School Business Affairs September 2019

44 SEPTEMBER 2019 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS F or as long as she can remem- ber, Rhonda Odom dreamed of being an accountant. In fact, as a teenager in Kosciusko, Mis- sissippi, she prepared tax returns for family and friends. Valedictorian of her high school class, Odom attended the University of Mississippi for a semester then, after she received an engagement ring over Christmas break, moved back home, found a job as a factory secretary, and started a family with her husband. When her first son was a year old, Odom began working at Mississippi State University as adminis- trative secretary in the Department of Educational Leadership, where older, nontraditional students trained for school leadership positions. Seeing these students returning to study reignited her desire to be an accountant. With four children under the age of seven, Odom went back to school. Odom and her family moved to Florida—another lifelong dream—where she earned her master’s in accounting and became a certified public accountant. Though she had always planned to move into public accounting, she joined the Putnam County School District as staff accountant in 1996, advancing to senior accountant and director of finance. By 2008 she became chief financial officer/assistant superin- tendent for finance for the district. Once lauded as the poorest district in Florida, rural Putnam County has a declining enrollment of 10,800 students, with 21 schools, including an Exceptional Education Center and three charter schools. In a dis- trict with historically high dropout rates and poor grades, Odom and her team worked hard to achieve the highest growth in graduation rates in the state last year (up 29.9% since 2015). They also were able to add to the district’s fund balance each of the last two fiscal years and provide 3% across-the-board raises this year. The district’s 2019 vision video (www. =share) asserts, “our community supports our schools, and our schools sustain our community.” Active in numerous professional and community organizations, Odom serves as a mentor for partici- pants in the Institute of Florida School Finance. She urges her mentees and all newer colleagues to get involved. “I feel I benefit most from the networking I have with other school business officials, whether in my home state or around the world. ASBO Interna- tional’s online community [the Global School Business Network] has been my best resource. I can always get advice from someone who’s been there before me. I also enjoy reading School Business Affairs . It’s amaz- ing how certain articles just hit at the right time.” Spotlight on Rhonda Odom ASBO INTERNATIONAL STRATEGIC PARTNERS ASBO INTERNATIONAL EVENT PARTNERS