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Comments Received from Alameda Regarding the Reinstallation of the Jet in Front of Encinal High School

2009 Alameda Journal article on the Jet is at the end.

Posted in order of date received

Community 5/6 2003

I have been an Alameda resident since 1972. My opinion of the jet plane issue is that it is no longer a representative mascot of the school. It had  its day, when the Naval Air Station was open and operating. Now that it has stirred sincere controversy, its value should be reexamined.

I don't believe that the Encinal High school mascot was always the Jet Plane. Maybe it was, but it seems to me that the school must have been there longer than jet technology has been a naval weapon. If that is the case, then what was the original mascot? Maybe we could return to "the thrilling days of yesteryear" and use the original name.

Now if it turns out that "Jet" is the original mascot name, lets follow the forward thinking of Stanford University and change the name rather than continue the controversy. Doesn't "Encinal" mean "oak trees" or something like that? Could the mascot be the "Oaks or Acorns" something more tame than "Jet". I read that the Alameda High "Hornet" has some connection to the U. S. S. Hornet, come on who believes that? The Oakland PCL team used "Oaks" for years, and "Acorns" was another team name. Take this chance to rename the mascot.

As for the war surplus airplane, donate it to the Hornet museum, those guys would love it. Stop wasting time and money on such a silly issue.

Community 5/6 2003

A Jet plane built solely for war purposes? Does this symbolize a school and is it an appropriate educational tool? Will Encinal High students learn more than to see the Jet on their lawn as an object, a fun thing or "mascot" symbolizing only their own brief school days? The plane on their lawn students will pass daily can serve as the reminder that it is the development of minds behind this or any invention that can determine if they want such things among them or not, and that it is the human mind and the human creative ability of people like themselves to learn they can solve the world's problems in a variety of ways. They are enabled to do this through the power of education. Some people do learn to be better human beings from seeing terrible reminders. Dr. Albert Switzer, so I have read, was motivated to go to Africa and to become a wonderful caring humanitarian because of a statue he passed daily of a bound slave which had a deep emotional life-changing effect on him.. The significance of a war artifact, a reminder of death and destruction constantly before their eyes, in a society that has not learned a better way to resolve its traumas than war, the killing other people like themselves, may further motivate students to be a peace education generation. As they gain in knowledge that they are the hope of the world, hopefully they will become people with vision, compassion, and learning enough to bypass such things as war tools. And may they also be forgiving of the generation before them who could not do better, but have left them such war relics.

Out of State (Southern CA) Alumni 5/6 2003

I understand that a few are out to shoot down Encinal's jet.

I wish that the this jet was sitting in front of our school while I was attending from September 1956 to June 1960. Let those who might be so disturbed by the jet reflect on where we would be without them. There is nothing wrong with our military branches. School pride and tradition are much more important in this case.

For many years, the school was closely tied with the Naval Air Station. Many Navy kids attended the school and many of us non-Navy kids served in the Navy because of our proximity to the base. When I served as a Navy officer, I even requested and got to serve on the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea, home-ported in Alameda. I am proud to be a part of Encinal and the Navy and am extremely insulted at the left-wing assault on such an important icon.

Out of State Alumni 5/5 2003

Jet Pride!

I remember the day the Jet landed on our front lawn. It was during my senior year, 1984. I was a big event, and I recall it was helicoptered in. There was even a parade, and our Big E marching band, and cheerleaders pulled out all the stops.

I recall that a freshman girl (name forgotten), asked the question "If we're the Jets, why don't we have one?"

If I have my story straight, she asked her dad, who was either in the Navy or Marines, if he could help. The next thing we know, we've got ourselves a Jet.

Don't mess with our mascot, it's our pride and joy.

Parent 5/4 2003

Let the student body decide what their school mascot shall be. If they see a positive side to the jet so be it. A Navy jet aircraft is no more a symbol of war and killing than is the automobile a symbol of drunken driving and killing. When you, Mr. Zialcita, et.al., start walking because the automobile is a "bad" thing then we will support removing the jet.

Parent 5/1 2003

A tempest in a teapot. There are more important areas of concern in which to place our energy. I hae been active in the anti-war movement in Alameda and elsewhere. My own children attended Encinal, one before the arrival of the jet, the other after it. Neither see it particularly as warlike. To me it represents the fact that the navy had a long standing and community interest in Encinal High school.

