The DeSoto Digest
A publication of DeSoto County Schools
January & February 2015
Reading Fair Winners 2015
Superintendent Milton Kuykendall Gives a "Thumbs Up" to Winners

     Area schools recently sent their first place reading fair winners to vie for opportunities to represent the district in Oxford on February 14. The Mississippi Department of Education Reading Fair enables students to synthesize skills in research, compilation and creativity to create book projects that are shared with the community. Regional winners will eventually advance to state competition in Jackson.

Pictured district winners of Categories A-I include from L. to R., First row: 
Anna Rhodes Bridgforth, Northpoint Christian Academy; Kyleigh Steele, Northpoint Christian Academy; Millie Martin, Lewisburg Primary; Ava Tucker, Greenbrook Elementary; Emily Ashmore, Southaven Elementary

 L. to R., Second Row: Sarah Taggart, Oak Grove Central; Supt. Kuykendall, Reed Simmons, Center Hill Middle; Dalton Sartain, Lake Cormorant Middle

Categories K-N, L. to R., First Row:  Anthony Spinelli, Southaven Intermediate; Dalton Stanford, Lewisburg Primary; C. J. Yager, Lewisburg Primary 
L. to R. Second row: Mary Katherine Bonilla, Lake Cormorant High School; Supt. Kuykendall, Alex Mobley, Lake Cormorant Middle

CHHS State Champions! 

Front row: (seniors)  McKenzie Willis, Katie Neergaard, Shelby Stuber.

 Second row (juniors): Hannah Savage, Keely Grady, Kayley Loggins  Third row (sophomores): Alyssa Hadley, Daniella Davis, Kaitlyn Harrison, Hanna Jenkins, Becka Matthews, Isabella Czolba, Sloan McClatchy, Brittney Carter, Fourth row (freshmen): Brooke LeGrow, Yana Jones, Georgia Ray, Jordan Sandridge, Madelyn Miller, Savannah Steen.
The Center Hill High School Dance Team brought home their 6th state championship, with a First place trophy for hip hop and Second place trophy for pom. The girls competed against 11 other schools from across the state in the large varsity division. This event is sanctioned by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.  Congratulations to the girls and Coach Kerry Matthews and Coach Hannah Mills.

Horn Lake High School Choir

Performs at National Cathedral in Washington, DC

Members of the Horn Lake High School choirs recently performed at the National Cathedral in Washington DC.   The group was selected to perform after undergoing a rigorous screening process that included recordings from the last three school years.   This is the second time that a choir from HL has performed at the Cathedral (2011). HLHS is also the only high school choral department in the state to receive this honor in many years.  The 12 member ensemble had to prepare 25 minutes of sacred a cappella music to be performed as a prelude to the Sunday Evensong service.

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DeSoto Central High Cheers Its Way to the Top

Back row (left to right):  Kennedi Pigues, Keegan Jones, Lexie Harrington, Abbie Parker, Karson Thomas, Sarah Beth Dickey, Amber Kaminski, Allie Davis, Katlyn Tidwell

Middle row (left to right): Emily Pearson, Lauren Lashlee, Daysha Spann, Brittany Wright, Kaley Eldred, Kathryn Osborn, Shea Waddell, Olivia Milliorn, SeLane Ruggiero

Bottom row (left to right): Raven Ruggiero, Leigh Kathryn McDonald, Hannah Honeycutt, Kristin Moore, Amanda Johnson, Denisse Diaz

     "When you play one of us, you play all of us."

That is a slogan that has given DeSoto Central High School something to cheer about as their cheerleaders have just been named the top cheering squad for large high schools in Mississippi.

     DeSoto Central High School Varsity Cheer won 6A Mississippi High School Activities Association Cheerleading State Championship on Dec. 13, 2014 at Jackson Coliseum, Jackson, MS.  Their cheer sponsor is Jennifer Ellenburg.
 Two DeSoto County Middle School Students
Win County Spelling Bee
Sophia Davis, a 6th grade student at DeSoto Central Middle School, left, received a second place trophy from Associate Supt. Van Alexander, and Emily Suh, right,  was the winner of the DeSoto County Spelling Bee that was open to all schools in DeSoto County.


