Biggest Oklahoma teachers union hires new executive director
Oklahoma's largest teachers union has hired a new executive director who believes the organization can build momentum following a year of education activism and work closely with a changing state Capitol.
“Gov.-elect (Kevin) Stitt campaigned on a promise to make Oklahoma the most attractive state in the region for teachers, and we can help him keep that promise,” said James Keith, who will become executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association in January.
Keith, who is currently an administrative director at the University of Minnesota Medical School's Duluth campus, will succeed David DuVall, who has been with the OEA since 1981.
DuVall played a key role in organizing a teacher walkout in 1990 that lead to increased teacher pay and numerous education reforms.
He also helped the OEA organize a two-week teacher walkout in April, the threat of which spurred the state Legislature to approve a teacher pay raise.
After years of decline, the OEA saw membership gains during the walkout and in the months that followed as it focused on supporting dozens of teachers who were running for office.
Keith said finding new teachers — and new members — remains a goal.
“We have an aging teacher force and we need to find ways to make teaching attractive to students in college,” Keith said. “That also applies to membership. We need to make it more attractive and we need to show them what the difference is in their quality of life when they become a member in OEA."
Keith is a graduate of Del City High School, previously served as chief of staff and senior director of administration at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, and served in the U.S. Navy for 23 years.
Keith will become just the fourth executive director of OEA over the last 30 years.
“The OEA has a long history of promoting public education policy and Mr. Keith will continue that legacy,” said OEA President Alicia Priest. “His military background and the work that he has been doing since retiring from the Navy will certainly be assets to the OEA, her members and, ultimately, the students in the public schools of Oklahoma.”