OEA Choice Trust was originally founded in July 1980 to provide service oriented, cost effective and comprehensive benefit programs for school employees. Now, OEA Choice Trust offers grants for school employee wellness and hosts the Annual School Employee Wellness Conference. The Trust continues to be dedicated to supporting the health, well-being and resilience of Oregon school employees.


1980 - OEA Choice Trust Founded

OEA Choice Welfare Benefit Trust (Trust) was founded July 1980, for the sole purpose of providing service oriented, cost effective, comprehensive benefit programs for participating members.

The Trust’s Plan is an “Employee Welfare Benefit Plan” as defined in Section 3 (1) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, amended (ERISA). The Plan and the Trust Agreement are interdependent and together constitute a voluntary employee beneficiary association within the meaning of Section 501(c)(9) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, as amended.

1980 - 1990s

All Trust funds were held in trust for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits in order to safeguard, improve, and assure the health and economic welfare of participants and their families.  During that time, over 25,000 members participated in one or more healthcare plans offered by the Trust.

From 1980 until 1985, all health plan claims were processed and paid by the insurance carriers.  In 1985, a claim processing system was installed at the Trust offices in Tigard, Oregon.  That year over 80,000 claims were paid, and in 1998-99, over 202,413 claims were paid. 

The Trust, as an ERISA plan, utilized the Trust’s Board of Trustees in its appeal process.  In addition to the written appeal, the claimant was allowed representation by counsel, or by any other representative of their choosing at the claim appeal review. The ability of members to have a denied claim reviewed by a body of their peers was always a strong competitive feature offered by the Trust.

In 1997 the Trust moved to a larger claims paying system which consolidated the claims processing system with the premium billing and eligibility system. As a result, more comprehensive reports became available to measure the effectiveness of the Trust’s claims payment.

2001 - OEA Choice Trust Enters into a Partnership with ODS Health Plans

In October of 2001, the Trust entered into a strategic partnership with ODS Health Plans (now called Moda Health) to replace Pacific Life and Annuity (PL&A) as the underwriter for the Trust’s medical, dental and vision plans. The Trust continued to offer medical and vision plans provided by Kaiser Permanente. ODS Health Plans is an Oregon Corporation, the largest dental carrier in the state, and had underwritten the Trust’s dental plans for 20 years. This change allowed the Trust access to an enhanced claims processing system which would meet future legislative requirements.

2007 - Senate Bill 426 Passed

During the 2007 Oregon Legislative Session Senate Bill 426 was passed that established the Oregon Educator’s Benefit Board (OEBB).  Effective Oct. 1, 2008, most Oregon public K-12 school districts, education service districts and community colleges were required to join OEBB at the end of their contract year, or earlier if they chose. As a result those entities that joined OEBB receive insurance benefits as part of a large pool that provides comprehensive benefit plans with competitive premiums. Consequently, OEA Choice Trust ceased administration of medical, vision, dental and long-term disability insurance and later Section 125 administration by the end of 2010.

In the years following, the Trust started developing programs, benefits and resources to continue the mission of providing flexible benefits to Oregon public school employees to safeguard, improve, and assure the health and economic welfare of participants.

2008 - Tooth Taxi

The Tooth Taxi, a state-of-the-art mobile dental office, was built thanks to OEA Choice Trust’s unique partnership with The Dental Foundation of Oregon and ODS (also known as Delta Dental of Oregon).  The Tooth Taxi delivers free dental care to underserved children in the state of Oregon. By providing direct dental services to students, the Tooth Taxi promotes the connection between health and education and offers a great way for OEA Choice Trust to visit different school communities. OEA Choice Trust wellness grant materials are available on-board the Tooth Taxi and educators are invited to tour the Tooth Taxi and receive oral health education. Learn more at www.smileonoregon.org.

The OEA Choice Trust Board approved the implementation of the OEA Choice Trust Wellness Grant Program in September 2008. To be eligible, an applicant must be a public K-12 Oregon school district, education service district, or community college. OEA Choice Trust recognized many diverse health and wellness issues faced different school locations and that’s why the School Employee Wellness Grant Program was designed to allow flexibility at the local level to design and tailor employee wellness programs to best match the unique goals and needs of school employees. The focus was on empowering and enabling participants to take responsibility for improvement of their health within a supportive environment. Grants ranged from $2,500 to $25,000 for a 12 month period, with the opportunity to re-apply each 12 months for a total of 36 months. The maximum possible dollar amount per grant per period was $25,000 with a total maximum of $75,000 over a period of three years.

