The Early Years
In 1917 the Omaha Teachers Forum was organized by a group of grade and high school teachers, principals, and supervisors. The general objectives of the Forum were to promote democratic education, to improve the teaching profession, and to develop in the community a deeper consciousness of the educational needs of the child, the youth and the adult.
From its creation until 1936, the Forum was led by a member-elected President. In 1936, Dr. Walter Siders was hired as the first executive secretary of the forum. He was the first full-time staff member for a local education association in the United States. Dr. Siders was a retired school superintendent who had been instrumental in organizing the World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession. During his tenure, Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance coverage became available for Omaha teachers. Five individuals have served in the position of OEA Executive Director since 1936.
The Omaha Education Association
In 1942 the Forum changed its name to the Omaha Education Association.
In 1963, the OEA Bylaws were amended to provide for continuing membership. This amendment also provided members with the convenience of payroll deduction of professional dues and group insurance programs.
In 1967 the OEA gained recognition as the bargaining agent with the Omaha Public Schools Board of Education, and in 1968 negotiated the first comprehensive contract with the Board. It covered such topics as salaries, health insurance, extra-duty pay, tenure, and sick leave.
OEA Provided Housing for Teachers
The concept of an OEA apartment building began in 1949 in response to a growing need for active teachers to find suitable housing. The concept was realized when construction of the OEA Cooperative Apartments was completed in 1952 at 122 South 39 Street.
In 1956, the OEA opened the OEA Manor at 320 North 22 Street, an apartment building for retired teachers, addressing the same need for suitable and affordable housing. This was the first retirement home built by an education association for retired educators in the United States. Operation of the OEA Manor was governed by the OEA Senior Citizens, Inc. and the OEA President presided over the OEA Senior Citizens Board of Directors. The OEA Senior Citizens, Inc. owned the OEA Manor complex and, along with the OEA Foundation, also owned some of the land that surrounded the complex. The OEA Foundation, OEA’s charitable arm, provided many grants to residents of the OEA Manor. In addition, the OEA Thrift Store at 24th and Farnam Streets raised money for the Foundation.
A New Home
The OEA Senior Citizens, Inc. decided to sell the OEA Manor in 1998 due to declining occupancy. The OEA inherited the proceeds from this sale, which enabled OEA to purchase land at 57th and F Streets on which to build a new facility. The OEA moved into the newly constructed 9,327 square foot facility at 4202-4204 South 57th Street on June 5, 2000. The facility houses not only the OEA but also the NSEA Metro Regional office, and the Millard Education Association.