When the New Rochelle High School football takes the field for its New York State semifinal matchup against Shenendehowa High School in Middletown on Saturday, Nov. 23, beloved head coach Lou DiRienzo will not be on the sideline.
The New Rochelle School District announced on Wednesday, Nov. 13 that the popular coach was being unexpectedly removed from the team, saying that DiRienzo had been “reassigned from his teaching and coaching responsibilities.”
Few details have been released by district officials since.
Schools Superintendent Laura Feijóo has been mostly mum on the issue since his reassignment, but issued a statement saying that the administration won’t meet with DiRienzo until at least Monday, Nov. 25.
"I would like to inform you that while we are working to complete the investigation into Coach DiRienzo expeditiously, we recognize that it will not be completed in time for him to be at the game on Saturday," the superintendent said. "This remains a top priority for our district and we will keep you informed.”
The statement was not received well by the New Rochelle High School Football Parents Association, which issued a statement of their own in an email released to the community.
"You have broken the hearts of the students and the community. And how dare you say that you are investigating our coach. What you were supposed to do was investigate an incident. What you have done is sacrifice morality and educational values for your own sick, selfish agenda. Shame On you. Disgrace.”
"FUSE has been made aware of the ongoing nature of our investigation on many occasions. It is also aware the district cannot disclose information due to the legal obligation to maintain confidentiality. Investigations like this cannot be completed until all the facts are gathered and appropriate legal advice has been provided to the board and superintendent," the district said in a statement.
"Staff members involved in such situations are always given an opportunity to be heard after the relevant facts are gathered, and this current investigation is no different. The appropriate representatives of Coach DiRienzo, including the union president, are aware we are scheduled to speak with him Monday.
"In our view, any protest by FUSE asserting due process is in some way not being provided for all involved is misguided and not supported by facts. FUSE must know that such actions are not going to deter the district from addressing this matter in the appropriate way. Such a protest is unproductive and in no way contributes to the situation in a positive manner.
An online petition calling for the “reinstatement of Coach D immediately” garnered more than 10,000 signatures in just a few days.
“The New Rochelle High School Football Parents Association demand that you restore Coach Louis DiRienzo to his teaching and head football coaching responsibilities at New Rochelle High School immediately,” organizers of the petition wrote. “There’s no legitimate basis for continuing to deprive our students and community of his leadership skills and talents, on and off the field.
“We are sorely disappointed by your extreme, reckless mishandling of a situation that required nothing more than a discussion. Every minute that goes by without returning Coach DiRienzo to work exacerbates the damage you have caused to the coach, the students, and the community. The mental anguish you are putting our student-athletes through before the state playoff game is unacceptable! “
"It must be especially difficult for you, the team, as you move forward with your classroom, football and family responsibilities without knowing when Coach DiRienzo will return," the administration said in the video statement released this week in response to the outcry. "We understand how important Coach D is in your lives, for his leadership on the football field and for so much more.”
On Twitter, Billy Hollis-Ragins, a former player for DiRienzo, praised his coach for what he’s done for his team, players and community.
“Coach D, is more than just a teacher and a coach he is a mentor. Coach D never let up on me when I got held back. Coach D went out of his way to make sure I came back to get my high school diploma even after he helped me into college & got me to play football again for Hvcc,” he posted.
“Mind you I never got to play a game for coach d. Coach d just genuinely cared to help a student succeed in life. We even spoke and touch bases with each other about how school & my season going. Like I said he more then just a teacher, coach to us he’s our mentor.”
In their statement, the district noted that "rescheduling students' after-school activities so teachers can attend an unproductive protest does not serve our children. Nonetheless, we look forward to working with FUSE on addressing the challenges and opportunities of students, staff, and families in our district.
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