2009 - OEA Choice Trust Implements OEA Choice Trust Wellness Grant Program

Six pilot grantees were awarded in June.

2010 - The First Annual Journey to Wellness Meeting and Polar BodyAge Testing

The first annual Journey to Wellness Meeting was held with the purpose to create an engaging environment where grantees can learn about effective, best practice and promising emerging employee wellness strategies, exchange ideas, brainstorm solutions to challenges, celebrate successes, and build a network of colleagues for inspiration and support. OEA Choice Trust grantees are required to send at least one representative to participate in this annual meeting. Journey to Wellness Meeting materials and presentations can be found on the Journey to Wellness page.

Polar BodyAge (BodyAge) testing was a health/fitness assessment tool available to current grantee groups. Participants received a computer generated report with blood pressure, body composition, flexibility and strength results that were used to calculate their body age. The report compared it with their actual chronological age and outlined steps that could be taken to decrease one’s body age and improve overall health and fitness. BodyAge was discontinued in the spring of 2017.

2011 - The Blueprint for Wellness Guide

The Blueprint for Wellness guide was released to help grantees build an effective school employee wellness program.

2012 - Annual Statewide Oregon School Employee Wellness Conference

In March 2012, the first Oregon School Employee Wellness (SEW) Conference became a reality. Inspired by the nationally recognized Oregon Seaside Health Education Conference, leaders from OEA Choice Trust and Moda Health gathered to discuss how they could engage school employees on a journey to better health in a similar fashion. They recognized that a school employee’s personal journey, with the school as the hub, has the power to inspire and shape the health and well-being of students and communities. Continuing the intent of the conference founders, a committee of committed individuals works to develop meaningful programs for the annual Oregon School Employee Wellness Conference. This committee (as of 2017) has grown to include representatives form Moda Health, Kaiser Permanente, OEA Choice Trust, Oregon Education Association, Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, Multnomah Education Service District, Silver Falls School District, Oregon ASCD, Oregon Department of Education Child Nutrition Programs, Oregon Public Health Division, Oregon School Board Association, Lane County Public Health, Multnomah County Health, Centennial School District, and Oregon Health Sciences University.  Previous SEW conference presentations can be found on the SEW Conference page.

In September 2012, the Trustees approved changing the School Employee Wellness grant funding policy to award grant dollars ($75,000 maximum) over a period of 3-5 years. This policy helped shift grantees from activity-based programs to a systems change approach to help support the outcome of sustainable programs over the 3-5 year grant period.

The new application incorporated a result based process; once the grant is awarded, the grantee builds on the original overarching goal(s) providing an end of grant year report with updated  plan of action and budget without having to re-do the whole application process each year. The end of grant year report, updated plan of action and budget are reviewed by the Board of Trustees for the consideration of continued funding.

2013 - School Employee Wellness Program Survey Tool

A School Employee Wellness Program Survey Tool was developed in collaboration with Gladstone School District’s employee wellness team to create a sound survey that is anchored in proven worksite wellness theory of change and evaluation practices with a focus on school employee wellness. The OEA Choice Trust’s annual SEW program survey has been adapted from the following sources: Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index, Everett School District Employee Wellness Program Survey, Nan Henderson’s Resiliency Quiz and Chapman Institute Annual Program Evaluation Survey

2014 - Rebranding

OEA Choice Trust finalized a refreshment of the Trust’s brand with the Metropolitan Group which produced a brand platform that informed an updated mission/vision statement, a brochure/poster, one-pagers that share key information of “why wellness” for school staff, school leadership and community partners, and a PowerPoint presentation template.

The Blueprint for Wellness originally released in 2011 was updated and enhanced to be The Blueprint for School Employee Wellness, a go to guide that is written for educators with a focus on schools as healthy workplaces, provides a toolkit section that serves as a clearing house of the best available tool kits and resources that are anchored in best practice, and in the Real World section highlights Oregon and Washington schools, education service districts, and community colleges that have successfully planned and implemented a school employee wellness program to inspire and send the message that promoting staff wellness is a priority and do-able.

