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A HALF CENTURY OF SERVICE

January 10, 2018

By JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools

After a half century serving the students of Rutherford County, Director of Schools Don Odom is ready to hang up his trademark classroom-themed ties. 

Odom announced his retirement Tuesday night during the School Board’s work session meeting. Odom will complete his remaining contract, which ends June 30, 2018 — marking the end of a distinguished 50-year career as an educator in Rutherford County. 

“I have appreciated the opportunity to work with this School Board and the excellent administrators, teachers and staff who give so much of their talents, skills and time to earn Rutherford County Schools’ the state designated Exemplary School District status,” Odom said. “The programs and curricular offerings, along with academic performance, within Rutherford County Schools has drawn the attention throughout our state and beyond.”

Odom became director of the fast-growing system on July 1, 2012 after serving for nine years as the assistant superintendent for the Curriculum and Instruction Department. As director, the district has twice been named “Exemplary” by the Tennessee Department of Education — the highest designation a school district can receive. 

Odom has overseen the district during a continued period of rapid growth. 

In the past five years, the district’s student enrollment has increased by about 5,000 students to become the fourth largest school district in Tennessee — surpassing the enrollment of Hamilton County (Chattanooga). 

During Odom’s tenure, the district has opened three new schools — including the new John Coleman Elementary and Rocky Fork Middle School — and secured funding to build Rockvale High School, which is currently under construction and set to open in August 2019. Six additions have been completed during Odom’s time as director, including the Blackman Middle School annex and the renovation of David Youree Elementary School — where Odom served as the first principal when the school opened in 1976. 

Under Odom’s leadership, the school district has earned multiple high marks and awards for academic performance, student growth and student programs at the state and national levels. 

Central Magnet School, for example, was named the best school in Tennessee last spring by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited Oakland High School in November to tour the much-celebrated Career and Technical Education programs at the school.  

“I also want to extend a genuine thank you to each member of the school board because you have guided and supported me as we jointly sought to create and sustain the Exemplary status that we have attained,” Odom said. 

“We functioned as one, and it works,” Odom added. 

School Board members praised Mr. Odom for his leadership and his many years of leadership. 

“It has been such an honor to know you and to have you educate my children and family,” said Board member Wayne Blair, who has known Odom for 25 years including time as his parent-teacher organization president. “And I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the service you have provided to my family and the children of this county.”

Board member Terry Hodge has worked alongside Odom for 14 years and has always respected his dedication, he said. 

“How you do what you do, I really don’t know,” Hodge said. “I classify you as Superman sometimes. I know you’re the first to arrive and the last to leave.” 

Odom, a lifelong resident of Rutherford County and the Lascassas community, has known Board member Coy Young — who is also a longtime resident of Lascassas — for 23 years.

“You’re one of the reasons I decided to come on the Board,” Young told Odom. 

Odom began his career with Rutherford County Schools in 1967 as a math and reading teacher at Kittrell School and later moved to Oakland High School as a math teacher and department chair. 

He was named the principal of Smyrna Elementary School in 1975 before becoming the first principal of David Youree Elementary School in 1976, a position he held for 22 years. He then joined the Central Office as coordinator of the Attendance Department before being named the assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and eventually the district’s director in 2012. 

The School Board has hired the Tennessee Schools Board Association to facilitate the search process to identify candidates for the next director of schools. The Board will interview candidates beginning in March.

 

PHOTO / JAMES EVANS

Director of Schools Don Odom talks with students at Roy Waldron Elementary School during a dedication ceremony for its new addition in August 2016.