The DeSoto Digest
A publication of DeSoto County Schools
October 2014
Emily Nelson
Named Speech Educator of the Year for Mississippi

   As Director of Leadership Development for DeSoto County Schools, Emily Nelson supervises 52 gifted teachers on a day-to-day basis.  On weekends,  she is in constant pursuit of academic competitions-even if she has to create them from the ground up.

   Three years ago, Nelson spearheaded the development of a speech and debate program for middle and high school students, a program that is now offered across the district.  She launched  the first tournament in the district and invited teams from elsewhere to come and compete in a weekend event which involved more than 200 volunteers to serve as judges.

   Now the DeSoto County Speech and Debate Tournament has become an annual event.  This year it will be held at Horn Lake High School on November 14-15.

   Because of her passion and dedication to create a Speech and Debate program in DeSoto County, the Mississippi High School Activities Association  named her the  "Speech, Debate and Theatre Educator of the Year."

   Nelson said the Brenda Ballard Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of North Mississippi and the John Grisham Book Donation Program through the Mississippi Farm Bureau have given her funds to make her debate competitions successful.

   "Most debate competitions charge teams large fees to participate," Nelson said.  "With the generous help of our supporters, we don't charge anything.  This opens opportunities for all students."

   What if students do not have the proper dress to go to a competition?

   Nelson has a closet of starched white shirts and khaki pants for students who need them, as well as some pencil skirts and suits.

   "I want students to develop the ability to stand up and speak with authority.  This takes a lot of courage that is developed through competitions," she said.

   Nelson said she was very humbled to receive this honor.

   "I'm the face person but it really is an honor to this community through me," she noted.  "The MHSAA made a point of saying that I am the first administrator to win this award."

   As the statewide winner, Nelson is now to be considered for national awards in the Speech, Debate and Theatre area later this year.

First Lady Reads to Students at GES

   With Early Childhood Education being a focal point of her platform, First Lady Deborah Bryant decided to "Read Across Mississippi" in 2014. She has pledged to read to students in all 82 counties this year. To date, she has read to 62 counties with DeSoto County being one of her recent stops. 

    The governor's wife came to Greenbrook Elementary and read to 2nd grade students.  Before she read her book by Mississippi author Bill Wilson called "The Fib," she took time to get to know the students and shared facts about her life. 

   "We live in the Governor's Mansion in Jackson.  It was built in 1841," she told the admiring children as they viewed a picture of the Mansion.  "It belongs to all of you." 

   One inquiring mind raised her hand and asked, "Do they let you go upstairs?" 

   "Yes, I go upstairs often," Mrs. Bryant said. 

   "Well, in Elvis' house they do not let you go upstairs," the student said with authority. 

   "How old are you?" another student asked. 

    "I am almost 60," she said as children sucked in their breath. 

   Besides telling personal information, she encouraged the students to "be the best 

you can be at whatever you do" and "treat others as you want to be treated."  

She said her grandmother told her those thoughts and she has passed them on to her children.

   Students seemed to appreciate her down-to earth style and the fact that she listened to them.

   "When I grow up," one student said, "I want to be a First Lady just like you." 




Student Leap Into Math and Science at PHES

 Math and science classes are literally alive at Pleasant Hill Elementary. 

Stephanie Case and Jamie Loper join in the fun of learning math through a frog jumping contest.

A frog race-with real frogs-helped student grasp concepts about bar graphs, rounding numbers and place value,  which are standards for 3rd grade math under the Common Core State Standards.

Michael Alford was all smiles at PHES.

    Gathering in the rotunda at PHES, students got behind their frogs and tried to keep them in their lanes, gently blowing on them to coax them toward the finish line.

    Lots of numerical calculations took place to pare down the mass of frogs for the finalists.  Students had to keep logs to record data that was later represented in charts and graphs.

   Students counted their frogs hops in a 20 second time period to see which frog was exerting the greatest effort.

Jack Lyles was the student first place winner.

   "I love to see our students engaged in learning," said PHES Principal Jamie Loper.  "It was part math and part science, but it was also fun."

   Students were not the only ones to race frogs.  Teachers also had a race and Stephanie Case was the winner.

Southaven High Students Are Focused on Giving
While it was "Zombie Day" at SHS, students worked to help others by adopting community causes during Homecoming Week. From left, Brittany Foust, 12th grade student council president; Gabby Hunter, sophomore treasurer; Jazmine Briggs, senior class vice president; and Karen Nguyen, sophomore secretary.

   Schools across the nation put a lot of time and effort on Homecoming themes. Students at Southaven High School decided to redirect their efforts and give back to their community instead.

   Each class at SHS has adopted a charity and they are working to raise money and awareness for four causes:

   Freshmen--Breast Cancer


   Juniors--Domestic Violence


   Instead of Homecoming at Southaven being "all about them," the students have opened their eyes to opportunities for service right where they are with the skills they have. 

   Brittany Foust, senior student council president said , "I believe the student body at SHS can make a difference in our community.  This is an amazing opportunity for us."

   Karen Hatch, student council sponsor and math teacher at SHS said, "Students have the heart for this.  It is very encouraging to see young people working to help others instead of themselves.  This is a great class."

   Different classes are raising money in various ways, from organizing hat day to selling ribbons and T-shirts.

   "This senior class wants to leave a lasting legacy," said Principal Shane Jones.  "It is a rock-solid group with a number of outstanding leaders.  They are planning to continue supporting these causes all school year.  In an age of 'selfies', this group is really selfless.  They are leaving a good foundation for our underclassmen."

