The DeSoto Digest
A publication of DeSoto County Schools
April 2015
Stephanie Gilder Wins Two Awards

"Hernando Hills Elementary School Principal Recognized"

     "The Blitz" is the term educators understand at Hernando Hills Elementary School. It is an intensive attack or concerted effort.

That's the way Principal Stephanie Gilder addresses a problem at her second and third grade school.

     Her creative leadership style has propelled her to earn DeSoto County School District's 2015 Administrator of the Year. Her efforts have also been recognized by the Mississippi Department of Education as the top education administrator for the 1st Congressional District. This second award makes her one of four finalists for the Mississippi Administrator of the Year. The winner will be announced in April.

     To get more rigor and relevance in her classrooms, Gilder developed an instructional improvement observation known as "The Blitz." Using a simple spreadsheet, she documented teacher and student behaviors by making spot checks on each classroom every hour and every day for one week. 


     "We noted behaviors such as whether the teacher was standing or seated, actively facilitating or teaching, and if teachers were monitoring student productivity," Gilder said.
     The results were astounding. Teachers were shocked to learn what "best practices" they were or were not using.
     "These data-driven revelations impacted the entire faculty and gave me an opportunity to develop a plan of action with each teacher emphasizing quality over quantity, meaningful engagement versus busy work," she said. "In the following weeks, I saw a valiant effort on each teacher's part to make every minute count."
     "Mrs. Gilder always puts her students first," said Annaleigh Minor, a 2nd grade teacher at HHES. "She supports her staff. I drive from Memphis to be a part of this team. Our school is like a family, it really is."

AOY 2015 7003     Lauren Germany is a 3rd grade teacher at HHES. "Mrs. Gilder is our go-to person regarding curriculum. She gets teachers to work smarter, not harder, and she shows us how through excellent professional development and modeling good instructional decisions," she said.
     Hernando Hills Elementary School has an "A" accountability rating by the Mississippi Department of Education, but Gilder is quick to say this is due to her teachers.
"I would put my teachers against any teaching team in the country," she said. "They make this school a success."


"Light It Up Blue"
in 4th Year at Hernando High School

     A national spotlight is on Hernando High School for their efforts to draw attention to the behavioral disorder of autism.




     "Small Town, Big Deal" hosts Rodney Miller and Jann Carl came to HHS to showcase how HHS's Interact Club and Chick-Fil-A's Leader Academy painted their town and their school blue to celebrate autism awareness.
      This nationally syndicated web-based program brings attention to inspirational events happening in small towns across the country. When the hosts were made aware of the community-wide effort to "Light It Up Blue," "Small Town, Big Deal" producers decided to feature the school and the community on an upcoming episode.

      As students filed into the gym for an "autism pep rally," they were given blue mustaches.
HHS LIUB 7062     HHS teachers Holly Neel and Angela Gregg are Interact Club sponsors. Each year they help their students top what they have done in the past.
      A pizza eating contest, a 5K run, and sponsors will help the Interact Club raise money for the ARC of Northwest Mississippi, a grassroots advocacy organization for children and adults with cognitive, intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students are also working to help provide a Retrieving Freedom therapy dog for a child with autism each year as well as assisting Oak Grove Central Elementary School complete a sensory room.

      "I am absolutely humbled by the community's involvement in this cause, and it is because of them that we are receiving national coverage. Teachers, students, parents, and all of DeSoto County deserve a pat on the back for making this work," said Angela Gregg.

Schools Recognized by PREPS for Excellence

Sarah Doss-Thomas, Shelia Riley, Supt. Milton Kuykendall, Ann Jolley and Milton Nichols accepted an award from PREPS for DeSoto County Schools being an "A" District.

     Eleven Desoto County Schools received special recognition for performing significantly better academically than projections anticipated. 

PREPS award winner
high school Principal Chris Fleming, LHS.

    Seven DCS Middle Schools were recognized including: Center Hill Middle, DeSoto Central Middle, Olive Branch Middle, Horn Lake Middle, Lake Cormorant Middle, Lewisburg  Middle, and Southaven Middle. They were given plaques by the PREPS (Program of Research and Evaluation for Public Schools) Value Added Awards Program, under the direction of Mississippi State University.  Four DCS High Schools also received awards, including Center Hill High, DeSoto Central High, Lake Cormorant High and Lewisburg High. The principals were also recognized by DCS board members.

     Board members came forward with Supt. Milton Kuykendall to receive a  PREPS "A" District Award for the district's accountability rating.

     In different categories of learning, the students at those schools performed better than students at other schools of similar socioeconomic circumstances.

     "It is an honor to be recognized for our teachers, students and parents' efforts and to have such a strong showing for DeSoto County Schools," said Supt. Milton Kuykendall.

Principals receiving PREPS Awards were, from left to right, Jacob Stripling, CHMS; Duane Case, DCMS; Jerry Floate, OBMS; and Stephen Cooper, HLMS.
 Other Middle School Principals were:  Jeff Morgan, LCMS;  Brad Meadows, LMS; and Levi Williams, SMS.

High school principals receiving PREPS Awards were, from left to right, Doug Payne, CHHS; Cory Uselton, DCHS; and Rhonda Guice, LCHS.


