Ashley has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and math and a master's in elementary education and education administration from Alabama State University. She spent 26 years as a teacher and 11 as a program specialist in Birmingham schools. Since retiring she has been active in alumni, retiree and neighborhood organizations.
Ashley was first elected to the Board of Education in 2001 and re-elected in 2005. She ran for a third term in 2009 and while she got the most votes in the main election, she didn't the 50% needed. She was then defeated in a runoff by challenger Alana Edwards by 38 votes.
- "Birmingham Board of Education District 7: Odessa Rush Ashley" (August 17, 2009) Birmingham News
- Leech, Marie (October 2, 2009) "Birmingham, Alabama school board district 7 hopefuls Odessa Ashley, Alana Edwards pit experience, youth." Birmingham News