By Brian Messenger
---- — ANDOVER — Heidi Riccio was placed on paid leave from her $106,511-per-year job at Greater Lawrence Technical School last Wednesday, one day after a routine press release falsely naming her as the recipient of a national “Educator of the Year” award was published in The Eagle-Tribune.
Sent by the school to the newspaper last month, the press release stated Riccio, the school’s director of career and technical education, was named “Educator of the Year” by the New York City-based nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).
The release was also accompanied by a photo, included a quote from Riccio, and stated she went to New York City April 23 to receive the award at NFTE’s 25th annual gala dinner. Its publication May 7 triggered an ongoing investigation at GLTS.
Yesterday, GLTS Superintendent-Director John Lavoie said Riccio, of Salisbury, was placed on paid leave May 8. Lavoie said no other GLTS staff members currently face discipline related to the incident, but would offer no details regarding the source of the incorrect information contained in the press release.
“We’re still investigating that,” said Lavoie. “We’ve spoken to a lot of different people regarding this matter.”
Lavoie said he was scheduled to sit down with Riccio yesterday but the meeting was cancelled. Lavoie said another meeting will be called in the coming days between “Heidi, myself and anyone involved as part of the ongoing fact-finding/research on the matter.”
Attempts to contact Riccio this week were unsuccessful. Riccio has worked at GLTS since 1997. Last year, she became a consultant for former GLTS Superintendent Judy Ann DeLucia’s firm Seaside Educational Consultants in Seabrook, N.H.
Also in 2012, Riccio was one of two finalists for the principal job at Reading Memorial High School, according to media reports. She was passed over for the principal job in favor of Kevin Higginbottom of Methuen.
The real recipient of the NFTE “Educator of the Year” award is Chelsea High School teacher Catherine Doherty. On Monday, Doherty said Riccio was a guest speaker at the organization’s April 23 gala dinner.
The Eagle-Tribune was initially contacted about the fake release by Dori Wolfson, New England program director for NFTE, who said Riccio did not receive the award and wanted to know where the information came from.
Lavoie also contacted the newspaper to say Riccio never received such honors.
Riccio implemented NFTE programs at GLTS six years ago, according to the fabricated release.
“It was a great honor because the hard work to keep this program intact has paid off,” Riccio said of the “Educator of the Year” honors in the release.