Parent 4/29 2003

I understand there is a community group who strongly believes the Encinal Jet should not be a symbol in front of the high school. There is a concern that a fighter jet is an inappropriate high school icon and could evoke negative memories for the diverse population.

The complaint does not appear to include the school mascot  a jet, but only the long-standing fighter plane. This implies it is tolerable to be proud of being a Jet, to wear the emblem, and sing the song; but intolerable to actually see the jet. Undoubtedly, there will be some that view a combat jet as a symbol of American power, and possibly sad memories. However, regardless of their background, current students and thousands of alumni, simply view the plane as a symbol of pride; and the restored Jet - as a symbol of spirit. Pride and spirit are two things Encinal High can strongly benefit from.

Im an alumni and active parent. I have participated in the PTSA and Community Leadership meetings since September when my daughter became a high school student. As you know, and I have come to learn, there are many concerns we share about our high school students including, literacy ability, social-, moral-, and academic successes.

These community members, worried about the jet, are acting on their conscious and out of concern for students. I invite them to put there energy into the greater offenses to our children  limited school budgets, difficulty meeting the academic needs of all students, safety on and near the high schools, lack of teacher support, and the need to improve dilapidated school grounds. These are the things that should offend the community.

Since my attendance in the 70s, Encinal High has been diverse, tolerant, and encouraging of eclectic opinions. Regardless of the presence of a plane, I have faith, a symbol will not dictate these qualities.

Parent 4/25 2003

The school can make much better use of the $10,000 not yet spent on the educational needs of the students. If it is so that a parent wants to donate the money to cover the remaining costs of installing the jet, let him/her donate it to a cause that is decided upon at an open meeting of the parents, students, faculty and community members not by a closed group. For our survival our community like our country and the rest of the world need to begin actively studying and promoting peace. The symbols of war and aggression are counter productive to this. The time of war as an answer to problems political and otherwise is over and our schools need to be in the forefront of representing this new paradigm. It would be a disgrace to our students to reinstall a symbol of an unjust war in front of their school. I urge you to do everything you can to stop the reinstalling of the fighter jet in front of Encinal High School.

Community Person Encinal Alumni 4/23 2003

It might come as a surprise but the jet was initially placed on the eastern portion of the front lawn in the Spring of 1984. The Student Council discussed the matter and found the idea of having a jet on the front lawn intriguing enough to warrant full support. Frankly, in thinking back many years ago to when the decision was made, I don't recall any major debate along the lines being raised today: we thought it was a neat idea.

The only thing I would encourage you to do is to continue to sound out what the new generation of Encinal HS students think, to let them review the issues, facts and questions, and let them arrive at their own decision and recommendation, much in the way, years ago, youths did over this issue, albeit under less controversial circumstances.

Parent 4/22 2003

I am writing to inquire about an issue pertaining to the Navy combat jet on loan to Encinal High School by the Navy. A group of parents, community members and teachers met with EHS Principal Bill Sonneman on April 11th to discuss our concerns about returning this combat jet to EHS's front yard.

During the meeting, Mr. Sonneman told us that a small group had been meeting every other Friday for some time to plan the restoration and mounting of the combat jet on a pedestal. We do not know who is in the group, with the exception of two individuals Mr. Sonneman mentioned, or what the diversity of the group is.

We raised the issues of funding this approximately $15,000 project at a time of budget cutbacks and whether there had been open public access to the decision-making process. Mr. Sonneman agreed to set up a public meeting on the combat jet. However, a public meeting has not been scheduled and there does not seem to be any movement in that direction.

My question is whether an open meeting process is required by the school board or state in this type of situation? If it is not required, would an open process be recommended by the school board?

Email with multiple names attached 4/21 2003

We represent a growing group of Encinal High School teachers, staff and community members who would like to express our views on the inappropriateness of mixing militarism with our school's mission. We would also like to applaud the recent resolution passed by the Alameda City Council expressing opposition to the war in Iraq.

For nearly twenty years we have had a Navy jet fighter on our front lawn as a "symbol" of our team mascot. We are known as the Encinal Jets. Our school recently arranged to have the jet re-furbished at the old Navy Base and then have it brought back to us in its restored condition. This restoration is costing about $5,000 with an additional $10,000 to be spent on a concrete and steel stand to raise the jet and point it towards the sky. Encinal High School, founded in 1952 was already home to the Jets for many years before the Navy "loaned" us this A-4 Skyhawk Jet Fighter.

