The DeSoto Digest
A publication of DeSoto County Schools
March 2015

Walls Kindergarten Teacher
is DeSoto County Schools' Teacher of the Year

Superintendent Milton Kuykendall and Walls Elementary Teacher Jamie Branning, DeSoto County Schools' Teacher of the Year.


   When students complete Jamie Branning's kindergarten class at Walls Elementary School, she gives them a card with her home address along with a note asking them to send her an invitation to their high school graduation.

   Her students know she expects them to graduate and be successful.  It is this mindset that earned her the title of DeSoto County Schools' Teacher of the Year.  Jodi Yelverton works next door to Branning, who was nominated by her peers at WES, and says she has witnessed what an extraordinary job Branning does as an educator.

   "She has served as a mentor to new teachers.  She strives to work with teachers in her school, across the county, and even across the nation.  She has co-created a teaching blog to collaborate with other teachers in the nation in order to share new ideas and approaches she has successfully used in her own classroom," Yelverton said.  "She constantly communicates with the parents of her students, giving them her personal cell phone number, and takes calls at all hours."

   WES Principal Rebecca Kelley described Branning as a teacher with energy, enthusiasm and excitement every day. 

   "Jamie wants to encourage teachers to step away from their desks and learn what inspires their students in order to create lifelong learners with the ability to accomplish their educational and personal goals.

  There were 38 nominees for Teacher of the Year.  Each teacher was the winner at his/her school.

From left to right, Cynthia Smith of Horn Lake Middle School; Kimberly Williams of Greenbrook Elementary School; Brandy Terry of Lewisburg Primary School; and Lauren Germany of Hernando Hills Elementary School.
From left, Ashly Land of Hope Sullivan Elementary School; Marianne Nichols of Chickasaw Elementary School; LeShonda Renee Johnson of Horn Lake Intermediate School, and Tamabra McClinton of Olive Branch Elementary School.
From left, Samantha Harris of Hernando Elementary School; Melissa Howard of Lake Cormorant Middle School; Julie McDaniel of Lewisburg Elementary School; and Carolyn Vance of Lake Cormorant High School.

From left, Donna Home of Horn Lake High School; Kerrie C. Hopkins of Center Hill Middle School; Lindsay Stevenson of Lewisburg High School; and Stephanie D. McFadden of Southaven Elementary School.

From left, Megan Chapman of Center Hill High School; James High of Hernando High School;  Joshua Russell of Hernando Middle School; and Joanna Dickison of Olive Branch Middle School.
From left,  Wendy Jumper of Center Hill Elementary School; Victoria Hoppen of DeSoto Central Primary School; Corinne B. Clark of Olive Branch Intermediate School; and Marcia Jones of Pleasant Hill Elementary School.
From left, Mistina Johnson of Overpark Elementary School; Ashley E. Webb of DeSoto Central High School; Elizabeth Dearing of Oak Grove Central Elementary School; and Linda Morris of Olive Branch High School.
From left, Wendi McCoy of DeSoto Central Elementary School; Kelly Summers of Horn Lake Elementary School; Jennifer Potts of Southaven Intermediate School; and Amy Harvey of Lake Cormorant Elementary School.
From left, Emily Frayser of Lewisburg Middle School; Jajuanna Greer of Shadow Oaks Elementary School; Rosa Knichel of Southaven Middle School; and Jennifer Collard of DeSoto Central Middle School.
DeSoto Central Middle School's Got Talent!

Student Council Starts Raising Money 

for "Make-A-Wish"

     DeSoto Central Middle School students showed a variety of talent as they danced, sang, played instruments and performed gymnastic feats to 1,200 approving audience members.

   Twelve acts, plus a surprise choreographed dance routine by 10 teachers, kicked off an effort to raise money for the school to grant a wish for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

   The emcee for the program was Micah Barker, DCMS student council president and a former Make-A-Wish grant recipient.  Micah serves as an ambassador for St. Jude Research Hospital and appeared on the "Today Show" in December.  She is in the eigth grade at DCMS.

   "When I was one, I was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma Stage 4.  Only 53 percent of kids with this cancer survive.  My tumor was the size of a softball and it was wrapped around my spine which resulted in scoliosis.  The doctor told me that I would never be able to walk.  After lots of chemotherapy and surgery, God saved my life," Micah told the hushed audience.

   "In the summer of fifth grade, my scoliosis came to a bad degree so I had to get a surgery where they put titanium rods in my back to straighten my spine.  Then at the end of sixth grade, one of the titanium rods broke and I had to have another surgery.  These surgeries resulted in scars which I call my 'miracles' because I survived terminal cancer."

   Micah told her classmates she has been free of cancer for 12 years.

   "Because I fought for my life at such a young age, Make-A-Wish decided to grant me a wish," she added.  "I got to go to Disney World and it was granted by the Southaven Police Department.  I remember getting to skip all the lines and eat ice cream every day. I got to be happy after spending all that time in hospitals.  I have been so fortunate.  For many kids who have their wish granted, it may be their very last wish.  Sometimes kids get wishes so that their family can see their child happy for one last time.  This is why is it so important to raise money for Make-A-Wish.  Together, we can grant a child's wish that will leave them happy forever."

