A town in Vermont’s Chittenden County is asking its neighbors to keep their eyes out for a distinctive weather vane that was stolen from an elementary school.
“It’s devastating that it’s gone,” said first-grade teacher Susan Ayers, talking about what should be sitting on top of a gazebo that watches over Essex Elementary School.
The weather vane in the shape of a turtle was created by Vermont craftsman Jack Chase, whose photo of the creation has been shared by the school and Essex police to spread the word about the theft.
That gazebo and weather vane are a memorial to Ayers’ sister-in-law and fellow Essex teacher, Alicia Shanks.
In August 2006, while she was getting ready for the start of the school year, Shanks was shot and killed inside her classroom during a larger spree of violence by an angry man looking to harm his ex, another of the victim’s coworkers.
Ayers discovered early this week that the weather vane was missing.
“I feel a sense of emptiness,” she told NECN, adding that seeing the weather vane would give her the comfort of knowing a piece of Alicia was looking over the school and the students she adored.
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Peter Farrell, the principal of Essex Elementary, described the theft of the weather vane as a loss on top of a loss.
“Our hope is that ... they’re unaware of what it means to us," Farrell said of the thief or thieves. "That to them, it’s just a piece of metal, but to us, it’s much more important.”
Laurie Workman Malenfant, the younger sister of Alicia Shanks, said the turtle was a meaningful symbol to Alicia because of her favorite classroom unit on Native American legends.
“Why would somebody go to a school and steal something from a school?” Workman Malenfant asked. “I just wish that if somebody took it on a dare — I double-dog dare you to bring it back.”
Essex police said they have notified area scrap metal dealers, in case someone tries selling the weather vane for its value in copper.
“We’re hoping that it’s in one piece, so it can be returned to the way it was,” said Capt. Ron Hoague of the Essex Police Department.
The school is now asking everyone to keep their eyes out for the distinctive turtle, asking that any community member who sees it to let the educators or police know where they can find this tribute to a beloved educator.
“For Alicia, for the family, for the children at the school, bring it back,” Workman Malenfant implored. “Bring it back.”
Anyone with information about the missing weathervane can contact Essex police at 802-878-8331 or Champlain Valley Crime Stoppers at 802-846-6666.
Farrell suggested the thief could have the weather vane dropped back at the school after hours, or notify the district about where it could be retrieved.