DeSoto County Schools (DCS) Supt. Cory Uselton this week updated a group about the school district’s progress while at the same time receiving a gift from the group of American flags for each DCS school.
Uselton was the guest speaker at the Thursday morning meeting of the DeSoto County Republican Women at the M.R. Davis Public Library in Southaven, where he outlined many of the school district’s successes and future challenges at the same time.
At the end of his presentation, the county Republican women presented Uselton with an American flag, one of a complete complement of flags that will reside on the flagpoles in front of each DeSoto County public school.
“We always want to make sure that we have our United States flag flying at all of our schools,” said Uselton. “It’s very important and means a lot to us that our DeSoto County Republican Women donate these flags to us to make sure that is done on a daily basis.”
Republican Women President Ashleigh Parker said the group holds activities during the year that raised the funds needed to purchase a new Star Spangled Banner for each school facility.
“We have a big Christmas dinner every December and we do silent auctions, we sell tickets and make money from that,” said Parker. “We try to give back to our community, so we use the profits from that to be able to give to our schools, so our kids can have American flags for every school.”
Parker added the national symbol waving proudly at each school entrance serves an important reminder of patriotism and respect of our country.
“It is extremely important for all of the children to see our American flag flying, even at the times it is flying at half-mast so we can bring awareness to where they learn to respect the flag as they grow, just like we did when we grew up,” Parker said.
During his talk, Uselton noted the state’s largest school district is now at a level of about 34,500 students in DeSoto County and said, “We’re in this together,” about assuring the county’s children receive the best education possible.
He reminded the women that DCS has been an “A” district in Mississippi accountability tests the past three years and is one of eight districts that have been an “A” district all of the last three years.
DeSoto County Schools is also home to Center Hill Middle School, a National Blue Ribbon School and one of 22 middle schools nationally to earn the U.S. Department of Education’s highest honor.
District wide, Uselton said more scholarship money awarded students is another indicator of educational success.
“In 2017, we received about $66 million worth of scholarship opportunities,” Uselton pointed out. “This last year, our seniors earned over $90 million. Not only are they performing at a higher level, but we are trying to push out as many scholarship opportunities to them as we can."
The constant and continued growth of DeSoto County remains the biggest challenge to the school district, Uselton said.
“This is a game changer,” Uselton said while pointing out the route of the recently constructed I-269 on a map. “We all know that the I-269 corridor five years from now is going to look a lot different than it does now. There’s going to be business development and residential development. We’re having to keep a very close eye on that because our duty is not just to make sure we’re offering the best education that we can on Jan. 17, 2019, but also in 2024 and beyond.”
Uselton also pointed out how a number of school buildings are aging and will need updating in the future. Twenty-five percent of schools are now 40 years old or older, including Olive Branch Middle School, which is now 72 years old.
"We need to keep these buildings up to date," Uselton said.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.