By Douglas Moser
---- — The former Greater Lawrence Technical School administrator who was falsely identified in a school press release as recipient of an educator of the year, was hired as director of Medford Vocational Technical High School.
Heidi Riccio, 43, of Salisbury, separated from her job as director of career and technical education at Greater Lawrence shortly after she was placed on leave following revelations she was identified in a GLTS press release containing her picture and a quote as “Educator of the Year” by the New York City-based Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).
Roy E. Belson, superintendent of Medford Public Schools, said he and the interviewers were impressed by her experience and her answers to their questions about education. He views the erroneous press release as a result of miscommunication, and that he would not have acted as Greater Lawrence Tech had.
“She was upfront with me about the NY situation and I believe that it was a miscommunication,” Belson said in an email to The Eagle-Tribune. “She did not falsify her academic credentials or her experience as a vocational educator. I would not have fired an outstanding educator with 17 years of quality experience for the ‘award’ situation.”
Belson praised her experience, cited “outstanding references,” and said GLTS Superintendent/Director John Lavoie sent a letter of reference on April 18, which Belson said touted “her competence and contributions” and noted “that she displayed ‘uncompromising integrity.’”
“GLTS made a decision and I’m not going to criticize another school district,” Belson said. “Medford sees it differently and we are glad to have her aboard.”
She was hired earlier this month, and will start July 29.
Attempts to reach Riccio this week were unsuccessful.
A press release sent out in May by GLTS said Riccio was named educator of the year by NFTE. The release included Riccio’s photograph and a quote, in which she said, “It was a great honor because the hard work to keep this program intact has paid off.”
When the information contained in the press release appeared in The Eagle-Tribune on May 7, Riccio accepted congratulatory emails and responded with thanks to many, according to Riccio’s emails obtained by The Eagle-Tribune, even though two weeks had passed since the April 23 ceremony in which Chelsea teacher Catherine Doherty received the educator of the year award.
Riccio was scheduled to appear as a speaker at the awards ceremony.
GLTS placed Riccio on leave May 8 after GLTS and NFTE officials raised questions about the report, and Lavoie initiated an internal investigation.
He announced in a prepared written statement on June 6 that Riccio was no longer employed by the regional technical school. She had worked at Greater Lawrence Tech for 17 years and most recently earned $106,511 per year. She will reportedly earn between $107,000 and $110,000 in Medford.
Last year, Riccio was one of two finalists for the principal job at Reading Memorial High School, according to media reports. She was passed over in favor of Kevin Higginbottom of Methuen.
Medford Vocational Technical School had 210 students in the 2012-13 school year out of 4,677 in the city’s school system in total, according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. GLTS, a regional school with its own governance, had 1,308 students last year.
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