The Story Behind the Story: Coach D and Doctor B – Part II

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — New Rochelle High School Head Football Coach Lou DiRienzo will not coach his team again this season – or possibly ever, as word filters out of negotiation of a separation agreement between Coach D and the District.

What began as a personality conflict between a contracted athletic trainer and the school’s Medical Director exploded into the open when Schools Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo put out a press release on November 13th to announce DiRienzo had been “reassigned” over a relatively minor incident involving a student euphemistically described as “in medical distress” (she was drunk, sources say).

The following day Feijóo held a press conference which attracted almost every major media outlet in the tri-State area. Later that day, according to sources, Interim New Rochelle High School Principal Joseph Starvaggi filed a report on the incident which recommended re-instating DiRienzo. That recommendation was not acted upon and Coach D missed the Class AA state regional final, a 21-7 win over Utica Proctor.

The following Monday, November 18th, Feijóo called the New Rochelle Police Department, on behalf of a woman who claimed that seeing DiRienzo in the news over the previous four days had triggered a suppressed memory of inappropriate sexual contact by the coach in 1988 when she was a student in the Yonkers School District where DiRienzo worked prior to coming to New Rochelle that same year.

New Rochelle police advised Feijóo they could not take a complaint from the Superintendent on behalf of a third-party. Detectives met with the woman briefly the following day, Tuesday, November 19th before directing her to file her complaint with the Yonkers Police Department which took her complaint later the same day.

On Saturday, November 24th, the Huguenots defeated Shenendehowa 24-17 to advance to the Class AA state championship, again without their head coach.

On Tuesday, November 26th, Talk of the Sound was first to report that Yonkers police had an open investigation into DiRienzo based on the woman’s complaint. The next day, YPD announced they would not bring charges against the coach.

The direct involvement of Feijóo in initiating a criminal complaint on allegations dating back more than three decades contradicted a statement by New Rochelle Board of Education President Amy Moselhi after the November 19th board meeting that Feijóo was not directly involved in the investigation of Coach DiRienzo.

Sherry Llauger is an Athletic Trainer who worked with the New Rochelle Schools Athletic Department as a contract employee through Symmetry Physical Therapy & Wellness from August 2016 to August 2019. In an exclusive interview with Talk of the Sound Llauger described what she said was bullying and abusive behavior directed at her by her boss, City School District of New Rochelle Medical Director Dr. Brooke Balchan.

Balchan infamously ordered her medical staff not to call 911 after a student was stabbed twice in the torso in January, 2018, setting off a nationwide manhunt for the perpetrator, Bryan Stamps who was able to escape. Stamps was apprehended in Alabama by the FBI four months later. The victim nearly died from the severe injuries and did not return to school for the rest of the year. Stamps was charged with Attempted Murder to which he pleaded guilty under a plea deal.

The stabbing victim was left unattended while bleeding out for more than 20 minutes because rather than follow the board approved security protocol to dial 911 and call paramedics to the scene, Balchan instead ordered her staff to call the child’s grandmother and ask the grandmother to come to the school to take the child off school grounds.

Some have suggested that the unprecedented decision not to investigate the circumstances of January 18, 2018 was an effort by certain board members to protect an incompetent Medical Director who would certainly have been fired had a formal investigation taken place.

Llauger says Balchan’s animus towards her began 9 months after the stabbing incident, on October 18, 2018 over a disagreement involving application of the school’s concussion protocol and continued to grow to the point that Llauger reached out to Interim Superintendent Dr. Magda Parvey.

Llauger believe Balchan was “untouchable” because of her friendship with Balchan’s boss, then-Interim Assistant Superintendent Amy Goodman as well as then-Board Vice President Amy Moselhi, something Moselhi has denied.

Llauger wished to leave Symmetry to work directly for the District which would mean higher pay and better benefits. The Athletic Department staff and coaches wanted her as a full-time employee.

During the 2019 school budget process there was a push for the school board to fund a full-time athletic trainer position. As part of this effort, players and coaches advocated to fill that position by hiring Llauger to work directly for the District. Student-athletes advocated at the school board’s Budget Cafe and over 500 supporters signed a Change.org petition.

Llauger said she believes that Balchan blamed some of the coaches for the advocacy on her behalf.

Balchan was reportedly angry when she learned Llauger had returned to work two New Rochelle High School football games because an athletic trainer or doctor was not available to work the games.

Llauger worked on September 13, 2019 for the game against North Rockland and October 11, 2019 for the game against Mamaroneck

When Balchan learned that Llauger had worked the Mamaroneck game she was livid, according to sources, and demanded that Athletic Director Steve Young never allow her to work another game.

The following week, New Rochelle hosted Spring Valley on October 19th at 1:30 p.m., in what many believe is likely to be DiRienzo’s last regular season home game as head coach of the Huguenots.

When wide receiver and linebacker Jaheim Gregory suffered a season-ending ankle injury, the absence of an athletic trainer jumped out immediately to one spectator.

Mario Scarano is a well-respected figure in the community. He capped a 34-year career in education and coaching by serving as Athletic Director for the City School District of New Rochelle starting in 1991 before leaving for the same job with the White Plains School District where he retired in 2004. He was inducted into the New Rochelle Sports Hall of Fame. Along the way, he also ran for Mayor in 2003 (he lost to now-Westchester County Clerk Tim Idoni).

Scarano told Talk of the Sound he has been a long-time advocate of schools having full-time athletic trainers at game and practices.

“A doctor might poke or prod at a sports injury,” said Scarano. “you need a specialist who works with sports injuries every day.”

