Vt. teachers in trouble for sidewalk mischief - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. teachers in trouble for sidewalk mischief

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Abigail Howard Abigail Howard
Jennifer Rist Jennifer Rist

It is a silly act of vandalism that many people can probably admit to doing as a child-- carving your initials or a picture in wet cement. But in Windsor, two adults who also happen to be educators are accused of the crime and now they are facing stiff consequences.

"Obviously, they should have known better," Windsor Town Manager Tom Marsh said.

But as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.

Over the past several years, Windsor has poured millions of dollars into new sidewalks and paving projects. Last week, police say Abigail Howard, 29, and Jennifer Rist, 35, were caught in the act defacing a small section of sidewalk. They allegedly traced the initials J.R. and a picture of a small animal in the wet concrete right outside their place of employment where they teach students with special needs.

"When you look at the pride of workmanship that goes in and the pride of the community who are supporting it with our dollars, it was really an unfortunate thing," Marsh said.

Police say the women were warned to stay away from the freshly poured sidewalk only to return a short time later. And while the section affected is small and it has been repaired, they each face a felony charge since the cost to replace the concrete would exceed $1,000.

In a press release, Windsor Police Chief William Sampson said, "It is disheartening to find that persons who work in town would vandalize a project which is intended to improve the town." It went on to read, "We are hoping this will be an isolated incident and believe these arrests will deter others from committing similar acts of vandalism."

"I feel like a felony charge is kind of overboard," said Zachary Hyde of Windsor.

Some people in town feel the punishment does not fit the crime.

"In the moment they didn't really know what they were doing would have such major consequences," Hyde said.

Others feel what the women allegedly did is not a crime at all.

"Just move on everybody. They are good people, they do good work in the community," said Edward Bogosian of Windsor.

But because the women are role models-- teachers-- some are disappointed.

"They have been working hard to make this town look better and I just think it was a bad idea to want to ruin that," said Makenna Hodgdon of Windsor.

Foundations, the school where the women work, released a statement that said, in part, "Abby and Jenny have written letters of apology to the Town of Windsor, will be participating in community service and paying a fine for these actions. They are very remorseful and apologize for any negative impressions this may have made on the public about our school. Foundations Upper Valley does not condone these actions and has implemented a professional improvement plan to prevent a future occurrence of any similar action."

This is not the first time sidewalks have been vandalized in Windsor. Markings, names and drawing dot the community, crimes-- not connected to this case-- that happened several years ago.

"The community is almost hypersensitive in making sure that these go off well and for the next 50 or 100 years give a positive image," Marsh said.

We reached out to both women multiple times for an interview but did not hear back. Abigail Howard did send along a written statement that said: "It was disrespectful to the town of Windsor. I have personally stepped forward to take responsibility and apologized to those involved. I fully intend to serve this community for some time and I hope you'll still have me."

"Absolutely we will still have them," Marsh said. "All of us are guilty of maybe not making the best decision here or there."

As to whether the felony charges will stick, that is up to a judge to decide. They will be arraigned in December.

Related Story:

Police: 2 teachers arrested for vandalizing sidewalk

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