Editorial: An athletic department gone awry

McGann-Mercy athletes: Fiona Nunez (left), Paul Annunziata and Kayla Schroeher. (Photos by Garret Meade, Robert O’Rourk)

At several points during a nearly two-hour meeting last week between McGann-Mercy High School administrators and parents of football team members, principal Carl Semmler reiterated that his decisions put the best interests of the students first.

It’s hard to see how. 

At its core, the desire to improve the school’s athletic program through affiliations with various organizations like Long Island Express Lacrosse is a sound one. But the way Mr. Semmler and athletic director Paul Mastronardi threw well-respected coach Jeff Doroski to the curb raises serious concerns about the motivation behind their grand plan and casts an ugly shadow over whatever comes next, well-intentioned or not.

As one parent said during last week’s meeting: “How are we supposed to trust either one of you?”

That’s a question parents of current and prospective Mercy students will have to answer for themselves.

The quick hire of Mr. Mastronardi as athletic director in January without any formal candidate search raises questions as to just how long this plan has been in the works. Parents are well within their right to question Mr. Mastronardi’s credentials and background, as well as wonder how he plans to work two full-time jobs.

As it stands now, Mr. Mastronardi is a full-time New York City firefighter, Mercy athletic director and soon-to-be lacrosse and football coach.

When asked by a parent if he will attend games as athletic director, Mr. Mastronardi said he would when his schedule allows, but that it wasn’t customary for an AD to typically do so. That couldn’t be more wrong. Athletic directors are a constant fixture on the sidelines at games.

His assertion that he will hire “college-caliber” coaches seems ambitious, yet far-fetched and unlikely. That also makes it even more puzzling that the administration would so easily dump an experienced, respected coach like Mr. Doroski, whose teams had virtually the same level of success in recent seasons as the Eastport-South Manor squads coached by Mr. Mastronardi.

As a private school, Mercy doesn’t face the kind of scrutiny in its decision making that a public school would. But at the end of the day, families across the East End choose to take on an added expense of more than $8,000 a year to send their kids to Mercy.

And they deserve to know if the school is really putting the best interests of the kids first.