District replaces administrators at Moreno Valley school where child was fatally assaulted

Diego Stolz
Diego Stolz, 13, was fatally injured in an assault on Sept. 16 at Landmark Middle School. His family has filed a legal claim against the Moreno Valley Unified School District.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Moreno Valley school district officials have replaced top administrators at a middle school where a child died after he was beaten by fellow students.

The Moreno Valley Unified School District Board of Education tapped longtime educator Rafael Garcia as principal of Landmark Middle School and hired two new assistant principals, Iesha Smith and Stephanie Williams-Mayrant. The school district also hired Diana Cobian to serve as the new assistant administrator of instructional improvement and academic coaching, the position previously held by Williams-Mayrant.

The changes, first reported by the Press-Enterprise, were announced at a school board meeting Tuesday night.
Garcia, who started Wednesday, replaces Landmark Principal Scott Walker. Smith and Williams-Mayrant, who will start Monday, replace Assistant Principals Kamilah O’Connor and Pedro Gutierrez.

Anahi Velasco, a spokeswoman for the school district, said Walker and Gutierrez remain employed by the school district but declined to disclose their new assignments. O’Connor has been on administrative leave since Sept. 20, she said.


Velasco said in a statement that the school board and Supt. Martinrex Kedziora “want to provide students with the best academic, social and emotional experience while they are in our schools.”

“They understand that each school has unique needs, and want to better address those needs at each school,” she said.

The staffing shake-up came after the family of Diego Stolz, 13, filed a $100-million legal claim against the school district, alleging that family members had complained of bullying days before the eighth-grader was fatally assaulted on Sept. 16.

The claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, states that Diego’s adult cousin met with O’Connor on a Friday in mid-September after bullies punched Diego in the chest. O’Connor pledged to suspend the boys responsible, according to the filing, but they remained in school and confronted Diego the following Monday.

He suffered fatal injuries in the assault, which was recorded in a video and posted to Facebook. Two Landmark students, both 13, were arrested and charged with manslaughter. They have denied the allegations.

The claim also states that Diego had sought help from a science teacher after he was punched the first time in September, and that the teacher had notified O’Connor and urged her to review surveillance footage of the incident. Administrators didn’t look at the footage until after the assault that resulted in Diego’s death, according to the claim.

Velasco said in a statement that district officials “respectfully disagree ... that the district is liable for the death of Diego” but would not comment publicly on details of pending litigation.