VISTA, Calif. — A community is outraged after a parent in the Vista Unified School District allegedly mocked a Hispanic board member during a virtual board meeting last month.
Thursday night, the Vista Unified School Board implemented a new procedure during board meetings ensuring that public comments are civil and respectful.
“We encourage public participation, but we also want to reinforce and remind those participating of our values that we are committed to,” said Board President Ciaprano Vargas.
During a special board meeting on February 18 about reopening plans, a Vista father called in to the board meeting and rolled his "r's" when pronouncing a Hispanic name.
“Martha I know that you don't want to listen to parents unless they are named Rosarito Rodriguez but this endless shutdown is turning the achievement gaps between whites and Hispanics into the Grand Canyon,” said Mads Noesgaard.
In the video you can see Trustee Alvarado’s mouth the words "wow." She addresses the comments at the end of meeting.
“I take offense that we have racist comments,” said Alvarado. “No one should take that type of verbal abuse.”
The meeting lasted five hours. The comment from Noesgaard is made around 1:23:00 and Alvarado's response is around 4:49:00.
Parents were outraged that no other board members spoke up. Two days later Trustee Julie Kelly posted about it on her Facebook page.
“…I will forever regret that I didn't use my voice to support my colleague Martha Alvarado when she spoke against it at the end of the meeting. There are many reasons that I did not - shock, fatigue, fear, unawareness of policies; they are all excuses. My silence was a mistake. I hope it is not necessary, but will not make that mistake again.”
“It’s 2021 and we are in a middle of a social justice movement and we have community members who think it’s funny to make fun of Latinos and their names and my commitment [is] to all kids in this community," said Alvarado during the meeting.
After the meeting in a joint letter Superintendent Dr. Matthew Doyle and the school board sent a letter to all parents and employees in the district advocating for civility and respect.
News 8 reached out to Noesgaard who declined a Zoom interview but emailed a statement and says what he said was not racist but agreed it was offensive.
“I certainly hope they were offensive. My purpose was to mock her for her sectarian interests. For which she is btw...And mockery is one of many ways to sustain a democracy by keeping elected officials' feet to the fire.”
(read Noesgaard’s entire statement at the bottom of the story)
On Thursday, during a regular scheduled board meeting parents, teachers and a student addressed the rhetoric.
“When other adults speak inappropriately towards other cultures you are teaching your children that not only that sort of language is acceptable but that sort of language can be spread to their peers,” said Sam Albert, student.
News 8 spoke to another parent who denounces the father’s behavior and feels the district can do better.
“It's just really unacceptable to allow someone like that to continue to have a free platform to spew their racist comments or their hatred towards others,” said Jessica Cantrell-Goldstein.
During the board meeting Alvarado asked that the February 18 Minutes be amended to reflect the exact language used by Mr. Noesgaard.
Statement from board and district:
"Vista Unified is committed to listening to feedback from the community during board meetings. There have been instances when members of the public have used language that is not aligned to our values nor aligned to our commitment to equity and anti racism. In an effort to speak with one voice, we developed a joint statement promoting civil discourse and following our values (HERE). This statement was sent to every parent and employee in the district - over 20,000 people. In addition to this joint statement, we will be implementing a new procedure during our board meeting that makes clear to our community that the board expects all public comments to treat one another with respect and civility. We must set a positive example for our students to follow, and while it is perfectly acceptable to be critical of the Board’s decisions, we will ask all speakers to please refrain from making comments that could be construed as derogatory, hate speech, racist or threatening violence when expressing their opinions."
Email from Mads Noesgaard:
Hi Ms. Alford,
Thanks for reaching out to me.
Since getting elected in 2018, Trustee Alvarado has consistently taken on a physical posture ranging from lack of interest to outright hostility during public comments.
Public comments are parents’ only venue for providing input to the School Board during their meetings.
The only exception from that is whenever a parent with a Hispanic name speaks. Then she suddenly smiles, looks into the camera, and appears to be taking notes.
I believe several, if not all, of the board meetings that have been held since the meetings were made virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions are available online. A review of those would confirm this fact.
What is planned for tonight is "orchestrated outrage" by the Democratic Club of Vista and the Vista Teacher's Union. They are targeting me because I am one of the most vocal proponents for reopening our schools. Indeed, I ran for School Board in 2020 on just that platform.
In the past year, and especially since the start of the 2020-2021 school year, students have spoken up at almost every single meeting about how online "learning" is completely useless for them. Students with ADHD, students who were valedictorians in their middle school and are now failing high school, students who for the first time in their lives suffer from depression and anxiety.
None of this has ever been the subject of a community update. But I roll on four R's to mock Trustee Alvarado sole interest in people who look like herself and all hell breaks loose.
Kids are failing left and right. In a few years, you'll have your receipt checked in Costco by someone who dreamed of - and had the skills to - become an engineer. Last week, a student at Sage Creek HS in Carlsbad died by suicide.
But the Teachers' Union is happy. Vista Unified has gotten 40 million dollars in COVID-funds, there are more teachers employed than ever before, there is less accountability than ever before, and standardized tests have been cancelled.
That's the real story here. The rest is Wag the Dog. You are a free woman in a free country with a free press. Youi decide what to cover.
PS: Any grammatical mistakes should be attributed to the fact that I am an immigrant who came to this country 17 years ago at the age of 30. But I believe in equality, not special treatment for people who look like me.
News 8 followed up and asked if his language was racist or offensive
Hi Ms. Alford,
I certainly hope they were offensive. My purpose was to mock her for her sectarian interests. For which she is btw. facing a mounting recall effort because her sworn duty is to serve everyone in the district.
And mockery is one of many ways to sustain a democracy by keeping elected officials' feet to the fire.
Not unless you operate from an assumption that a white man pointing out the flaws of an elected official who happens to be a Hispanic female automatically makes the white man a racist. But then you might as well add misogynist too, right?
I have zero control of a taped-in-advance Zoom call so I am naturally reluctant to participate in that.