NEW ROCHELLE, NY — In a move that has left the New Rochelle school community reeling in disbelief, the recently arrived School Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo has removed New Rochelle High School’s Hall of Fame head football coach Lou DiRienzo three days before his squad is set to face Utica Proctor in the state regional final.
DiRienzo, recently inducted into the Westchester County Sports Hall of Fame, has led The Huguenots to a perfect 10-0 season and is currently ranked #2 in New York State.
Feijóo said DiRienzo, who is also a physical education teacher at the high school, had been “reassigned from his teaching and coaching responsibilities for the time being” but would not offer an explanation as to why, citing “confidentiality rights of staff members”.
Feijóo has scheduled a news conference at City Hall for 11 a.m. Thursday.
Talk of the Sound has learned that DiRienzo was reported to have violated School District protocol when he intervened on behalf of a student/family member who violated District policy. DiRienzo did not respond to a request for comment.
The New Rochelle High School Football Parents Association issued a statement which characterized the incident as DiRienzo helping “a student in distress to leave school with her parent”:
“Instead of quietly investigating the issue, as forever has been the practice at NRHS, Dr. Feijóo chose to defame our coach and suspend him from teaching and coaching — and announce that fact to the world as though he was a criminal.”
The football parents are planning to disrupt Feijóo’s press conference.
“Please come out (to the press conference) and show your support for OUR coach. On the two week anniversary of the Superintendent’s hiring, let’s make sure she knows this is not how we treat dedicated teachers and coaches in New Rochelle, and we’re not going to let ANYONE hurt Coach D or our kids, he is the MOST dedicated coach for our student athletes.”
The parents may not be alone. Some who identify as part of a shadowy group they call The Collective, people dedicated to opposing Feijóo’s hiring because she filed a $90 mm reverse-discrimination lawsuit, may be among the football parents and can be expected to pile on at the press event.
The team is coming off a 42-14 thrashing of Carmel to win its’ fifth straight Section 1 Class AA championship.
DiRienzo, a two-time state champion, will be replaced by his assistants.
“During Coach DiRienzo’s reassignment, the team’s assistant coaches (Greg) Foster, (Ray) Rhett and (Rich) Tassello will lead the Huguenots football team in practice and, if necessary, in Saturday’s playoff game at Mahopac High School,” said Feijóo.
“We understand many of you may be disappointed by this news and certainly understand the importance of this game to our school and our community,”said Feijóo in a statement. “However, we are confident that our student athletes will continue to perform in an outstanding manner under the assistant coaches’ stewardship during this time and we will provide any and all resources necessary to ensure our team’s continued success.”
Feijóo may be about to learn a valuable lesson as to who really runs the New Rochelle school district. On paper, DiRienzo reports to the high school principal as a teacher and to the district athletic director as a coach. In reality, DiRienzo is more like Penn State’s Joe Paterno at the height of his power; more powerful than the Governor of Pennsylvania.
Much of DiRienzo’s support comes from New Rochelle’s black community, the same group that has been the most vocal in opposing Feijóo’s hiring last June.
NAACP New Rochelle Branch President Minister Mark McLean has vowed to remove Feijóo from her post by “any means necessary” which has included filing a lawsuit, filing a compliance with the State Education Commissioner and leading various protests and press events.
In 2014, then-New Rochelle High School Principal Reggie Richardson and then-Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Osborne took steps to disassociate the school from former NFL star Ray Rice after TMZ released CCTV video showing Rice cold-cocking his then-girlfriend, now-wife, in an Atlantic City elevator. Richardson issued a state condemning Rice’s actions. He ordered Rice’s Baltimore Ravens’ jersey taken down from a place of honor in the school gymnasium and removed Rice’s photograph and plaque from the school’s wall of fame.
DiRienzo defied the Superintendent, the Principal and the School Board. He vigorously and unapologetically defended Rice. He hung Rice’s Rutgers jersey in the school’s weight room and invited Rice to make his first public appearance after the TMZ video aired by joining him on the sidelines for a game at New Rochelle High School. As Richardson told crews from CNN, ESPN, CBS and more that he did not know anything about Rice appearing at the game, Rice exited the team lockerroom and joined DiRienzo on the sidelines.
Richardson and Osborne are both long gone, DiRienzo is still here and Ray Rice is a coach on DiRienzo’s staff.