Educate, Engage, Activate

Women’s History Month Honoree 2023: Caroline Crocker Otis & Elizabeth Mooney

When Caroline Crocker Otis and Elizabeth Mooney moved to Winchester in 2010 and 2021, respectively, they were drawn to the area by the promise of a warm community feel and great schools. 

When their children enrolled in Lynch Elementary School, both women got involved as volunteers with the Lynch Parents Association. Elizabeth became involved with planning enrichment activities, such as field trips and the school play. Caroline organized the Halloween party fundraiser and eventually took on the role of LPA Co-President. The vibrant school community and inclusive culture at Lynch was a major factor compelling them to get involved. Indeed, Caroline points out that Lynch has always emphasized kindness and inclusion in its Core Values, and “We all belong here” is the theme at Lynch for the 2022-2023 school year. Through their work organizing and attending school events, Elizabeth and Caroline made and fostered many connections with other Lynch families, teachers, and staff.  

Their relationships with other members of the Lynch community became especially important as Caroline and Elizabeth began to learn about the state of of disrepair at Lynch School and the uncertainty surrounding its future. Through volunteering at the school, Elizabeth and Caroline witnessed firsthand that the learning space at Lynch was no longer meeting the needs of students and teachers. Their growing concern about the Lynch building caused them to start attending meetings to learn about the Lynch Replacement Project and the special town election that would determine whether or not residents would approve the debt override needed to fund the building of a new Lynch. Caroline and Elizabeth began talking to teachers, staff, and other Lynch families about the problems with the Lynch building and what they had learned about the upcoming election. Their conviction about the need for a new school building fueled a time-intensive campaign to engage the entire town to Vote Yes! For Lynch.

According to Caroline, “We were drawn to help with the Lynch vote to ensure that current and future Lynch students would have access to a safe and healthy learning environment. We determined that a campaign was necessary after realizing that relatively few members of our community knew about the [January 2023 override] special election and that many were unaware of the state of deterioration at the school.”

As part of their efforts, Caroline, Elizabeth and their team organized a series of community gatherings – from house parties to PTA presentations to park playdate get-togethers – where leaders including Superintendent Frank Hackett met with parents, discussed the project, and answered questions.

Community education and communication were critical in the campaign. Elizabeth wrote a compelling piece, shared primarily via email, with “5 Reasons to Support the Debt Exclusion for a New Lynch.” These talking points simplified the arguments in favor of funding a New Lynch and allowed these ideas to be disseminated easily. Importantly, Elizabeth’s arguments touched on both the emotional and the financial factors that voters would need to consider. Elizabeth also elucidated the benefits to the larger community if Winchester voted to help fund a new Lynch, including a district-wide preschool, community gathering spaces, and potential future state funding support for improvements at Muraco School. Elizabeth and Caroline felt strongly that it was important for voters to see the state of the current building to inform their decision. The campaign team took photographs of the school, highlighting broken windows, unsafe entrances, mold, water damage, and other examples of disrepair. The team disseminated the photographs via email and printed the photos to be shown at in-person meetings.

The team also produced and distributed lawn signs, and coordinated volunteers to hold campaign signs at key sites in town such as the Transfer Station. On January 7th, the day of the vote, a contingent of parents and their children held signs supporting Lynch at the Winchester High School polling location. 

Like many moms managing multiple responsibilities from professional obligations to parenting, Caroline and Elizabeth acknowledge that one of the biggest challenges with organizing is time. In some ways, it was helpful to have a deadline – January 7th – which motivated others to participate in small ways, to make a big difference. 

As for the results, the women were thrilled about the vote’s passage and the message that it sends about the community’s commitment to equity in education. Elizabeth added that “It was wonderful to meet so many people during the campaign who are so passionate about supporting Winchester schools and who enthusiastically supported Lynch even though they don’t live in the Lynch district.”

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