“There is no policy pertaining to the presence of Medical Doctors or Athletic Trainers at practice or games of the various high school sports,” said NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert J. Zayas. “The only item in the NYSPHSAA Handbook that references this is #7 of the NYSPHSAA Football Rules.”

7. It is recommended that at physician be present at all football games. If the services of a physician cannot be obtained, coverage should be provided by persons qualified to give emergency care (e.g. physician assistants, emergency squads, athletic trainers).

Scarano says he became concerned at the Spring Valley game when he saw players on the sidelines attending to their own injuries, putting bags of ice on their knees and no athletic trainer out on the field when players were injured during the game.

“I immediately called NAACP New Rochelle Branch President Minister Mark McLean,” said Scarano. “I knew he had contacts with the school board and administration.”

Separately, Bishop Fetson Leak, a member of the 3-person New Rochelle Civil Service Commission and a person long associated with the football team also raised similar concerns to McLean in a telephone call during the game.

McLean reached out that afternoon to Board President Amy Moselhi to express concerns about the lack of an athletic trainer at the Spring Valley game and to request a meeting to discuss the issue.

McLean says he was surprised by Moselhi’s reaction. He says she became agitated and was vehement that Sherry Llauger would never work in New Rochelle again. McLean says he tried to explain that he was not calling to advocate for any particular person but only to address the fact that players were getting hurt on the field and there was no athletic trainer at the football game currently in progress.

On the same day, shortly after the 1:30 p.m. game ended, at 4:19 p.m., Moselhi sent an email to Interim Superintendent Dr. Magda Parvey on the subject of “Athletic Trainer Meeting”.

Dr Parvey,

Minister McLean called me to express a serious concern about the athletic trainer who is no longer with the district. They believe she is excellent and was I’ll treated. I expressed that she was not I’ll treated and that it’s a personal issue we can not get into.

There is a group who would like to meet you and any one else who can provide clarity about this matter. This group includes past athletic director, local long term religious leaders and more. Minister McLean believes this meeting will help settle people’s worries. Also he noted that there was no athletic trainer at today’s football game. I am not sure if that is accurate by that is the information he was provided.

Please provide dates/time for a meeting.

Regards,

Amy

Amy Moselhi

President, Board of Education

City School District of New Rochelle

McLean disputes this characterization of his call to Moselhi, that he did not call to “express a serious concern about the athletic trainer who is no longer with the district” nor was it an afterthought but rather the entire purpose of his call to raise concern that “there was no athletic trainer at today’s football game.”

McLean was particularly troubled by the last line of the email, “I am not sure if that (no athletic trainer) is accurate by (sic) that is the information he was provided.” which he feels is an aspersion on Scarano, an experienced educator and athletic administrator, and Leak, a respected member of the clergy and longtime civil service official in the City government. Both Scarano and Leak were at the game, Moselhi and McLean were not at the game.

McLean feels that Moselhi turned a legitimate concern for the safety of student athletes into an extension of the conflict between Balchan and Llauger which had nothing to do with his call to request a meeting.

McLean says he is not clear what Moselhi meant by telling Parvey “…she was not I’ll (sic) treated and that it’s a personal (sic) issue we can not get into.”

A bigger question for McLean, Scarano and Leak is why the Board President would even know the name of a former athletic trainer let alone get directly involved with a “personnel” matter that is so far down the District organizational chart.

Under standard board governance, Board Presidents interface only with the Superintendent. In this matter, Moselhi was bypassing an army of professional staff: Interim Superintendent Dr. Magda Parvey, Interim Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services Anthony Bongo (who replaced Amy Goodman), Athletic Director Steve Young and New Rochelle High School Interim Principal Joseph Starvaggi; and either Peter C. Scordo as the Human Resources Executive and Assistant to the Superintendent of School or Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration Greg Kern, depending on whether Llauger situation is a personnel matter or a vendor services issue.

Llauger was a contract employee working as an athletic trainer through Symmetry, a vendor awarded a contract through an RFP Process. She had never worked directly for the New Rochelle Board of Education.

After October 19th, there were repeated efforts by McLean and Leak, to set up a meeting with Parvey whose last day as Interim Superintendent was October 31st. That meeting never happened. McLean says he was told the athletic trainer issue would be addressed but as he was unwilling to deal with Feijóo he dropped the matter of a meeting after Parvey’s departure.

After Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo came on board on November 1st, Leak says he reached out to Moselhi multiple times and never got a response.

November 13th was the cafeteria incident and DiRienzo’s suspension.

On November 19th, immediately after a raucous school board meeting, Leak confronted Moselhi in a post-meeting gaggle about her failure to respond to him. She denied being aware that Leak had reached out to her, provided Leak her personal mobile phone number and asked him to call her to set up the meeting first requested on October 19th.

To this day, the meeting discussed between McLean and Moselhi on October 19th has not occurred.

EDITOR’S NOTE: After publication, we were told an email was sent by Coach DiRienzo to the football parents group explaining there was no trainer at the Spring Valley game and raising concerns over player safety due to the lack of an athletic trainer at the game. We would like to get a copy: robertcox@talkofthesound.com or 914-325-4616.

UPDATE 12/11/19: At the time of publication we were awaiting information from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. We just received a reply today. We have added it to the article above.

“There is no policy pertaining to the presence of Medical Doctors or Athletic Trainers at practice or games of the various high school sports,” said NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert J. Zayas. “The only item in the NYSPHSAA Handbook that references this is #7 of the NYSPHSAA Football Rules.”

7. It is recommended that at physician be present at all football games. If the services of a physician cannot be obtained, coverage should be provided by persons qualified to give emergency care (e.g. physician assistants, emergency squads, athletic trainers).

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The Story Behind the Story: Coach D and Doctor B

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