1219 Celebration of Excellence

From left, DeSoto County Schools Supt. Cory Uselton speaks with Mississippi Dept. of Education Supt. Dr. Carey Wright and MDE Communications Director Pete Smith. Wright visited DeSoto Central Middle School on Friday, Dec. 13 during her Celebration of Excellence tour of Mississippi's “A” rated school districts. 

The head of the Mississippi Department of Education will be dealing with new leadership at the top of state government next month when Tate Reeves becomes governor. She believes the new administration will work to continue education growth in the state.

Dr. Carey Wright, in comments made at DeSoto Central Middle School, expressed confidence a Reeves-led government will not shortchange state education when he becomes the head of the state.

“He (Reeves) and I have an absolutely wonderful relationship,” Wright said. “We meet on a regular basis during the year whether the Legislature is in session or not. He’s been a big supporter of ours and I think you’re going to see education take a top priority.”

Reeves promoted education and teacher pay increases during his successful campaign this year. The Republican wants to raise starting salaries to the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) average within two years. According to Reeves, the current starting salary for the SREB is $35,890.

Reeves has also said he wants to get to the Southeastern U.S. average of just over $47,000 annual within four years, the end of his first term in office.

Wright said there’s a good reason to pay teachers more when recent educational advances are considered. The state now ranks first in the nation for score gains in reading and mathematics on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, for 2019. Fourth grade students made the largest score gains from 2017 to 2019 in reading and mathematics while eighth grade students outpaced the nation for growth in mathematics and eighth grade reading scores held steady.

Another reason comes in the purpose of Wright’s appearance in Southaven on Friday, Dec. 13. Wright was there to again recognize DeSoto County Schools as an “A” school district on state accountability tests, making DCS one of 31 Mississippi districts to reach that level.

“DeSoto County has excelled in everything we look at in excelling and I’m excited to be celebrating all of the hard work teachers and leaders are doing here and around the state,” Wright said. “Mississippi is in the national eye right now in education and that’s a great place to be for all of the great reasons.”

DCS Supt. Cory Uselton stated the achievement for DeSoto County Schools, now in its fourth year in a row, is a team effort.

“The reason we’re able to do this is that everyone works together,” Uselton said. “Our principals, other administrators, teachers, and staff all work hard and together.”

It was pointed out at the assembly, called the Celebration of Excellence, that the 27 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists district-wide, is the largest in history. DCS was noted for its growth in all tested accountability areas, including its help to struggling students.

As a repeat “A” district, DeSoto County Schools is one of only nine state school districts to have that achievement for four consecutive years.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.