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How to Engage a Divided Community to invest $112.3 million for a Community Education Center that includes the high school, early childhood & the district administrative offices.


November 8 2017 Willimantic Chronicle Headline: “…voters said “yes” to the $112.3 million Windham High School renovation project that will upgrade the high school like new. The building project will allow the Windham School System to move central offices to WHS in addition to the Windham Early Childhood Center.”


Overview: A Private Action Committee (PAC) group was reconstituted and raised $5,000 due to the election law limitations that restricted the school district from using tax monies and other school resources. All of this had to be done in 8 weeks that usually ends with a low voter turnout rejecting school budgets and capital funding. The Windham/Willimantic is divided along cultural and economic lines with most decisions made by a small group of older white males (elected and appointed) who do not have children in school, and did not want to use additional town funds to support the mostly Latino (Puerto Rican) community.

Goal Achieved: The PAC group recruited more than 500+ new voters who came out to win the high school renovation project. The winning margin was by 124 votes with a 25% turnout. This is the largest turnout since 2006. Usual turnout is no higher than 11% with budgets and referendums being defeated by 300 to 400 votes. It takes 3 to 4 times to get these passed with school budgets taking the brunt of the cuts. This was all due to a concerted effort to recruiting almost 100 volunteers that included: teachers, parents, high school and college students, senior citizens, other community and religious groups.


The PAC was the primary voice for engaging the community, create a compelling message, and recruit or register voters.They recruited other groups that present to the community why renovate as new the high school as part of a Community Education Center that will serve as a primary place for our children to prepare for their future with the best facilities, technology and education tools possible for their success. 

  • Investing in the high school and the Early Childhood program within this single facility directly helps to optimize opportunity for 880+ children, many of who will continue to live and work in Windham. 

  • The high school serves as a community center, an asset with a 660-seat auditorium, two gyms and a pool, and hosts many civic and cultural groups, town events and regional sports competitions. 

  • Up-to-date, quality school buildings provide students academic tools they need to succeed in today’s globally competitive world, and help attract qualified teachers. 


  • The referendum outcome was determined by focusing on the message to educate our students to be successful in their future endeavorson.

  • Getting more parents (elementary mothers are key) engaged and out to vote. You are the key for getting the referendum passed. It will affect your children in a few years.


  • Campaign Milestones (Action Dates):

    • Brochure, media, community TV, recruiting volunteers to go door to door, etc.

  • Website and Social Media:

  • Budget: 

    • Brochures, ads, banners, boards, etc.

  • Committees and Chairs

    • Finance, Outreach/canvassing, Recruiting Volunteers, Community Presentations

    • Define targeted audiences in Windham/Willimantic and third party supporters (businesses, aging adults, ECSU, etc.) and review voter list to see who voted last time.

Contact us for a free consultation to learn how we can help your organization.

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