Like we don't have enough already?
School's symbol catches flak
Some at Encinal High contend a Marine jet is an inappropriate icon of violence.
The retired A-4 Skyhawk fighter jet that became weathered from years on display at Alameda's Encinal High School has been refurbished, but some oppose having it returned to the campus.
By Herbert A. Sample -- Bee San Francisco Bureau
Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Sunday, May 4, 2003
ALAMEDA -- Just a stone's throw from Encinal High School on this island town's western end sits the once-bustling but now-shuttered Alameda Naval Air Station. The proximity is not merely physical: The school's athletic teams are the Jets, its newspaper is the Jet Blast, and its mascot is a smiling cartoon plane.
But the harmony between school and armed services is under strain now as a small group of Encinal's teachers and parents attempts to bar the return of a retired Marine Corps jet to a display on the school's front yard.
The disagreement between those who see the jet, a decommissioned A-4 Skyhawk fighter that saw duty in the Vietnam War, as symbolic of American militarism and those who perceive it as a benign icon reflects a larger change in the city's attitude and makeup.
In March, for example, the Alameda City Council unanimously passed a resolution that was widely perceived as implicitly opposing a U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Neither the resolution nor the effort to thwart the presence of the A-4 Skyhawk would have surfaced 10 or 20 years ago when the station was operating and the city's economy and population were so closely tied to it, said Tony Daysog, an Alameda councilman who was Encinal's student body president when the jet arrived in 1984.
"There's less affinity for the military and all it represents now than what was there five to 10 years ago," Daysog said.
The jet arrived as a loan from the Navy to the campus Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps unit. It is one of only three former U.S. military planes displayed at high schools, according to Jim Curry of the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla., which oversees the loan program.
At the time, Alameda Naval Air Station was in its fifth decade of operation, the home port for numerous warships and aviation units. One of those vessels was the USS Hornet, a World War II-era aircraft carrier that is now a museum at the base, which closed in 1997 and is now called Alameda Point.
The relationship between the air station and Encinal blossomed when the school opened in the 1950s. As many as a quarter of the students hailed from military families, and the decision to name the school's teams the Jets was an obvious link to the base's aviation mission.
In the past 20 years, the A-4's appearance worsened from weather, graffiti and pranks, and the surrounding island changed, too. Census data show that since 1990, island residents have become more white collar, better educated, more Asian and less white, said Daysog, an urban planner.
The only active-duty military presence here now is a Coast Guard station, and the economy has broadened to include the technology industry.
When Encinal Principal Bill Sonneman arrived last year, he promised to rejuvenate the plane, and it was rolled into Alameda Point earlier this year to be sanded and repainted by a firm that restores buses.
Several students assisted with the work, which was completed a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, a handful of alumni donated materials and labor for construction of a concrete foundation and a metal pylon on which the plane is to be mounted.
In all, the work will cost about $13,000, Sonneman said. A long-standing restoration fund will cover a third of that, he said. An anonymous graduate lent $10,000, which is to be repaid from the sale of plaques around the plane's base, the principal added.
But about a dozen teachers, staff members and parents say that money could have bought books or covered other educational or facility needs. Moreover, the plane doesn't represent what Alameda has become, said Carlos Zialcita, an Encinal computer teacher who initiated the drive against the jet.
"I would see it as sort of a leftover from a previous era," Zialcita said. "The parents of our Vietnamese and Cambodian and Afghan kids especially ... have been affected by the tragedies of war, and I think we shouldn't say that that's insignificant or somehow not important."
David Olstad, a volunteer who assists on technical support issues at the school, said, "I'd just as soon see a .357 Magnum blown up and put on a pedestal. I mean, there's no difference to me. It's glorifying violence."
Janet Gibson, a school board member and Alameda resident since 1973, said she's long considered the jet an inappropriate emblem for Encinal. "I would think there is a better symbol for the school, something that might reflect education and intelligence," she said.
But symbolism is often in the eye of the beholder, and the A-4's advocates view the plane simply as a manifestation of the school's team name and nothing more.
"It's like we were the Encinal High School 'Bears' and someone gave a bronze statue of a bear and we were mounting that," said Mark Allegrotti, who graduated from Encinal in 1978. He has two daughters attending the school and built the foundation for the restored jet. "It's the same thing," he said.
Sonneman, whose three daughters graduated from Encinal, perceives the jet more as a representation of success -- of graduates "soaring to the future," as he put it -- than anything military.
"Students have been coming up to me asking when is it going to come back, not to not bring it back," he said, noting that Encinal is committed through the loan agreement with the Navy to keep the plane presentable.
Indeed, a meeting last week of students, parents, teachers and administrators demonstrated that many students support the plane's presence at the campus entrance. More discussions are to be held, and Sonneman, noting that Encinal is committed through the loan agreement with the Navy to keep the plane presentable, said he is willing to consider ways to mollify the plane's opponents. But he insisted it is too late to stop its return.
Besides, said Curry of the naval aviation museum, the school will be on the hook for the expense of returning the plane if another entity cannot be found to take it. "When people get into this kind of scenario," he said, "I usually tell them. 'Make sure you have $10,000 in the bank.' "
Jesus H. Christ!!
Nuke us now PLEASE!!
Kill me already!!!
I can't take this shit anymore!!!
Maybe they'd prefer this:
Or, more in line with San Francisco Bay values.....
Those fkcers happy now????
I heard that they instead are opting for a bronze statue of Liberace getting rear ended by Rock Hudson.
two very simple words:
...."I'd just as soon see a .357 Magnum blown up and put on a pedestal. "
Can we do that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If they don't want a plane I'll donate for a giant .357.