At a recent staff meeting, opposition to the plan to restore the Skyhawk was expressed by a member of our group. Massive budget cutbacks in California's public schools, the questionable symbolism of this jet during a time of war, and the need for us as educators and community members to respect the cultures and histories of our students and their families, are only some of the reasons for our position. We need to respect the diversity of our city and be sensitive to the families of our students who have endured the tragedies of armed conflicts throughout the world. In particular we are referring to our Vietnamese, Cambodian, African and Middle Eastern students and their families who comprise a significant population in the West End of Alameda.

The public image of Encinal High School and the City of Alameda in general is not served well by displaying a killing machine in front of a school. Spending upwards to $15,000 to make this happen at the same time as budgeting for academic needs is in a state of crisis is certainly open to question.

We are appealing to the community to voice their opposition to this plan to bring the Navy jet fighter plane back to the front lawn of Encinal High School. We propose that the jet simply remain on the old Navy Base as a historical symbol. As to the front of Encinal High School, perhaps we could plant a circular grove of trees with benches where students and staff can discuss the issues of the day or simply have a relatively quiet place to reflect on things. We are open to additional ideas that symbolize our commitment to education and to peace for all the people of the world.

Marines Corps jet a landmark at Alameda' Encinal

By Lucinda Ryan, Alameda Journal, 2/12/2009

That jet plane on the pedestal at Encinal High School may not look imposing with its diminutive profile. Nor does it bear the charred metal from the fire that started while it was aloft near the Bay Bridge.

The jet, which has been Encinal High School's mascot since 1984, took wing for the last time on Oct. 19, 1974, when Jon Burns, now a retired Alaska Airlines pilot living in Kauai, was serving in the Marine Corps Reserves maintaining his flying skills at Naval Air Station, Alameda.

He climbed into the Skyhawk eager to fly in what he describes as "a maneuverable, reliable airplane."

"When I took off from Alameda, the fire warning light came on," he said. "All of the other engine indications were normal. I was over the Bay Bridge when smoke got into the cockpit.

"It was a Friday night and lots of people were sailing in the Bay so I was reluctant to use the ejection system," he recalled. "The plane could have hit the bridge or the people in the Bay. I turned around and landed at NAS. By then the plane was on fire. I got out, the fire trucks came and I was fine.

"It turned out that a welded seam in the tailpipe where the jet blast comes out failed and let exhaust into the fuselage," he said.

The Skyhawk wasn't fine. It was damaged beyond repair and in 1977 was hauled to Treasure Island to the Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard Museum where it was displayed until it was towed by helicopter back across the Bay, (underneath the Bay Bridge, which must have been an unusual site to any boaters below), to its home of the past 25 years on the Encinal campus.

A sophomore, Michelle Sechrist — whose father was in the Marines — learned the military was looking for a new home for the plane and suggested the Encinal Jets "adopt it," according to an Alameda Times-Star story from 1984.

Alamedan Ken Ryan, a friend of Burns, also has personal memories of flying the little jet. He served in Da Nang after joining the Marines in 1967. The A-4 Skyhawk was used to deliver bombs and Ryan conducted 130 missions in Vietnam descending from about 15,000 feet and delivering the ammunition at about 4,500 feet. He doesn't offer details or wax heroic about his Vietnam duty, but he did say he was shot at many times and was never injured nor ever had to eject.

He flew in the Marines for five years then joined the Reserves and flew as a "weekend warrior" for 11 years. He is now retired, married and has two little girls.

In 2003, the jet was removed from the school's campus for a new coat of paint and routine maintenance. During its absence a group of less than 20 activists, including parents and teachers, lobbied the school to have it relocated to the decommissioned base (now Alameda Point) because they thought it inappropriate to display a war plane that had delivered bombs in Vietnam.

But no Vietnamese, Cambodians or Laotians spoke in support of the activists' suggestion, despite the group's petition with 400 signatures. Encinal Principal Bill Sonneman said the plane would return, that it was the right thing to do.

The jet was returned to the campus, with motorcycle police escorts leading the way and no new controversies about it have cropped up since.

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Last modified: April 30, 2003

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