If you think Millry, AL is small, (population 546 in 2010) then go a few miles west of town to the Aquilla community. Its the kind of place that are sprinkled across the state. You know, you see one of those little green signs with a name, but nothing more.
This was the childhood home of Dr. Sarah Odom, valedictorian of Millry High in 1987, and long time educator. She taught science in Mobile County before joining the private sector of education. She has had her own education consulting business since 2012. She has traveled extensively in other states and is familiar with charter schools.
Like many in Washington County, she has watched the commotion there concerning a new charter school and the management team they have engaged and decided to write Governor Ivey with her concerns. With her permission, her edited letter is below.
Dear Governor Ivey:
I live in Washington County, and I love my county. I am a small business owner with two S-corps–an educational consulting business, Vann-Ray, LLC, and a ministry with my husband, Odom Ministries. I am a former science teacher and I love education. But I especially love “public” education. Why? Because most of my people were born in poverty, and public education has made such an impact in my life. Without it, I would not be where I am today, save the Grace of God.
I am the first person to say that our public schools need to improve, including in Washington County – not because we have bad schools – but rather all schools should seek improvement on a daily basis. I know parents get disgruntled. I’ve been one myself. However, I believe in working with our public schools to make needed changes.
I am aware that parents should have a right to choose. But I also know that the masses do not always have the information needed to make informed decisions. I also believe leaders, such as yourself, are placed in positions to PROTECT the people from danger. Will you, Governor Ivey, protect Alabamians? Will you protect this small little county, which may seem insignificant to others, but means oh so much to me?
As a consultant, I’ve been in charter schools and met with their leaders. Some were awesome. Some were poorly run (as one in St. Louis where the math teacher could not speak fluent English), and some frankly scared me to death (when I left I felt I had been put on the FBI watch list). So, I understand the right for parental choice. And I even understand the reasoning behind why companies do business in education. So, I’m not anti-business in schools. It is necessary. Schools cannot provide everything they need without outsiders. I get that.
However, what I don’t get is taking far more than necessary to survive and make a living. I see NO REASON why a company would need (as reported) $300,000.to manage a small school like Woodland Prep, the school proposed for this county.
I was offered the opportunity to be part of this charter school venture. I turned it down.
Somehow, despite my turning down this offer, my name still found its way on the original application without my permission. You would be surprised at what I went through to become disassociated from it. And I’m upset at the sly infiltration, indoctrination, and outright erosion of our culture in Washington County.
Where is the oversight of the state department of education? Is this REALLY the best use of our tax dollars? Are we so far off the course in Alabama public education that we need foreign governments to step in to save our kids? Lord Jesus, I hope not! We, Alabamians, are smarter than this.
Most of the Washington County educators and residents see Mr. Tarim (the owner of the Texas based management company contracted to run the charter) as an invader, not as someone to save our educational system. .
I beg you, Governor Ivey… I implore you… I beseech you!
Please stop this invasion! Please infuse funding into the betterment of our own truly public institutions.
And if there is anything I can do to help, here I am… a native… someone who deeply cares for children, offering my time, talent and knowledge.
Sarah B. Odom, PhD