ANDOVER — A Greater Lawrence Technical School administrator is under investigation and on leave from her job after she was falsely named the recipient of a national “Educator of the Year” award in a press release sent from the school.
The release sent by the school to The Eagle-Tribune last month stated Heidi Riccio, the school’s director of career and technical education, was awarded “Educator of the Year” by the New York City-based nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). The release was accompanied by a photo, included a quote from Riccio, and stated she went to New York City April 23 to receive the award at the group’s 25th annual gala dinner.
After the newspaper printed the item in its May 7 edition, both the school and NFTE contacted The Eagle-Tribune to say Riccio never received such honors. When a reporter called to speak with Riccio yesterday, the school’s Human Resources Director Anne Marie Mahan said, “She’s on leave.”
GLTS Superintendent-Director John Lavoie refused to comment about the situation, saying “because of the legal situation, I really can’t say anything yet.” In a written statement, Lavoie wrote that the school confirmed Riccio did not receive the award and the matter is under investigation.
“As soon as the fact gathering process is complete, the school will take appropriate action,” the statement reads.
Riccio, who has an address in Salisbury, did not return multiple phone messages seeking comment for this story. She has been with the school since 1997. Last year, she also became a consultant for former GLTS Superintendent Judy Ann DeLucia’s firm Seaside Educational Consultants in Seabrook, N.H.
Riccio implemented Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship programs at GLTS six years ago, according to the release falsely announcing her “Educator of the Year” award.
“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.
The school’s communications specialist Liana Measmer, who sent the release to The Eagle-Tribune, declined to say where the incorrect information came from.
“I can’t answer that question,” said Measmer. “The lawyer told me I can’t comment right now.”
The newspaper 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.
When questioned Friday about the situation, Wolfson declined comment. She did forward a new press release naming the real “Educator of the Year” but did not directly mention the false information. She still praised Riccio.
The last paragraph of the Wolfson’s press release said, “In addition, Heidi Riccio, Director of Career and Technology Education at Greater Lawrence Technical School (GLTS) in Andover, MA attended the gala as a guest in her role as a NFTE New England school administrator in strong support of the NFTE programs that have run successfully at her school for over six years.”
The real recipient of the award, Chelsea High School teacher Catherine Doherty, said yesterday that Riccio was a guest speaker at the gala. Doherty said she had no knowledge of the controversial press release falsely giving Riccio her award.
“I was totally unaware of the mix-up,” said Doherty.