The DeSoto Digest
A publication of DeSoto County Schools
May 2015

DeSoto County Schools Names "Parent of the Year"

Supt. Milton Kuykendall presents Sherrie Ming with the 2015 Parent of the Year Award.

   The teachers at Hernando Hills Elementary selected the candidate they felt should be nominated for DeSoto County Schools' Parent of the Year.

  They picked a winner.  Her name is Sherrie Ming.

   Both of Sherrie's children have attended Hernando Hills where teachers and students alike have a great respect for the countless hours she volunteers at school.  Her son, Ethan, is a third grade student at HHES, and her daughter, Emma, is a fifth grade student at Oak Grove Central Elementary.

   "I believe Sherrie is an excellent candidate for Mississippi Parent of the Year," said Tara Hood, HHES PTA President.  "Her giving spirit, cheerful nature and selflessness in helping others are just a few of her characteristics which make her stand out."

  Stephanie Gilder, principal at HHES, added that Sherrie never seeks attention for the work she does.

   "Sherrie assists or serves wherever she is needed," Gilder said.  "She is happy to be in the background and quietly gets things done.  She never seeks any attention for all the work she does and goes above and beyond on any project she is given."

   Case in point:  In previous years, HHES' annual Valentine fundraiser made on average $200.  When Sherrie ran the program, it made $1,712. Instead of a candy bar, she made thousands of handmade fuzzy characters, each one slightly different, and attached them to a card with a small piece of candy. 

   "When Sherrie takes on a project, she maximizes it-no matter how many hours of work it requires," said Gilder.

   Sherrie says volunteering has many positive benefits for her as well.

   "I love the kids' reaction," she said.  "I can come into a classroom and help with an art project or science lesson and provide the fun."

    Sherrie, a biology major, offered to make salt dough and help students make "fossils" when they were doing a unit in science on prehistoric animals.

   "I love to help with science experiments, listen to a child read, or help with PTA projects such as a 'Back to School' breakfast for teachers," Sherrie said.  "It is important to me to be involved in my children's schools."

   Sherrie's husband is Kevin Ming, a safety specialist for FedEx Ground.   Sherrie was honored at the Board of Education for being the DCS Parent of the Year.  This qualified her to be in the running for Mississippi's Parent of the Year which will be announced in May. 

   There is one overall Parent of the Year winner for DCS but there are many finalists from individual schools.  These finalists were recognized by the Board of Education in Hernando with a reception.  Supt. Milton Kuykendall said, "Parents are the foundation to the success of students.  Besides helping your own children, this group helps other children to be successful. "

   Parent of the Year nominees include:  Ronald Jeppe, Career Technical Center West; Emily Medlin, Center Hill Elementary; Sylvia Earwood, DeSoto Central High; Beth Snow, Greenbrook Elementary;  Taneisha Woodard-Spearman, Hope Sullivan Elementary; Jenny Degan, Horn Lake Intermediate; Michelle Moore, Horn Lake Middle; Stephanie Viglietti, Lake Cormorant Elementary; Jennifer Ware, Lewisburg Elementary, Sonya Lageman, Lewisburg Primary; Jennifer Childress, Oak Grove Central Elementary; Amanda Hill, Olive Branch Elementary; Gerry Long, Olive Branch Middle; Melissa Green, Shadow Oaks Elementary; Wendy Barulli, Southaven Middle;  and Mike Webb, Walls Elementary.

From left, Taneisha Woodard-Spearman, Sonya Lageman and Stephanie Viglietti

From left, Ronald Jeppe, Emily Medlin, and Amanda Hill

From left, Jenny Degan, Jennifer Ware and Jennifer Childress

From left, Wendy Barulli, Beth Snow, Sylvia Earwood, and Michelle Moore 


 Horn Lake Student Earns $400,000 Scholarship 

  She is small, but mighty.

  Even though Nyjah Turner, a senior at Horn Lake High School, is small in stature, she is mentally and physically tough and is the Commanding Officer of her JROTC program.  She is the first DeSoto County Schools' female student to earn an appointment to attend the U.S Coast Guard Academy, a scholarship worth $400,000.

   "She has true leadership abilities along with an 'A' average in academics," said Master Sgt. Kenneth Hicks, the head instructor for the JROTC program at HLHS.  "Less than 100 appointments are awarded each year nationwide."

   The United States Coast Guard Academy is one of five federally funded military academies.  This program is known for its work in search and rescue, maritime defense and humanitarian missions.  Located in New London, Connecticut, the academy offers four years of rigorous coursework in the sciences, engineering and maritime-border defense.  Nyjah had the opportunity to visit the Connecticut campus twice before she was awarded the scholarship.