   It was the word in the 11th round that decided first and second place in the 2015 DeSoto County Spelling Bee, a county-wide event that included Northpoint Christian, Sacred  Heart and DeSoto County Schools.

   First place went to Emily Suh, a seventh grade student at Southaven Middle School, and second place was awarded to Sophia Davis, a sixth grade student at DeSoto Central Middle School.  Both Suh and Davis will continue spelling, this time at the Mid-South Spelling Bee in Memphis on March 7th, and both received trophies almost as large as they were.

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

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

Jay Baird served as the "pronouncer" for the Spelling Bee and Andrienne Sim-Goss was the recorder.  There were 44 students participating in the event and the room was filled with parents and friends of the students.

  A total of 44 students began the competition before a packed room of family and friends at DeSoto County Schools' Central Office boardroom in Hernando. All students participating won school competitions to be a part of Saturday's spelling bee.  Each school, representing grades 4-8, was represented by two students per grade.  They received a syllabus of the words that would be used and given by the pronouncer, DeSoto County Alternative Center Principal Jay Baird, himself a top speller when he attended Horn Lake Junior High School in 1978.

   Judges for the spelling bee were Olive Branch Intermediate School Principal Claudette Smith, Overpark Elementary School Principal Lisa Love, and Lake Cormorant Elementary School Principal Dr. Margaret Boyd.  Adrienne Sims-Gross, assistant principal at Career Center West, served as the recorder. Jo Cox, director of Continuing Education at DCS, was the Spelling Bee Coordinator.

Tension ran high as students like Lillian Amy Gregory spelled words for a panel of judges in the DeSoto County Spelling Bee.

   All students approached the microphone and stated their name, grade and school, and all received a certificate for winning the right to participate in the county-wide Spelling Bee.

   The first round took out about half of the participants.  Round 3 had 14 students remaining. Students continued to correctly spell words such as "inferno," "topography," "wiseacre," "paprika," and "sayonara." It was a close match in the final rounds between the two middle school students.  Suh correctly spelled "sayonara" and "cruller" to win the Spelling Bee.

   Both winners said they maintain a straight "A" average in all subjects and studied over Christmas holidays and after school in the weeks precluding competition.

   "My first grade teacher told me about a website called 'Spelling City'," said Davis.  "I look at it often to learn words and I use to learn pronunciations."

   The Champion said she and her mother practice spelling words.

   "In the past few weeks we have spent more than an hour a day practicing, and if I get them wrong we review those words," Suh said, noting that her mother speaks three languages.

   Since both winners will attend the next level of competition which could take them to a national stage, they said they were excited about the possibilities ahead.

   "I would be excited if I get to skip school," Suh added.

   At the conclusion of the event, Davis had already looked up "megalopolis-a chain of roughly adjacent metropolitan areas."  Chances are, she won't miss that word a second time.

Superintendent's Youth Leadership Council
Gives Back to Community

Members of SYLC raised money to purchase more than 300 stuffed animals to deliver to children at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

     Eva Jeter knows first hand what it is like to be a patient at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, having spent a week there. She also knows how comforting it was when strangers brought her a blanket and doll, easing her anxiety and fears.

There are 32 members of the DeSoto County Schools Superintendent Youth Leadership Council.

     Eva, now a junior at Southaven High School, is a member of the DeSoto County Schools' Superintendent's Youth Leadership Council (SYLC), a group of 32 student representatives from the district's eight high schools. This leadership program fosters growth in communication skills, develops leadership abilities, teaches financial literacy, entrepreneurship and opens their eyes to the political world.

     It is also a program that encourages students to help others.

Students select a community service project. This Christmas season the students have raised money to purchase high-end stuffed animals for patients at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

     "Others helped me when I was a patient," Eva said.

Zac McDonald began loading the stuffed animals to deliver to sick chldren. Zac was a leader in the project.