2015 - Health Care Consumerism Guide

The fourth edition of the Health Care Consumerism Guide was released. This guide is intended to help raise awareness to recognize and learn more about thinking healthy, acting healthy, and staying healthy.

2016 - Position Paper, Walker Tracker and Grantee Success Stories

The Fostering Resilient Schools to Address Chronic Stress Position Paper was completed on Jan. 22, 2016. The white paper and extensive research helped inform the creation of The School Employee Health and Well-being Model launched in 2017. This model shifts the traditional worksite wellness focus on physical health and chronic disease prevention to holistic school employee well-being and resilience. The model creates a framework that embraces the physical, social, emotional, financial, and purpose elements of well-being to address the impact of chronic stress and identify strategies and actions to foster resilience at the individual, school and community level. 

In February 2016, OEA Choice Trust signed a letter of agreement with Walker Tracker, an online wellness tracking tool that is customizable to meet participant needs and also motivate participants through virtual map challenges and social engagement. In April of 2016, Walker Tracker set up a webinar for school districts, education service districts and community colleges meeting the criteria to participate in the OEA Choice Trust pilot walking challenge with four groups participating, including OEA Choice Trust staff and Board members. In August of 2016, OEA Choice Trust successfully reached out to all current and past grantees eligible to receive Walker Tracker. Twenty-six eligible grantees signed up to receive Walker Tracker as an OEA Choice Trust benefit. On October 27, 2016, OEA Choice Trust launched a six week Fall Challenge titled, “Backpacking through Europe”. This was a district to district challenge designed to engage grantees in a friendly competition with each other.

In May 2016, the Trust published success stories from 6 grantee entities. These stories are a benefit for both grantees and the Trust to showcase how OEA Choice Trust Grantees are making a difference in the health and well-being of school employees across Oregon.  These stories are also shared with stakeholders locally and statewide to help make the case for providing a worksite environment that supports school employee health and well-being. The Trust plans to add up to three success stories each year.

2017 - Website Redesign

In October 2017, a newly designed, robust website was launched to support the planning and implementation of work-site wellness programs that support school employee health, well-being and resilience. The website was rebuilt to also interface with mobile devices.

A new addition to the website included the Framework of Proven Strategies and Best Practices. This guide was created to provide a road map for planning a robust school employee wellness initiative that is anchored in proven strategies and best practices to promote the health, well-being and resilience of school employees.

The School Employee Health & Well-being Model, which reflects the Trust’s holistic approach to well-being, was also added to the website. A Resource Library was added to provide a multitude of ideas and links to credible, promising-practices that are categorized by the employee well-being elements of physical, social, emotional, purpose and financial.

The Trust developed a blog and started publishing content related to employee health and well-being.

2018 - Mindfulness Initiative, Mini Grants and the ODE Mentor Program

In January 2018, the OEA Choice Trust Board increased the School Employee Wellness Grant to a maximum of $100,000 (from $75,000 in 2009) over a three to five-year period, with $30,000 being the maximum amount that can be requested for one year (cycle).

In April 2018, the Trust committed to expanding service to Oregon public school employees’ well-being by embarking on a Mindfulness Initiative to develop, deliver and evaluate a flexible, modular framework for schools and districts to build internal capacity to use evidence-based, mindfulness-informed practices to support individual and school-wide well-being and resilience.

In June 2018, the OEA Choice Trust Board approved the Mini Grant Award to support established school employee wellness programs with funding up to $5,000 to be used to promote school employee health, well-being and resilience using the OEA Choice Trust Framework of Proven Strategies and Best Practices as a guide. Mini Grant opportunities are available twice a year.

The OEA Choice Trust Board awarded a grant through the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Mentor Program that supports beginning teachers, principals and superintendents in developing resiliency strategies and skills. Online tools that are developed will be shared with all educators through the ODE.


OEA Choice Trust has become the go-to source for employee wellness in schools. Healthier employees. More successful students. Flourishing communities. Believe it or not, a little school employee wellness goes a long way in achieving all three of these. While wellness might seem like a simple concept – and it is really – sometimes it takes a little helping hand to get if off the ground.