By day, Supt. Milton Kuykendall runs Mississippi's largest school district.  By night, and on weekends, he dons western gear and hat, and becomes a cowboy.  Kuykendall  qualified to show his horse, "Josh,"  at the  Mississippi Horse  Show Association in Jackson. 

Granting Future Economic Development

James Huffman, CEO of Baptist Memorial Hospital - DeSoto, watched students at DeSoto County Schools learn CPR to save lives. The hospital donated the training CPR kits through a grant program  with the DeSoto County Economic Development Council.

     Students at the DeSoto County Career & Technology Center-East are learning how to perform CPR thanks to a teacher grant from the DeSoto County Economic Council. The grant program is in its 25th year and hopes to hit the $1 million mark in giving teacher grants this fall.  The grant program is operated through the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

     The grants given to DeSoto County Schools allows teachers like Ashley Berryhill to teach CPR year round. She says the grant process is very competitive, and teachers apply for items needed that they are not able to purchase otherwise, like CPR kits.

     Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto is one of the businesses in the Mid-South that has supported the grant program for many years. Officials says programs like this gives opportunities to students and save lives in the future.

     "We work to give grants that are health related because we've seen first-hand how this introduces students to the medical field improving the quality care we can provide in the future," James Huffman, administrator and CEO of Baptist Memorial Hospital - DeSoto.

     "We work to give needed classroom learning supplies not covered through other funding sources," said Deborah Morgan, office administrator for the DeSoto County Economic Council. "The deadline for businesses and individuals to register to contribute to the program is September 30th. We need 50 more businesses to give $500 each to help improve opportunities for students in our area."

     The deadline for teachers to apply was September 30th. Grants will be awarded October 30th at DeSoto Hills Baptist Church.

The DeSoto Digest is a publication of the
Communications Department
DeSoto County Schools
5 East South Street, Hernando
Mississippi 38632
Katherine Nelson, Director

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.
The DeSoto Digest is produced by the Communications Department and delivered to all employees and subscribers on the first of each month.

For additional news about DeSoto County Schools, please visit  DCS News or follow us on


Katherine Nelson
Director of Communications
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Principals' Meeting
Lisa Love, Overpark Elementary; Jamie Loper, Pleasant Hill Elementary; and Leslie Heyman, Center Hill Elementary
Claudette Smith, Olive Branch Intermediate; and Selina Baker, Chickasaw Elementary
Freddie Joseph, Hernando High; and Stephanie Gilder, Hernando Hills Elementary

Lisa Nye, DeSoto Central Elementary; and Colleen Long, DeSoto Central Primary

Chris Fleming, Lewisburg High; Shane Jones, Southaven High; and Levi Williams, Southaven Middle

Jerry Floate, Olive Branch Middle; Jacob Stripling, Center Hill Middle

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DCS Awarded
Nurse Grant

   DeSoto County Schools has received a $500,000 grant  through the State Department of Education's School Nurse Intervention program that will pay the salary and benefits of two nurses for the next five years at Lewisburg and Hope Sullivan Elementary Schools.

   Beverly Estes at Lewisburg Elementary and Amber McCormick at Hope Sullivan Elementary are among 25 nurses who work for DeSoto County Schools.  This grant will pay $50,000 per nurse for the next five years if the Legislature continues to appropriate funds and the district meets the grant's requirements.

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Emily Ballard Named
Principal at Magnolia School

   Emily Ballard, formerly the Speech and Language Coordinator for the DeSoto County Schools,  is the new principal for the district's Magnolia School.

   This is the second time Ballard has served as principal within DCS.  From 2006 until 2009, she was principal at Hope Sullivan Elementary School.   She earned a BS degree  in audiology and speech pathology, a MA degree in Educational Leadership, and a specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Delta State University.  She is SPED certified. 

   The Magnolia School is a positive behavioral program for special education students with a current Mississippi handicapping eligibility and current IEP.  Students' placement at Magnolia is determined at an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) meeting.  Magnolia is a district wide program and students are transported by special transportation to and from school.  As the student continues to work on academic skills as addressed in the IEP, he/she also learns and applies appropriate replacement behavioral skills in social situations, conflict resolution, anger management and physical education activities.  The program is located on the campus of the DeSoto County Alternative Center in Horn Lake.  

   Magnolia has a full time staff of teachers, teacher assistants and Region IV day treatment specialists.  The support staff includes a school psychologist, behavior techs, positive behavior specialists, behavior coaches and Region IV Mental Health Therapists, etc.  There are also part-time occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech/language pathologists. 

   Schatzi Gallagher, former principal, is now a special education supervisor at the County Office.


2014 - 2015
 School Year


August 4th (Monday)

Teachers 1 st Day


August 7th (Thursday)

Students 1st Day


September 1st

Labor Day


October 13th & 14th

Fall Break


November 4th

Professional Development
(Students & Teacher Assist.)

(Election Day)


November 26th-28th

Thanksgiving Holidays


December 22nd (Monday)

- January 2nd
Christmas Holidays

and New Year's


January 2nd (Friday)

Teachers Return


January 5th (Monday)

Students Return


January 19th

Lee/King Holiday


February 13th (Friday)

Professional Development


February 16th

Washington's Birthday


March 9th-13th

Spring Break


April 3rd

Good Friday


April 6th (Monday)

Easter Holiday


May 22nd (Friday)

Students Last Day


May 25th

Memorial Day


May 26th (Tuesday) 

Teachers Last Day


Scheduled makeup days are

December 22
February 13
February 16 

April 6

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