   DCMS Principal Duane Case said, "I am so proud of all of our students today, and I believe we will be able to grant this wish without any difficulty."


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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 Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Katherine Nelson
Director of Communications
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Student Make-Up Days
at DCS Approved by School Board 


The teachers and certified staff at DeSoto County Schools have voted, and their voice has been heard to determine student make-up days to compensate for school closings during the 2014-2015 school year.


Student make-up days will be:

Saturday,  March 21 (a 60% day)

Saturday April 11 (a 60% day)

Tuesday, May 26 (a 100% day)


Students will also have a 100% day on Monday, April 6, a previously scheduled inclement weather day.


 "In Mississippi, students have to attend 180 days.  Mississippi law does not allow us to add minutes to our days as they can in Tennessee.  We decided to poll our certified staff because they would choose make-up times that were best for students academically," Supt. Milton Kuykendall noted.


Teachers  were given four options for make-up times, two involving days during  Spring Break and two that included "Saturday school."


Seventy-five percent voted for "Option 3." Supt. Milton Kuykendall recommended this option to the school board and it passed unanimously at the Wednesday afternoon meeting.


"Anytime schedules are changed, it poses difficulties for some," Kuykendall said.  "I am pleased that this schedule works for three-fourths of our teachers".


Join Schools to Honor School Board Members


    Cards, posters, clip boards, and gift cards from students and faculty members, communicated one central message DeSoto County School District appreciates School Board Members.

   Bill Russell, president of the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors, read a proclamation recognizing the important role board members hold for DeSoto County Schools.

   Russell also recognized Supt. Milton Kuykendall for his contribution to the growth and development of DeSoto County Schools, building 17 schools in the last 12 years, and helping the county grow and develop under his leadership to an "A" school district.

   "No one could have done a better job than Milton Kuykendall has done.  DeSoto County Schools is known as the best school system in the state and it has happened under his leadership," Russell said.

   Supt. Kuykendall said, "Today, we are recognizing our school board members.  Some are new kids on the block, some have completed years of dedicated service.  Each person plays a pivotal role in the growth and development of our school system."

  From left to right, Supervisor Lee Caldwell, Board Member Sarah Doss-Thomas, Board Member Shelia Riley, Board Member Ann Jolley, Board Member Steve Dodd, Board President Milton Nichols, Board Attorney Keith Treadway, Supt. Milton Kuykendall, Supervisor Bill Russell, and Supervisor Joey Lee.

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Third Graders "Adopt" Magnolia Seedlings

   It was sort of an adoption ceremony where third grade students were given a baby magnolia tree seeding with the understanding that they were going to  plant it in good top soil, water it, and watch it grow.

   Most 3rd graders welcomed the parenting opportunity given by the DeSoto  Soil and Water Conservation District.  Meleiah Tyus serves as the District's Administrator and she said they dispersed 28,012 Southern Magnolia  trees in 14 schools across DeSoto County.

     "Babies need love and care.  These little trees are your babies, your responsibility.  I am expecting you guys to be excellent parents,"  Tyrus said to students a Hernando Hills Elementary School.

   "Trees give us oxygen, reduce noise and pollution, and slowdown erosion," Tyus said.  "The five parts of a tree include roots, trunk, leaves, branches and crown."

   Jack Etheridge was a volunteer for the tree program and the parent of a third grade student at HHES.  He read The Giving Tree  by Shel Silverstein to the students.

   "This tree give-away program is good for students," Etheridge said. "They each get something that is living that is theirs."

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Fellowship of
Christian Athletes
Community Breakfast
Superintendent Milton Kuykendall, left, congratulated Anna Hamm, a senior at Lewisburg High School, on the moving speech she gave at the FCA Community Breakfast  meeting where she told more than 700 members of the community the powerful influence FCA has had on her life to live as a committed Christian.

 Chris Fleming, right, principal of Lewisburg High, also recognized Anna's positive influence on the students a LHS. Former Head Football Coach Bobby Bowden was the keynote speaker for the event.

Mock Trial Competition Teaches Students About Courtroom Procedures


   With a volunteer judge as a tutor, a true courtroom setting  and a realistic scenario, students from Hernando and DeSoto Central High School got real-world experience in legal proceedings through the "Mock Trial Competition."

   Circuit Court Judge Bobby Chamberlin oversaw the proceedings, sometimes shifting from his role as judge to teacher when students did not follow a logical line of questioning.  His son, Will, a senior at Hernando High, served as "timekeeper" in the courtroom.

   DeSoto Central Advisor and Business law instructor Tracy Welch  said Mock Trial program began this year as students wanted to see what it would be like to do the needed research and defend a case in court. 

   "I am not sure if they're going to think about a law career, but they are going to know if they want to be a lawyer after this process.  We hope we will eventually expand this program to the entire county for all of the eight high schools to participate," Welch said.


2014 - 2015 School Year


March 9th-13th

Spring Break


March 21st (Saturday)

Student Make-Up Day 

60% Day


April 3rd

Good Friday


April 6th (Monday)

Student Make-Up Day 

100% Day

April 11th (Saturday)

Student Make-Up Day 

60% Day

May 25th

Memorial Day


May 26th (Tuesday) 

Teachers Last Day 

Student Make-Up Day 

100% Day 

Student Last Day