   "I joined JROTC my freshman year," said Nyjah.  "I am receiving this scholarship because of what I learned and the opportunities I have been given at Horn Lake High School.  This is an opportunity of a lifetime."

   As Commanding Officer of the Horn Lake JROTC, she oversees 130 cadets.  Citizenship, leadership, character and community service are the core tenets of high school Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs.  The Horn Lake program has been in existence for six years.

   "In the last four years, our program has had three students earn military appointments," said Master Sgt. Hicks.  "This year we will have a former student graduate from Annapolis."

   Students who participate in Junior ROTC are not required to join the military after high school, and the program is not a military preparation class.

   "That is not the mission of JROTC at all.  The mission is to prepare children to become better citizens," MSgt. Hicks said.  "We teach leadership."

   But the programs do have a strong military influence. They are taught by retired military personnel and partially funded by the military. Coursework includes military history and customs, and students are required to wear a uniform at least twice a month.  DeSoto County School District has three JROTC programs-Horn Lake High, Lake Cormorant High and Olive Branch High.  Applications have been filed to get similar programs at the remaining five DCS high schools.

    Students also partake in physical fitness training and drill instruction, among other activities. Students at Horn Lake get to work out on an obstacle course built to Marine Corps standards.


   "In a Junior ROTC class, we work out and get in shape.  More importantly, students can build soft skills such as leadership, self-confidence and discipline - qualities that are necessary to thrive in any career.  That is my hope for every student in our program," MSgt. Hicks said.  "Nyjah is a wonderful example of what can happen to a student who works very hard to be successful."


DCS Teacher Wins Farm Bureau "Teacher of the Year"

Dr. Sandy Slocum, Education Coordinator with Mississippi Farm Bureau, Teacher Tiffany Lyles, and Deniese Swindoll, Region 1 Women's Chair for Mississippi Farm Bureau.

   Tiffany Lyles, a second grade teacher at Pleasant Hill Elementary School, was selected as Mississippi Farm Bureau's "Teacher of the Year," an award that will send her on an all-expense paid trip to their national conference in Kentucky this summer.

   Only one teacher is selected statewide for this honor and for the second year in a row this title has gone to a teacher from DeSoto County Schools.  Last year Todd Willis, a third grade teacher at Pleasant Hill Elementary, won.

    "Teachers across the state submit programs, lessons, special events that have an emphasis on agriculture in the classroom," said Deniese Swindoll, Region 1 Women's Chair for Mississippi Farm Bureau.  "The contest is open in all 82 counties.  Tiffany Lyles' application stood out."

  Swindoll said it was very unusual that back-to-back statewide winners would be from the same school district-and the same school.

   "Todd Willis shared many ideas with me and we work well together," said Lyles. 

   Both teachers believe "real world experiences" make learning relevant.

   "I am a hands-on learner.  I use our classroom garden to teach measurement, teach fractions," she said.  "I think it is the best way for a student to learn."

   Besides a garden that the students designed and have nurtured, live animals are a part of Lyles' classroom.  The students cared for eggs, watched them hatch, and have the responsibility for feeding them.

   "Incubation and hatching in the classroom is one of the most amazing experiences you will provide your students. It's a firsthand view of life and can be an experience your students will never forget," Lyles said.  "Our students write in their journals each day.  They cannot wait to write after seeing these eggs come to life."

   Jamie Loper, principal at PHES, said, "Mrs. Lyles uses innovative agriculture projects to make learning relevant.  She thinks 'outside the box.'  She uses multi-sensory learning techniques and students love to be in her classroom."

Empty Bowls, Full Hearts
Grayson Dunning and Bailey Walhood

   There are hungry people in DeSoto County.  Students at Lewisburg High have started a tradition they hope will be continued to stop hunger through their "Empty Bowls Project."

Sponsor Terry Boler
Students handcrafted 400 ceramic bowls that were filled with soup by local restaurants.  The $10,000 raised from the event went to the Interfaith Food Pantry in Hernando and the Olive Branch Food Pantry.

   The students who spearheaded the Empty Bowls Project were members of Lewisburg High School's Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy.  A community service project is a requirement of the national high school leadership program focused on "impact through action."