     Jordan Shuman, a junior at Olive Branch High School, said this was an enjoyable project to be doing during the Christmas season. "It is the season of giving. We hope to help sick children feel better. It is a blessing for us as well."

     "The students in the Superintendent's Youth Leadership Council are outstanding leaders in their schools and communities," said Jim Ferguson, a sponsor for the program and the chief academic officer for secondary education at DCS. "Many unique challenges arise when this caliber of student and strong personalities are challenged to work together. I let them choose their service projects and execute them. I facilitate the program, but it is student-led."

     SYLC has been in existence for eight years, and 100% of the students involved in the council have attended college. It started with a grant from the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi and now is supported through the Homer Skelton Foundation, Maddox Foundation and Delta Regional Foundation.

     This is a two-year program. One year the students study entrepreneurship. The council reads a book and each month a group presents a chapter to the council for discussion. The students hear from many business operations. In the spring, the Council travels to New York City.

     On alternating years, the students study government and politics. The students study local, state and national politics through reading, meeting local politicians, taking a trip to Jackson to attend a legislative session and going to Washington, DC. The students work to help pay for their travel.

Working on the community service project are, from left to right, Parker Taylor, Zac McDonald, Sponsor Jim Ferguson, Kathryn Osborn, Zach Herring and Bailey Walhood.

     Zach McDonald, a senior at Lake Cormorant High School, has been the student in charge of the stuffed animal drive, making arrangements with the hospital and planning the deliveries.

     "We wanted to give back to kids that will not be home for Christmas," he said.

Lisa Cullum, from Olive Branch Walmart, brought the Overpark Elementary staff a cake and gave away twenty $50 gift cards to teachers to try to help offset personal money teachers spend on their students/classrooms.
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 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 Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Katherine Nelson
Director of Communications
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New DCS Board Member
Sarah Doss-Thomas became the newest DeSoto County School Board member on January 5th when Chancery Court Judge Percy Lynchard administered the oath of office to her.  She represents the Hernando area of the school district.

DCS Students with
30+ ACT Score 

Supt. Milton Kuykendall recognized students scoring 30+ on the ACT at the DeSoto County School Board Meeting. They are, (left to right), Alex Hanna, Bradley Brooks, Morgan Hollowell, Jake Mealer, Alex Leise and Chris Bower.
83 DeSoto County School seniors were recognized by the school board for their outstanding scores on the ACT. Supt. Milton Kuykendall presented certificates to Leslie Charleston, Catrina Curtis, Caleb Reece, Amy Stanford and Brittany Crawford.
Four years ago, DCS increased efforts to raise ACT scores, adding more rigorous courses and increasing professional development. Results are paying off for students. Receiving an award from Supt. Milton Kuykendall are, from left to right, Caroline Cantrell, Rob Brown, Ali Chatham, Brady Darnell, Conner Long and Libby Reaves.
A perfect ACT score is "36." Scores 28 and above usually earn a full college scholarship. Among the group of scholars receiving recognition from Supt. Milton Kuykendall for their 30+ ACT score are: Jason Carter, Benjamin Galbraith, Anna Goldman, Shange Outlaw, and Tana Williams.
ACT Prep classes are offered as an elective for all students and have helped students raise their scores. Teachers received training for these classes from a grant from the Homer Skelton Foundation. Some of the 30+ students with Supt. Kuykendall are Edwin Felieu, Nathaniel Green, David Johnson, Spencer Johnson, Sarah Ward and Hannah Barulli.
PSAT classes have also helped students raise their scores on college entrance exams. All eight high schools received grants from the Homer Skelton Foundation to equip these classes with technology. Supt. Milton Kuykendall recognized students who had outstanding scores, including William Burrus, Davis Lee, Allison Othmani, Dillon Smith and Lindsey Wolfe.
The DeSoto County School Board recognized students' success on their ACT scores. Supt. Milton Kuykendall is presenting award certificates to Benjamin Schreck, Zac Herring and James Shol.
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Theron Long Recognized

Theron Long, DeSoto County School Board member, had an unexpected surprise-he was asked to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the Board meeting with his grandson, Conner Long,  a senior at Hernando High School.

