NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The New Rochelle School Community was sent into shock on the night of November 13, 2019 by the news that longtime head football coach Louis DiRienzo was suspended just days before the start of the State playoffs.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Laura Feijóo issued a statement to the school community:
“I am writing to advise the community that Louis DiRienzo, Head Coach of the Huguenots football team and physical education teacher at New Rochelle High School, has been reassigned from his teaching and coaching responsibilities for the time being. During Coach DiRienzo’s reassignment, the team’s assistant coaches Foster, Rhett and Tassello will lead the Huguenots football team in practice and, if necessary, in Saturday’s playoff game at Mahopac High School.”
A short while later, the District sent out a Media Advisory along with Dr. Feijóo’s statement to the community. The Media Advisory said:
“Tonight, Dr. Laura Feijóo, Superintendent of Schools for the City School District of New Rochelle, sent the message included (above) to the New Rochelle community. Dr. Feijóo will hold a press conference to address this matter tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 14, at 11 a.m. in the District’s Central Administration, on the second floor of New Rochelle City Hall, 515 North Ave.”
At the press conference, Dr. Feijóo repeatedly deflected questions as to why DiRienzo was reassigned from his teaching and coaching responsibilities leaving many reporters wondering why she had bothered to call a press conference if she had nothing to say. After a School Board meeting a week later, Board President Amy Moselhi told an angry mob that the real purpose of the press conference was not to provide information about Coach D but to lure reporters away from the high school and to the central administration offices at City Hall. In a radio interview Monday, former Board President Jeffrey Hastie said the real purpose of the press conference was to bolster Feijóo by having the football team’s three assistant coaches literally stand behind Feijóo during the press conference but the plan fell apart when the three coaches were no-shows.
A review of the press conference with this in mind reveals that Feijóo’s scripted remarks repeatedly reference the missing coaches adding credibility to Hastie’s claim.
As reporters at the press conference pressed her to “address the matter” as promised in the Media Advisory, Feijóo offered a shifting series of explanations for the press conference: (1) to share how focused we are on the students; (2) to show that there are supports in place for the kids; (3) to talk about what’s in place for the students; (4) to talk about the football team moving forward; (5) to let people know we have best interest of children in mind. She did not actually do any of these things during the press conference leaving befuddled journalists why Feijóo had called a press conference to tell the media she could not say anything about the reassignment of Coach D.
On November 19th, after a contentious school board meeting at Webster Elementary School, Moselhi was surrounded by an angry mob demanding answers about when Coach D would be reinstated (he never would be and resigned a few weeks later, after his team won the State Championship but before he was named Coach of the Year).
Parents expressed concerns that the student-athletes were depressed, distracted and unable to focus on school work and asked what was being done to support students.
“I think that question is a very valid question and I just don’t think its been answered in a clear enough way,” said Moselhi, who then went into a lengthy digression into a non sequitur. “Definitely calling a press conference to say I don’t have much to say about thing makes no sense.”
Moselhi then tried to give her own explanation of why Dr. Feijóo called a press conference.
“That’s actually not what happened. 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 contacted by the press because Coach D not being at practice is not a small little thing and it did not go unnoticed, and there were people who were beginning to believe they understood what might or not might have happened which I cannot confirm nor deny. So 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. The Superintendent’s idea was that was not the best way to protect the students, not a good idea to have a whole bunch of press at the high school and so rather than doing that she met with the three assistant coaches and Coach Crabby (head basketball coach Rasaun “Crabby” Young) the night before in Mr. Starvaggi’s office. I was there. They were clearly very unhappy about what had happened as they did not come in any way to demonstrate support for what happened but rather for the students which I really respected. We talked to them about what we might want to do to take the emphasis of the press away from the high school and maybe to the central administration so the kids can go to school in a safe and nurturing environment. They 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. That was clear. But what they wanted to do was say listen our kids are going to be suffering from extreme stress. The loss of Coach D at this very critical time and very difficult thing for these students and we wanted to demonstrate that we are here for them. Clearly Dr. Feijóo doesn’t know the students. The Board doesn’t know the students. People don’t have faith in her or in us…”
Moselhi was cut off by a parent looking for an answer to the original question. Moselhi never did get to explain why the three assistant coaches were not at the press conference.
Speaking on WVOX Radio on Monday, Hastie told host Peter Cantone, that the real reason for the press conference was to introduce the assistant coaches who were supposed to be there. He said at the last minute the coaches left Feijóo hanging. The whole point of the press conference was to present the coaches to the media, according to Hastie.
Jeffrey Hastie on WVOX – 1/13/20 (18:00)