Kacie Freeman, Sponsor Terry Boler, Grayson Dunning and Bailey Walhood

   "We looked at a lot of different things and we wanted to do something new and something DeSoto County hasn't done before, 
which is the Empty Bowl Project," said Bailey Walhood, Lewisburg High's student body president. "I believe this will continue throughout the years and we're excited for it to become a tradition here at Lewisburg."

   Bailey said LHS Art Teacher Eric Beavers gave them the idea for the fundraiser and helped them create 400 ceramic bowls.  Olive Garden, Panera Bread, Kroger and other local restaurants donated the soup along with other items served at dinner in the LHS cafeteria.  Chick-fil-A awarded them a grant while other businesses provided funds to pay for the clay used to make the bowls.

   "We started working on this project in December," said Grayson Dunning, a senior at LHS.  "We learned a lot about teamwork and leadership with this project."

   The sponsor for the Chick-fil-A Leadership program is Terry Boler.


Overpark Elementary Wins $5,000 Grant 

from the CenturyLink Foundation

Bill Welch, CenturyLink Area Plant supervisor, left, presents a $5,000 grant check to Overpark Assistant Principal Sherry Anderson and Counselor Stacy Conklin.  OES students on hand for the presentation are from left, Walker Moore, Bryania Brooks, Nia Jones, Matthes Nastasi, Cailan Neely, Callia Paulino, and Olivia Dekker.

   Overpark Elementary was awarded $5,000 for a project titled:  iPADS - Incredibly Purposeful Academic Discovery at School.  The grant will allow teachers and students to co-teach by connecting to several interactive websites at the same time. 

   Fourth Grade Teacher Jana Long submitted the grant.  Across the country, more than 1,000 grant applications were received.  In Mississippi, one winning school was selected by a review committee comprised of community members and a CenturyLink representative.  The winning teachers' schools received grants to be used to purchase technology to benefit students in the classroom.


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.

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
DCS High School
Graduation Dates 2015

Hernando High School
May 21 at 7:00 PM

Olive Branch High School
May 22 at 7:00 PM

Lake Cormorant High School
May 23 at 10:00 AM

DeSoto Central High School
May 23 at 3:00 PM

Horn Lake High School
May 23 at 7:00 PM

Southaven High School
May 24 at 3:00 PM

Center Hill High School
May 26 at 7:00 PM

Lewisburg High School
May 28 at 7:00 PM

All Graduation Ceremonies held at the Southaven Landers Center

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Valedictorians and Salutatorians Named at

DeSoto County Schools

   Valedictorian status is awarded to the student earning the highest grade point average in the graduating class. Salutatorian status is awarded to the student earning the second highest grade point average in the class.  Many colleges and universities award scholarships for having one of these credentials. 

     Eight valedictorians and eight salutatorians will walk across the stage in the Landers Center to receive their diplomas for the class of 2015.  There are 2,182 seniors in this senior class. 

     Superintendent Milton Kuykendall will discuss how these outstanding students are a reflection of our schools across the county. 

     "Our students will attend some of the top schools in the nation," Kuykendall said.  "This is an impressive group of seniors.  Our teachers have worked to help them be successful."


Valedictorians on LEFT

Salutatorians on RIGHT 

Bradley Austin Brooks has the top Grade Point Average at Center Hill High.  He is headed to Washington University in St. Louis to major in chemical engineering and Japanese. Grey Hollowell is the salutatorian and will attend Vanderbilt University and major in pre-med.

Hallie Earwood is the valedictorian from DeSoto Central High School. She plans to attend Mississippi State University and major in chemical engineering.  Catrina Curtis is the salutatorian.  She will attend the University of Mississippi and major in political science and public policy leadership.

John Ross Graham is the valedictorian at Hernando High School.  He is headed to the University of Mississippi to study English. Brandon McDaniel is the salutatorian.  He is also going to attend the University of Mississippi, and plans to pursue a degree in pharmacy. 

Jason Carter, Jr., the valedictorian at Horn Lake High School, plans to attend Vanderbilt University and major in computer engineering.  Abigail Rachel is the salutatorian. She is headed to Mississippi State University to major in biomedical engineering.

Tina Ng has the highest grade point average at Lake Cormorant High and is the valedictorian.  She plans to attend the University of Mississippi and has an undecided major. Alex Lewis is the salutatorian.  She is headed to Baptist College of Health Sciences to pursue nursing.

Emma Jeffries is the valedictorian for Lewisburg High School.  She will attend Delta State University and major in aviation.  Caleb Keathley is the salutatorian.  The drum major for LHS, Keathley plans to attend the University of Mississippi and study music education.

