First Baptist plans to open school in the fall

Something that First Baptist Church has discussed for many years is poised to come to fruition in the fall — First Odessa Christian Academy.
The Rev. Byron McWilliams, lead pastor at First Baptist Church, said plans are to open the school in August at the church, located at 709 N. Lee Ave.
“We’ll start with kindergarten, first and second and also start with sixth and seventh. That’s the unusual piece, but the reason we want to go with that is because in the city of Odessa there is no middle school private education alternative,” McWilliams said.
Ultimately, the school will have grades kindergarten through 12. McWilliams said two grades a year will be added and they are aiming for 60 students per grade.
Tuition has not been set yet and details on food service still have to be worked out.
Sports such as basketball and volleyball will be offered.
The church had talked about starting a school for many years, but it got serious six to eight months ago, McWilliams said.
“Remember when the Parkland shooting took place? I came back and I made the comment from the pulpit that maybe we should think about a school here at First Odessa and we should work to keep our children safe, provide a great education and keep our children safe,” McWilliams added.
A seven-member task force was formed in July to just brainstorm and talk about they could do and they came up with a plan.
“I think God just opened doors that we didn’t expect to be opened, but he just began to open it so that’s where we went,” McWilliams said.
The church originally planned to have the school in the former First Christian Church building, but they realized too much work was needed to make it functional for children.
“We’re going to do it all on campus here because our building really doesn’t need anything. It’s totally functional and our classrooms, which are in great shape, they sit empty all but about four hours a week they sit empty,” McWilliams said.
The 200,000-square-foot facility has a child development center that goes from birth to age 4. McWilliams said the children there could feed into First Odessa Christian Academy.
He said the school will be under the umbrella of First Baptist and all grades will be accredited.
“There is Texas Association of Baptist Schools. Then there are several other accreditation agencies that we’re going to work through. We really want to have more than one accreditation because it just speaks well of the school,” McWilliams said.
He added that the person who will head the school will be finalized next week.
The head of school will most likely serve as the principal for the first year. As the school grows, McWilliams said, they would probably look for an upper and lower school principal with vice principals below that as necessary.
“Our goal is to provide a rigorous academic education — college preparatory type classes …,” McWilliams said.
“We’re going to specialize in science and math because in the world today those are essential, so we’re going to target those,” he added.
He said the curriculum will be regular, but they will provide a biblical worldview. There will be weekly chapel services and every student will take a Bible class.
“The goal honestly is to provide an excellent education to where when they leave they can go to college, they can get accepted and they will able to have a good future,” McWilliams said.
The congregation voted to approve plans for the school with very few objections. On any given Sunday, 950 to 1,000 people attend First Baptist.
“We’re congregationally ruled here. I’m the pastor. I lead the church, but the church ultimately needs to decide,” McWilliams said.
The school should be self-supporting. An estimated 12 to 15 teachers will be needed. When the tuition is set, it will cover teacher pay and benefits. The church will provide custodial services.
“Of course, the big question is how are you going to get teachers to move to Odessa? We believe that we’re going to provide a great teaching environment and we’re going to provide a competitive salary and competitive benefit package, as well. If we can do that, then we feel like teachers will come to us and so that’s what we’re looking for,” McWilliams said.
He said the school will look for teachers who are committed to the mission of the school and teaching to the values that they are going to be teaching. All of this will be discussed during the interview process, he added.
“A lot of teachers have contacted us already. We also have had a number of parents that are excited because Odessa doesn’t have something like this. I think they’re excited about it from that perspective. I think that’s what got our church excited about it is that we’re doing something Odessa doesn’t have,” McWilliams said.
He added that they will be a school that is “unashamedly proud of be an American. We’ll say the pledge of allegiance. We’ll do all things like that.”
“It’s a lot of stuff that we’ve done many years ago in education in America and we just got away from it,” McWilliams said.
The school board will be in place in the next six weeks, possibly less.
The website,, will be up next week and anybody can call for information at 337-1524.
“We already have our mascot. We’re going to be the First Odessa Christian Academy Lions. Proverbs 28, Verse 1 says, ‘The righteous are as bold as a lion.’ That’s our goal right there is to raise kids that are righteous and bold,” McWilliams said.
“I’m excited. I’m very excited,” he added. “I’m excited because it’s a great step of faith for our church and I think every church ought to be willing to step out in faith and do something big for the kingdom. I’m very excited about that. I’m also excited because our goal is to raise champions. That’s what we want to do.”
He added that Executive Pastor Steve Crone has made it possible to venture into creating a school.
Crone said there has been tremendous support from within the church, but also from the community.
“I think first of all it’s a wonderful opportunity for Odessa and the Permian Basin to have a Christian private school this area. In Odessa, there are several private schools but there are not many private Christian schools so we want to have that private Christian school influence in Odessa that is lacking at this time,” Crone said.