Dr. Edith Robinson, deputy superintendent, presented Theron Long with a plaque recognizing his 48 of service to DCS as a coach and principal (44 years) and  as a school board member (four years). 

Theron Long was equally surprised that he was also joined by his beloved wife, Mary, and his son, Vince.

Lifelong Friends Create Foundation to Support Education
James Donald Cooper, left, and Charlie McGuffee, right, present Jim Ferguson a grant of $8,000 for the Superintendent's Youth Leadership Program.  Ferguson is co-sponsor for the program and Chief Academic Officer for Secondary Schools with DeSoto County School District.
   Charlie McGuffee and James Donald Cooper run the Delta Regional Foundation, an organization that is committed to supporting education.

   Friends since childhood, the twosome went to Drew Public Schools and later to Delta State University.  Their lifelong friendship has continued as they have organized a collaborative effort to financially support their alma mater, Delta State University, and are now expanding their support to DeSoto County Schools through an $8,000 grant for the Superintendent's Youth Leadership Program, a program designed to help high school students develop leadership skills.

   Each of the eight high schools in the DeSoto County School system add two eleventh grade representatives to the group of seniors already in the program, bringing the total number of SYLC members to 32.

   Among the requirements for selection was a service project essay.  The highlights, over the next two years, include trips to both Washington, DC, where they study the political process, and New York City where they learn about the finance world.

   "We are so grateful for the support of the Delta Regional Foundation," said Jim Ferguson, chief academic officer for secondary schools at DCS.   "We will ensure the resources provided will maximize the leadership growth of our students at all of our high schools.  It is an amazing program that is in its eighth year of operation."

  Ferguson and Kara Stevens, an English teacher at Olive Branch High School, are the sponsors for the Superintendent's Youth Leadership Program.  The program has been supported by the Homer Skelton Foundation, Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi and the Maddox Foundation.

Dollar Tree Donates $2,000

to Overpark Elementary 

Dollar Tree donated $2,000 to purchase 138 hardback books and writing journals for every student to be used with our Third Grade Home to School Student & Parent Reading, Responding Journal Activity. Each week, a student takes a different book home to read with a parent. The student responds to what he/she reads in a writing journal, and the parent writes a written response as well. The journal accompanies the book as it is rotated out to another student the next week. This is to help our parents see how important it is for our students to be able to understand the text they read as well as practice their writing and grammar skills in an application.

2014 - 2015 School Year


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

February 13
February 16 

April 6

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Merry Melodies

OGCES Students Make a  Christmas Tour of Hernando

Supt. Milton Kuykendall welcomed the Oak Grove Central Elementary Choir to the Board of Education.

   It is beginning to sound a lot like Christmas at the Board of Education where carolers from Oak Grove Central Elementary School sang four part harmony arrangements of holiday music for staff members.

Hand motions, foot stomping, and big smiles added fun to the mini-Christmas concert.

   Dr. Larry Wimberly is the choir director at OGCES and his traveling troupe is called the "Singing Tiger Cubs."  To be a member of this choir, students have to audition and stay after school for rehearsals.

   During the Christmas season, the choir goes throughout Hernando and brings back the Christmas tradition of caroling at the Courthouse and businesses.

The Singing Tiger Cubs travel throughout Hernando singing brief concerts at the Courthouse, the Administration Building and at several local businesses.

   Donning red Santa hats and orange Oak Grove Central shirts, the group of fourth and fifth grade students brought smiles to the DeSoto County Schools office workers when they sang  songs about snow, the Christmas season, and a special song honoring Supt. Milton Kuykendall.
   They crooned, "We love you, Mr. Kuykendall."
   After the applause died down, Supt. Kuykendall responded, "I love you, too!" 

Landrey Cindurak and Allison Grant are enthusiastic members of the choir. To be a member requires auditioning and committing to several practices per week after school.
Garrett Coleman is a member of the Singing Tiger Cubs.

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.