Mary Madelon Case is valedictorian for Olive Branch High School.  She will attend Mississippi College and major in Kinesiology.  Carson McKinney is the salutatorian and plans to attend the University of Mississippi. He is undecided on his major.

Hannah Barulli is the valedictorian for Southaven High. She will attend Mississippi State University and major in education/mathematics.  Lindsey Wolfe, the salutatorian, will go to the University of Southern Mississippi and major in nursing.

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STAR Students/STAR Teachers Shine Brightly at DCS

   At DeSoto County School District, an important high school award category is the "STAR Student/STAR Teacher" program.

    The STAR program, sponsored by the Mississippi Economic Council, is a statewide scholarship program that recognizes senior high students who have the highest ACT (American College Test) scores and scholastic averages, as well as the classroom teachers who have been most influential for these students' academic success.

   A STAR student gets to pick his or her STAR Teacher.

   "Mrs. Stefanski furthered my love for the arts and was supportive of me throughout high school," said Hernando High Star Student John Ross Graham.

   Hallie Earwood, Star Student at DeSoto Central High, said her "Star Teacher" was Kristine York because "she was my mentor throughout high school."

   James Long, Star Student at Olive Branch High and the student with the highest ACT score in the district, said the teacher who had the greatest impact on his high school career was Sam Jones.

   "Mr. Jones loves being a teacher.  He was my Speech and Debate coach and my history teacher, and motivates students. He pushed us to go to tournaments and try new things," said Long.

   Grey Hollowell, Star Student at Center Hill High, said, "Mrs. Stanley helped me expand my horizons in reaching higher goals.  She has a unique way of teaching that is supportive."

   Jason Carter, Jr. at Horn Lake High selected AP Physics/Calculus Teacher Mindy Hestir as his Star Teacher.

    "I like how the AP teachers try hard to make the students understand the topics. They really try their best to help you succeed," Carter said.  


STAR Students/STAR Teachers

Center Hill High:

Grey Hollowell, ACT 34, will major in pre-med at Vanderbilt University; English Teacher Cynthia Stanley 

DeSoto Central High:
Hallie Earwood, ACT 34, going to Mississippi State University to study Chemical Engineering; AP Literature Teacher Kristine York

Hernando High:

John Ross Graham, ACT 34, headed to the University of Mississippi; Gifted English Teacher Alicia Stefanski 

Horn Lake High:

Jason Carter, Jr., ACT 34, will major in computer engineering at Vanderbilt University; AP Physics/Calculus Teacher Mindy Hestir 

Lake Cormorant High:

Tina Ng, ACT 29, plans to attend the University of Mississippi -- major undecided; Chemistry/Physics Teacher Joy Carpenter 

Lewisburg High:

Caleb Keathley, ACT 34, going to University of Mississippi to study Music Education; Mathematics Teacher June Reasons 

Olive Branch High:  James Long, ACT 35, will attend University of Mississippi to major in mathematics; Speech and Debate Coach/History Teacher Sam Jones 

Southaven High:

Hayden Daniel, ACT 34, will attend Washington & Lee to major in political science; History Teacher Tim Gardner 

For the Latest
DCSAA Sports News
visit our website
Lake Cormorant JROTC Cadets place First in Regional Physical Fitness Competition.
Cadet 1st Sgt Church receiving 1st Place Team Trophy
Cadet PFC Jones
1 mile run
Cadet LCpl Booth
Sit Ups
Cadet PFC Hansen
Ammo Can Relay
Cadet SSgt Lyles
Shuttle Run
Cadet PFC Richmond
Sit Ups
Cadet PVT Byrd
Ammo Can Relay
Cadet SSgt Tice
Ammo Can Relay
Cadet PVT Milton
Sit Ups

Cadet PFC Wright
Shuttle Run

Cadet 1st Sgt Church
1 mile run


Visits Walls Elementary

Students in a kindergarten class at Walls Elementary got a nice surprise--a new pair of scissors from Fiskars.  After all, their teacher is "a cut above," having been named DeSoto County's Teacher of the Year.  Jamie Branning accepted a gift basket for her classroom and scissors for her students.  Sutton Holcomb, left, Sr. HR Generalist at Fiskars, gave Jamie Branning the gifts.  John Rawlsky, Director of Logistics at Fiskars Brands Americas , came to see the students' reaction.

Students in Jamie Branning's kindergarten class at Walls Elementary each received a new pair of scissors from Fiskars to reward Branning for being named "Teacher of the Year." Fiskars has a distribution facility in Southaven.

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.