DeSoto County Schools
2015-16 Tentative Calendar

August 3rdTeachers' 1st Day
August 5thStudents' 1st Day
September 7thLabor Day Holiday
October 12thColumbus Day Holiday
November 3rd
Professional Development (Student Holiday)
November 23rd - 27thThanksgiving Holidays
Dec. 21st - Jan. 1stChristmas Holidays
January 4thTeachers & Students Return
January 18thKing/Lee Holiday
February 12th
Professional Development (Student Holiday)
February 15thWashington's Birthday Holiday
March 14th -18thSpring Break
March 25thGood Friday Holiday
March 28thEaster Holiday
May 20thStudents' Last Day
May 25thTeachers' Last Day
May 30thMemorial Day Holiday

December 21, February 12, February 15, March 28, May 23, and May 24 are scheduled makeup days.   State law requires a student schedule of 180 days. The calendar is subject to change due to emergency conditions.


DeSoto County Schools
Earns High Marks on Accreditation

Every five years DeSoto County Schools goes through a rigorous review  to earn full accreditation.  A seven member team  from  AdvancED  visited the schools in the district and interviewed principals,  school board members , staff and parents.  Lucy Hasselman, director of accreditation for DCS, facilitated their review. AdvancED, formerly known as SACS or the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, gave the district high marks because of parent involvement, instructional practices,  special needs services, the PERKS program and facilities.  DCS finished above the national average in all areas, including teaching and learning impact, leadership and resource utilization. These marks renew DCS' accreditation through the middle of 2019 when the process will begin again.


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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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Guests at the Administrator
of the Year Reception
Stephanie Gilder, 2015 DCS Administrator of the Year, with her husband, Jeff Gilder, Chief Academic Officer for Middle Schools
Sissy Heyman, CHES; Lisa Love, OES; Stephanie Gilder, HHES; and Chris Fleming, LHS
Michaela Smith, asst. principal at HHES, and Stephanie Gilder.
Cory Uselton, DCHS and Rhonda Guice, LCHS
Jerry Floate, OBMS and Jim Ferguson, Chief Academic Office for High Schools
Christy Johnston, SES and Keith Williams, assoc. superintendent
Amanda Samples, LES and Brad Meadows, LMS
Doug Payne, CHHS and Duane Case, DCMS

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Arts Alive and Well

at DCMS 

   Ivey Swan, "Miss Hattiesburg," spoke to Mrs. Tobie Pillstrom's drama class at DeSoto Central Middle School about the importance of the arts and her creation, Artie.

    Artie is a paintbrush figure who paints, sings, dances, plays musical instruments and loves all forms of art.  Swan and Artie travel around the state talking to different age groups about the importance of art.  She is in the process of getting funding, with the help of Mississippi Public Broadcasting, to put Artie on television.  She left the students with a challenge.  She told them to leave a legacy no matter what they do.  She also quoted Dr. Suess, "A person is a person, no matter how small." 

   To find out more information about Artie, visit or follow him on Instagram @artieforthearts.

front row: Kamron Wrench, Keigh Pickens, Blaise Holt, Britten Wright, Collin Duncan, Timera Gaston 
back row: Tobie Pillstrom, Brady Pillstrom, Eli Gilliland, Ivey Swan, Madelyn Sykes, Briana Vance, Valerie Pinkston, Lauren Bond, Naamon Peyton
For the Latest
DCSAA Sports News
visit our website

Southaven High School

"Teens for Jeans"

  Zach Payne and Jermia Woods, students at Southaven High School, collected 585 pairs of gently worn jeans  as a part of the "Teens for Jeans " national program that distributes jeans to needy teens in the United States. 

The jeans were collected at Southaven High and Southaven Middle Schools.  Both students work for Aeropostale in Southaven, a supporter of the program.

Horn Lake High School

6A State Champions...



   For the second year in a row, the Lady Eagles of Horn Lake High School won the Mississippi 6A Girls' High School State Championship in basketball.

    They played the Lady Quistors of Olive Branch High  School, and won 52-42.

   In the regular season, the Lady Quistors won all of the previous meetings and took down the Lady Eagles in the Region 1-6A championship game. However, it was Horn Lake that won the championship game over Olive Branch at Mississippi Coliseum.

Horn Lake High School was named a "Cool School" by ABC 24.  From left, Team Captain Rodneyshia Martin, ABC 24 Morning Anchor Rodney Dunigan, Tranika Echols and Coach Janna Thompson enjoy holding the state championship trophy known as the "Gold Ball."

    Horn Lake Coach Janna Thompson has taken her team to the Final Four in Jackson for seven straight years. 

   While the Lady Eagles were behind at halftime (29-19), they soared in the second half.

   "At halftime I reminded them of why they were there, but while I'd love to say I was a difference maker, the credit goes to this group.  The five seniors made up their minds it wasn't going to end another way," Thompson said.

   Horn Lake has won three state championships and will hold on to the "Gold Ball" for another consecutive year.

Horn Lake High has an award-winning choir. Marissa Gillian, a senior choir member, told ABC 24 Anchor Rodney Dunigan that the family atmosphere at HLHS has helped her develop the courage to perform. She plans to audition for the University of Southern Mississippi choir and attend college there next year.
HLHS Principal Andy Orr said his students' accomplishments are why his school was named a "Cool School." Jason Carter is a senior, plays baseball and made a 34 on his ACT. Jason plans to attend Vanderbilt University and major in computer engineering.


2014 - 2015 School Year


April 3rd

Good Friday


April 6th (Monday)

Easter Holiday


May 21st (Thursday)

Students Last Day


May 25th (Monday)

Memorial Day