Content Warning: This article mentions a child’s death and contains brief descriptions of graphic violence. Reader discretion is advised.
In a pivotal decision, the Moreno Valley Unified School District Board of Education voted 3 to 2 in a Special Closed Session Board Meeting on Tuesday, September 19, to terminate the contract of employment for Superintendent Martinrex Kedziora without cause, effective immediately. This move was followed by the appointment of Chief Human Resources Officer Dr. Robert Verdi as interim superintendent of schools.
While the board expressed gratitude for Dr. Kedziora’s years of service, School Board President Susan Smith noted, “Occasionally there comes a time when institutions such as school districts need to make a change in direction. That time has come for us here at Moreno Valley. We know that everyone will continue to do their best to meet all of the needs of our students and families.” However, due to privacy and confidentiality laws, the district and board cannot disclose the specific reasons behind this decision.
This development occurred against the backdrop of a significant event earlier this month when the Moreno Valley Unified School District settled a wrongful-death lawsuit for a record-breaking $27 million with the family of Diego Stolz, a 13-year-old middle school student who tragically lost his life after being brutally assaulted by classmates. Attorney Dave Ring aptly described it as “the largest [bullying] settlement in the United States.”
In September 2019, Diego Stolz endured an assault by two classmates at Landmark Middle School, an incident that was captured in a Facebook video. The video depicted an assailant confronting Diego before physically attacking him, leading to a devastating outcome. Diego remained in critical condition for over a week before succumbing to his injuries.
The settlement marked a bittersweet victory for Diego’s family, who had previously raised concerns about bullying incidents to school officials for over a year before the fatal attack. There had been numerous calls made to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department regarding criminal or violent allegations at Landmark Middle School in the year leading up to Diego’s tragic death.
Dr. Kedziora’s tenure as superintendent was not without merit and notable initiatives. He championed educational equity, emphasizing that students’ personal and social circumstances should not hinder their educational potential. He further held leadership sessions focused on equity, including topics such as LGBTQ lifestyles and closing student achievement gaps.
Moreover, Dr. Kedziora spearheaded efforts to address unconscious bias within the district, recognizing that it could be a barrier between Black students and their white teachers. He advocated for continued training in unconscious bias, emphasizing the importance of making students feel valued and understood.
The superintendent’s deep commitment to students and his passion for ensuring their safety and well-being stemmed from personal experiences during the civil rights era in the American South. Dr. Kedziora’s childhood memories of school integration, witnessed through the eyes of his Black teacher, Maggie Barnet Ralston, deeply influenced his dedication to education and equity.
Dr. Kedziora leaves a lasting legacy in the Moreno Valley School District, with initiatives aimed at strengthening teacher-student relationships, engaging with community leaders, and fostering an environment where students feel valued and supported. Despite the challenges, the district under his leadership witnessed tangible improvements, including reduced suspensions and improved attendance rates.
While his tenure as superintendent comes to an end, it is clear Dr. Kedziora’s journey, impact and commitment to creating a fair and inclusive educational environment has left an indelible mark on the Moreno Valley community. His vision for educational equity will hopefully continue to guide the district’s future endeavors.
In the meantime, concerned parents and other Moreno Valley residents have launched a petition on change.org to recall what they define as “the unjust termination of Dr. Kedziora.”
“I am deeply troubled by the recent termination of Dr. Kedziora from his position as superintendent in the Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD). This petition aims to address this unjust decision and advocate for his reinstatement,” it reads.
Moreno Valley resident, Joshua Lovely, declared, “The termination of Dr. Kedziora was wrong and unjust. This was the best superintendent our district has ever seen. The school board made a decision without the best interest of the students, parents and staff members in mind. If they were thinking about us, then this would not have been a last minute closed door session. Termination without cause? So your constituents aren’t allowed to know exactly why you made this decision? It’s time to recall!!.”