DeSoto County Superintendent of Schools Cory Uselton touted the success of the DeSoto County School system and the fact the county's stellar educational system is an economic draw to Mississippi's fastest-growing county.
Uselton was the keynote speaker at the Second Quarterly Luncheon of the Hernando Main Street Chamber of Commerce.
"We're all in this thing together," Uselton said to a packed crowd of around 300 gathered inside 1 Memphis Street. "Whether we are talking about business, industry, real estate or our schools, we all have a part in making our community better."
Uselton talked about moving to Hernando along with wife Amanda to coach basketball more than a decade ago.
It's that same "winning team" concept that Uselton said allows these schools to succeed and the community to thrive.
"We preach about being a team throughout our entire school district," Uselton said. "Whether a teacher, cafeteria worker or a school bus driver, we are a team."
Uselton said the school district is continuing the motivational theme of "raising the bar" that it adopted last year.
"What we mean by 'raising the bar' is that we want to be the best that we can be," Uselton said. "Through our actions we want to inspire others to raise their own bar.
Students as well as teachers are stepping up, according to Uselton.
"Last year our students received $66 million in scholarships and it's $90.6 million this year," Uselton said. "We had a very successful school year — one that we're proud of," he added.
Uselton said U.S. News & World Report recently recognized 13 schools in Mississippi as among the best in the nation.
"Five of the 13 school districts in Mississippi that were recognized were all in DeSoto County," Uselton said, noting that Olive Branch High School, Center Hill High School, Hernando High School, Lewisburg High School and DeSoto Central High School.
The DeSoto County School District recorded 17 National Merit finalists in the 2017-18 academic year, according to Uselton.
The 17 National Merit Finalists is the second highest total recorded in the school's history.
Additionally, the DeSoto County School District received designation on the Advanced Placement or AP Honor Roll, a national honor.
"We were the only school district in Mississippi to receive this — it's a national award," Uselton said.
Uselton said while primary and second education is always first and foremost in the minds and hearts of educators, teachers strive to prepare students for the next step — the college level.
Uselton said that school students in DeSoto County Schools can earn college credit while in high school.
Uselton said DeSoto County Schools students experienced a total of 941 opportunities for dual enrollment last year and amassed 1,875 opportunities for dual enrollment this year.
"We have students earning 15 college hours and 20 college hours even before they step foot into a college classroom," Uselton said.
A total of 136 seniors across the DeSoto County School District scored a 30 or above on the ACT exam.
"Last year we had one student score a perfect 36 and this year we have five," Uselton said. "That's what we mean by raising the bar."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.