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'Survivor' job story called 'misleading'

Lunch lady's claim she was demoted to janitor is tough for her school district to swallow.

December 19, 2007|From the Associated Press

NEW YORK — A school lunch lady who gained fame as a contestant on CBS' reality show "Survivor: China" wasn't telling the truth when she claimed during Sunday's season finale that she'd been demoted to janitor, her boss says.

Denise Martin of Douglas, Mass., finished fourth in the competition, missing out on the $1-million grand prize.

"They didn't give me my job back," Martin, 40, said during the live broadcast. "I'm a janitor now. I clean the toilets. I wash the floors in the bathrooms. I vacuum the kids' rugs."

Producer Mark Burnett surprised Martin with $50,000 to help get her life back. But Martin may have some damage control to do when she returns to work.

In an interview Tuesday on CBS' "The Early Show," Douglas Schools Supt. Nancy Lane said Martin had been promoted, at her own request, to custodian in late March, a job that came with more benefits and higher pay.

"We granted her a leave to go to participate in 'Survivor.' And did everything possible to support her," Lane said. "And when she returned, she of course returned to the position that she left. Which is the custodial position."

"That's perfectly accurate, yes," Martin said in response.

Martin said she decided while she was taping "Survivor" that she wanted to go back to her lunch lady job. Lane said the job was no longer available, but Martin could apply when there is an opening.

"It was not my intention to be misleading," Martin said. "I'm sorry, and I apologize to everybody."

Will she accept the $50,000 if it is still offered to her?

"I had no idea that I was going to be awarded that," she said. "I did not do this for myself, I've done this for my family, I've done this for my town."

Margaret Reed, chairwoman of the School Committee, said she was puzzled by Martin's story.

"Everyone was cheering her on," Reed said. "And then we get this slap in the face."

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