• June 18, 2019

Press named principal at Baptist school - Odessa American: Education

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Press named principal at Baptist school

New school will open in August

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Posted: Monday, March 4, 2019 5:30 am

Having had careers in ministry and education, Tyler Press said God has combined his paths in the form of his new position as principal of First Odessa Christian Academy.

“I’ve had seasons in both and God is merging those seasons together for this school and I am humbled by it. I’m amazed by it. It’s an incredible story that I have the privilege of being a part of,” said Press, who was dean of students at OCTECHS.

“My personal conviction is there are two things that can change cities and cultures for good and that’s Jesus Christ and education. That’s the opportunity that we’re going to offer here at First Odessa Christian Academy,” he added.

Started by First Baptist Church, plans are for the school to open Aug. 19. March 1 was Press’ first day on the job.

The Rev. Byron McWilliams, lead pastor at First Baptist, said Press was chosen as head of the school because of his background and skill set. He added that if it wasn’t for Press and others with a background in Christian private education and public education, the school wouldn’t have come about as fast as it has.

McWilliams said Press was the leading candidate throughout the search process.

“… He brings a ministry background, as well, so that’s incredibly valuable; just lots of education, a great skill set and personality and a ministry background. He fit it all in,” McWilliams said.

“… He’s got a great reputation. I think he’s very well rounded,” McWilliams added.

Press has been in education for six years and in ministry since 2005.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in Bible and communication from Dallas Baptist University, a master’s in educational leadership from the University of Texas Permian Basin and is working on a doctorate of educational leadership through Texas Tech University. His wife, Alicia, an executive director of elementary education for Ector County ISD, is working toward the same degree.

Clarifying a previous statement, McWilliams said the school will not be the only private school option in Odessa, because there are others that have been around for a long time. But some of them are very small.

“… Our desire is to not be a small private school option. We want to be a very valid larger private school option. And many of them do not have … a middle school option. … We are definitely not, as my wife would say, throwing shade on anybody else. But we believe we are going to set ourselves apart, from an evangelical perspective and we’ll be able to reach people from that perspective, as well,” McWilliams said.

The school will start with kindergarten, first and second grades and sixth and seventh grades. They plan to add two grades a year.

Press noted that the school will ultimately include grades kindergarten through 12.

“The school will have daily Bible curriculum. We’ll have weekly chapel, so God will very much be a part of daily education at the school,” he said.

Press said it’s every educator’s dream to create a school.

“Oftentimes, we take over programs. We get to take other people’s great ideas and run with them, but rarely do we get the opportunity to build a foundation and a house the way we want it. … It’s an amazing opportunity and it’s one that I couldn’t pass up,” Press said.

Press said Dallas Baptist formed his view of what a Christian education looked like. Their idea was to offer the best liberal arts degree founded on a Christian background.

“That’s what we want to do here. We want to give a rigorous educational experience that’s founded on Biblical world views,” Press said.

The school will use the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) as the basis of its curriculum and is making a commitment to hire certified teachers. Private schools have the option of hiring certified or highly qualified teachers, but Press said they are going to go with certified, Press said.

Technology-wise, the school will provide computers for each student. They will start with iPads and then laptops in high school. It also will offer teacher pay that is competitive with local districts and a top-notch benefit package, Press and McWilliams said.

The reason First Odessa Christian Academy will use the TEKS is so students will be following the same curriculum, Press said. 

“If, unfortunately, they have to move out of the program when they go back into public education they’re going to be on the same pace. It also helps our teachers because they’ve been teaching probably in public education and they’re going to be familiar with what those standards are. On top of that, though, we’re going to add our own Bible curriculum that the students are going to get daily,” Press said.

He added that they won’t just talk about the Bible during Bible class. It will be interwoven throughout the curriculum. Press added that it will also be a safe school internally and externally. 

“When I look at the violence that we have on campuses, when we see drug use on campus, when we see bullying on campus, to me lots of those issues start at a lack of education on character and we’re going to talk about character with our students here,” Press said.

“We’re going to teach them that they are God’s creation, that everyone is God’s creation, that everyone has a purpose and a plan for their life and that we were created to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and to show God’s love to everyone,” he said.

Part of the school’s mission statement is that it will provide a nurturing environment, Press said.

“So our hands are made for helping; our mouths are made for encouraging. That changes a lot in a classroom, in hallways and in conversations around lunch tables. When someone says a safe learning environment, to me they’re talking about the students being safe to be who they are, to learn to fail and attempt again, to build friendships, to use social media appropriately, to interact with one another appropriately in ways that are edifying to them and to the Spirit,” Press added.

Press grew up in Odessa and attended Pease Elementary School, Crockett Middle School and Odessa High School before heading to college. He left in 2001 and returned in 2007.

“Odessa needs a chance. Odessa needs people from Odessa to fight for Odessa. Odessa has kind of just had this reputation of there’s always somewhere else that you can go, but it’s time that people who are here, who grew up here, who know the culture out here, who have family and have invested their time out here fight for it,” Press said.

“Odessa is a great town. My wife’s from Cleveland and she said the thing that makes Odessa great … is its people. We don’t have scenery … but the people, the people are the treasure out here,” Press said. “…I had a great experience in public education. I got a great education in public education, but I also think parents deserve an option if they want a private, Christian K-12 school for their students,” he added.

The website, www.firstodessaacademy.org, is up.

“Our goal is to have applications up April 1, or sooner, but if they fill out the survey, they will get applications before it goes live. We do have limited spots. There is high interest and waiting lists are starting,” Press said.

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