from Oak Grove Central Elementary School were presented an unexpected gift from the Homer Skelton Foundation—six interactive projectors.

     The classes that received projectors took the time to make a banner thanking Homer Skelton and Hernando Mayor Tom Ferguson who presented the check for the projectors.

     “These interactive boards are particularly helpful to our visual learners,” said Teacher Brandy Bailey. 

     Ms. Bailey’s class worked with the other classes to prepare the mural.

     “Updating technology is a constant need,” said OGCES Principal Stacey Pirtle.  “This gift was a tremendous start and helps us meet the needs of more students.  We are appreciative of the ongoing support the Homer Skelton Foundation gives DeSoto County Schools.”

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Horn Lake Middle School Honors Pat Kimble

     A hands-on counselor.  A mentor.  A true friend.

     These are terms that co-workers used to describe the late Pat Kimble, a counselor who spent 25 years at Horn Lake Middle School and died unexpectedly on September 1st.  To honor her memory and recognize the lasting difference she made in the Horn Lake community, the board approved “Pat Kimble Counselors’ Complex.” The complex was unveiled in the foyer of HLMS in front of a gathering of her family and friends.

     “At-risk kids were her specialty,” said HLMS Principal Nick Toungett. “She had the wisdom and ability to really turn kids around. She believed in the importance of building relationships with students.  They did not want to disappoint her.”

     Toungett said Mrs. Kimble “raised” several principals and trained many counselors and teachers.

     “She helped raise me as a principal,” Toungett added.  “I never had to wonder what she was thinking.  She told me what she really thought, and I appreciated her wise counsel.”

   Besides a full-time counseling career, Pat Kimble loved athletics as a fan, a player, and as a coach.

   “She never missed a Horn Lake football or basketball game and was HLMS’ head volleyball coach,” Toungett said.  “She was an incredible counselor who also happened to coach.”

     Besides dedicating the counselor center to Mrs. Kimble, the school plans to award the “Pat Kimble Leadership Award” each year at their annual awards ceremony to an outstanding 8th grade student who models “Elite Eagle” qualities.  Additionally, the faculty is in the process of setting up a scholarship program to a deserving male and female graduating senior student-athlete of Horn Lake High School.

     Mandy Fuchs, a counselor at HLMS, said she and the other counselors miss Mrs. Kimble daily.  

     “Pat Kimble was a giant in the field of education,” Fuchs said.  “She instilled a culture of respect, leadership, integrity, responsibility, citizenship, compassion, and academic success to countless students.  She was tough, but students knew she loved them.  She taught all of us to accept everyone and treat students equally.”

     Pat Kimble’s husband, Alford, and their two children, Shawn Johnson and Nico Kimble, attended the dedication and said how much they appreciated how Horn Lake Middle School has memorialized his late wife.

     “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” Alford said.  

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Planetarium is a Star Attraction at Southaven Elementary School

     More than 700 Southaven Elementary students crawled through a tunnel and sat on the floor of their PE building.  As they looked up, they were able to see a replicated view of the night sky.

     The portable planetarium StarLab had landed at SES, compliments of WoodmenLife, formerly known as Woodmen of the World.

     StarLab is a planetarium made of silver fabric that inflates to a dome shape.  A projector illuminates the ceiling of the StarLab, creating an educational experience for budding astronomers as they learn about stars, moons, constellations and planets.

     “Halley’s Comet is just ice and dust,” said 4th grade student Jace Laughter when asked what was the most interesting fact he learned.

     Lori Umstattd is the science lab teacher at SES.  She used the teaching device to have multi-sensory learning experiences for all students.

     “The sun is the single most massive object in the solar system and around it, bound by gravity, the planets orbit,” she explained to the attentive 4th graders as they looked at the simulated night sky.  “Without the sun’s energy, the earth would cease to exist.”

     From SES, the StarLab will go to Southaven Intermediate School.  It usually stays at a school for eight days.

     “Our students have loved this unit.  It is a fantastic opportunity to introduce the solar system, constellations and space,” said Umstattd. “I highly recommend it to other schools.”

     Jean Martin is a special education teacher at SES and has her life insurance through WoodmenLife.  She helped facilitate the planetarium visit to SES.

     “There was no cost for this exhibit,” said Martin.  It is available to all schools that make a request and get it scheduled.  Cynthia Baird, Community Outreach Manager with WoodmenLife moved and assembled the planetarium for SES. WoodmenLife's address is 208 N Gloster St, Tupelo, MS 38804. The phone number is 662 842 9233. Email Baird at to check the availability of the StarLab. “We are happy to support our schools and communities. This is one small way we can support education and give back to our community,” said Baird.

     WoodmenLife is one of the nation’s leading fraternal benefit societies, and serves a dual mission – to help ensure financial security for members and their families, through insurance and investment products, but also, to become involved in community service projects that enrich lives and benefit individuals, families and communities.

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11 DCS Teachers Earn National Board Certification

     National Board Certification was designed to develop, retain and recognize accomplished teachers and to generate ongoing improvement in schools nationwide. Eleven DeSoto County School District teachers have recently earned this certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching (NBPTS), bringing the total number in the District to 157.

     Earning certification are:   

    *Lane Carter, Exceptional Needs, Hernando High

    *Susan Gavrock, Science, Center Hill Middle

    *Karesa Goff, Early Childhood, Hernando Elementary

    *Phyllis Hicks, Mathematics, DeSoto Central High

    *Courtney Lawrence, Exceptional Needs, Lewisburg Middle

    *Jessica Malone, Reading-Language Arts, Lake Cormorant Elementary

    *Tiffany McCracken, Early Childhood, Lewisburg Primary

    *Judi Stewart, Library, Lewisburg Primary

    *Jennifer Totty, Early Childhood, Lewisburg Primary

    *Mikki Whisenant, Exceptional Needs, Overpark Elementary

    *Jamie Young, Music, Lake Cormorant High

     NBPTS certification typically takes from one to three years to achieve.  Candidates must successfully demonstrate advanced and in-depth teaching knowledge, skills and practices.

     They must build a portfolio demonstrating their professional acumen, including student work samples, assignments, videotapes and a complete analysis of their classroom teaching.  As well, candidates are tested on the subject that they teach.

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DeSoto County Schools to Host Teacher Career Fair March 8

     DeSoto County Schools invites teacher candidates in all licensure areas who are interested in joining #TeamDCS to the Teacher Career Fair on Thursday, March 8, 2018, from 3:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. at the DeSoto County Schools Central Services office located at 5 E. South St., Hernando, MS.  

     The Teacher Career Fair will provide teacher education students and current certified teachers with an opportunity to visit in person with administrators from all schools within the district. 

     The DeSoto County School District is dedicated to ensuring academic excellence through quality leadership and instructional efforts within a conducive learning environment. DeSoto County Schools, an “A” rated district, is the largest public school district in Mississippi with approximately 34,000 students. 

     Interested participants can get more information and register for this event at 

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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, Graphic Designer 

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


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