NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The justification given by school officials for notifying the public at about 7:30 pm on November 13, 2019 that former New Rochelle head football coach Lou DiRienzo was “reassigned” was the reporters noticed that Coach D was not at practice at 3:30 p.m. and began demanding answers as to why DiRienzo was not at practice.
This account is an absolute fiction.
After the School Board meeting at Webster School on November 19th, Board President Amy Moselhi blamed the media:
“The night before, when we wrote that letter and sent out the letter about Coach D, before the letter ever went out, we started to getting (sic) contacted by the press because Coach D not being at practice is not a small little thing and it did not go unnoticed.”
A few feet away, Board Vice President Paul Warhit echoed those sentiments attributing the actions of Dr. Feijóo as media-driven.
Moselhi went on to say:
“When we were getting contacted by the press, they were saying it was their intention to go to the high school to interview students and be present at the high school in the morning.”
In meetings with FUSE leadership, Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo likewise echoed the “blame the media” refrain, sources say.
Feijóo, Moselhi and Warhit repeatedly attributed their motivation for the reassignment letter, the Coach D press conference and misleading the media as motivated by a desire to support students, to protect students, and insure a “safe and nurturing environments” for students. In reality, they were attempting to manage the blow back to not only the suspension of the Coach but the way they managed the situation.
During her prepared remarks at a press conference on November 14th, Dr. Feijóo made a statement that, in retrospect, deserved more attention:
“When these coaches arrived back at 9 o’clock last night they met with President Moselhi, they met with myself. Principal Starvaggi, to really talk through the supports they have in place, they have met with the students to talk to them about their focus on the game, the focus on the school, redirecting them, talking to them, to support them and they stayed to almost 10 o’clock last night.”
A check of the weather that day suggests the answer.
Wednesday November 13, 2019 in New Rochelle began as a cold and windy day with temperatures at or below freezing, with rain and wind gusts over 30 mph. The undefeated New Rochelle High School Huguenots were preparing to face Proctor High School out of Utica, New York that weekend in the first round of the New York State High School Football Playoffs.
The football team typically seeks to practice in indoor facilities in bad weather, with the cost paid for by members of the New Rochelle High School Football Parents Association. If the forecast calls for thunderstorms, the team would always seek indoor facilities. And most likely do so if the forecast was for heavy rain or high winds or temperatures below freezing.
On November 13th, early in the day, DiRienzo decided to move the team practice 40 minutes North to the SONO Field House￼￼, a 52,000 square foot indoor sports & special events facility, located in Norwalk, Connecticut. The only available time slot was from 5 pm to 7 pm so the practice start time was changed from 3:30 pm to 5 pm. Due to logistical issues with having to arrange last minute bus transportation the team arrived after 5 pm and so practice started late and was re-scheduled to end at 8 pm. The unexpected release of the “reassignment letter” at 7:30 pm disrupted the planned practice which abruptly came to a halt as a result. The cost to use SONO Field House was $275 according to a receipt seen by Talk of the Sound.
This explains why Dr. Feijóo said the coaches “arrived back” at 9 o’clock. They had returned from Norwalk at that time.
What it does not explain is how, as Moselhi claimed, reporters would notice that Coach D was not at practice when there was no practice at the high school and there were no reporters at the SONO Field House in Connecticut.
Further, it is widely-known among local sports reporters who cover the team that the Huguenots have their own media contact, no beat reporter was in New Rochelle or Norwalk and none of them reached out to the team media contact prior to the announcement that Coach D was suspended.
As no reporters were contacting the District or the team directly, the press was also not “saying it was their intention to go to the high school to interview students and be present at the high school in the morning” as Moselhi claimed.
The District spokesperson Ken Valenti refused to identify any reporters that contacted the District between 3:30 pm and 7:30 pm on November 13th.
Valenti, Moselhi and Dr. Feijóo refused to answer questions about the matter:
- President Moselhi said reporters contacted the District between the scheduled start of practice at 3:30 pm on 11/13/19 and 7:30 pm when the Coach D reassignment letter was sent out. She said they inquired about Coach D not attending practice. Which reporters? She said some or all of these reporters said they intended to stake out the high school the following morning. Which ones?
- President Moselhi said the “real purpose” of the press conference on 11/14/19 was not to address the Coach D matter as Mr. Valenti said or to address how students are being supported as Dr. Feijóo said but to draw the press away from NRHS to City Hall. Do you think deliberately misleading the media about the purpose of a press conference is appropriate? How might that impact media response in the future? How exactly does holding a press conference at 11 am bear on reporters staking out the high school at 8 am or 3 pm?
- On WVOX, Mr. Hastie recently stated that the “real purpose” of the press conference was for the coaches at the NRHS meeting to show solidarity with Dr. Feijóo. On 11/19, President Moselhi said the coaches “were going to come and be with Dr. Feijóo when the press conference happened￼￼ not at all to demonstrate solidarity with the decision because they made it very clear they do not support the decision and they are in full support of Coach D.” So, which is it? And when did any of you learn the coaches were refusing to attend the press conference?
- On a related note, on what legal basis was a board member in New Rochelle High School at 9 pm on 11/13/19. On what legal basis was she in a meeting to discuss personnel matters? Why were the coaches present not afforded the opportunity to have union and/or legal representation?