Column 1: Distressing

Martinez News-Gazette Columnist

DISTRESSING, disgusting and disappointing are three terms which come to mind immediately when reading the details of the behavior of students at Martinez Junior High School, as reported from the recent meeting of the Martinez Unified School District Board of Education. The situation is appalling to those of my vintage, and others not privy to school news, not having children or grandchildren of school age., and not being ‘in the loop’ with current conditions.

While there is news of such conditions in schools nearly each day somewhere in the country, the idea of Martinez, not being an inner city, with inner city conditions of poverty, racial issues, violence and civic strife, but still experiencing the conditions detailed in the recent Board meeting by educators and parents, is appalling. How many of us ‘out of the loop’ citizens are just now learning of what is taking place?

While the schools’ personnel face the challenges each day face-to-face, how many parents of students are shirking their responsibilities as parents by not being more involved in setting character guidelines for the behavior of their kids at home, in school and in the community? How many are unaware of their children’s behavior in school until notified of behavior which reaches disciplinary levels? How many take the time and effort to monitor behavior at home as an indicator of their kid’s attitude. Certainly there must be ‘signs’ to be seen?!?

Eons ago in my school days at MJHS we had a principal, Arthur French, who could control the entire student body of ‘exhuberant’ students at an assembly in the auditorium by merely moving to the stage, placing his hands in his suit pockets, and standing very still without speaking word. Silence became immediate. He used the same technique in his office with a student who had been sent to the principal’s office ‘for cause’. You did not misbehave or screw up in Mr. French’s MJHS. It was a nice place to attend school in the 1940s.

The challenges facing educators today are so much greater than ‘in the good old days’ where proper behavior was taught at home by caring parents, not expected to be taught and administered by teachers and administrators. Hearing of suspensions going up from 130 to 182 last school year is appalling. I can recall when one or two a year was ‘news’ on campus, and not something taken lightly at any school level.

Bullying? What was that? Who did that? Was it called something else? Of course, drugs, weapons, sexual harassment, alcohol were not part of the campus scene either. (Smoking was present by those ‘cool’ individuals way out in the parking lot and very discreetly.) But, then, those certainly were the ‘good old days’ when civility was appreciated and observed. Also, when it was taught and practiced at home. Not left to teachers!

What is happening now, I feel, is partly due to the increased concern for ‘political correctness’. The concern for the privacy of the individual has become nearly ridiculous. Take for example, the District Superintendent’s comment regarding incidents involving more than one student, according to state law, one student’s parents would be told regarding his/her situation, but other students would be protected by privacy regulations and their situation would not be revealed. What was done about the other student? Did he/she go without a penalty?

Perhaps I am so far behind current regulations and social feelings? Do we no longer take care of real issues at hand because we don’t want to expose possible violators of regulations to public ridicule? If ‘they’ did it, let them face the music, as we say. Or is that too old a saying?

The details in the lengthy article by Gazette Staffer Donna Beth Weilenman of a lengthy meeting and a very serious issue, were excellent and brought to light serious issues. The efforts of the MUSD Board and parents to attempt to resolve the situation at MJHS are commendable. Please continue.

HISTORIC PIER in Pittsburg is about to be taken down, a remnant of World War Two and Camp Stoneman, the ‘jumping off’ port for many thousands of Army troops headed for the Pacific Theater of operations.

In recent decades, the terminal had been a refinery petroleum facility, but not used for some 10 years. Its removal has been approved.

Not mentioned in the news article was the use of the dock during the Korean Was as a departure for the Far East was from Camp Stoneman which was still an active Army facility. I was Communication Officer on one of the troop transports which hauled troops to Korea, Japan, Taiwan (then called Formosa) and Pacific Islands like Okinawa.

Large ferries carried hundreds of battle-ready troops from Stoneman down to San Francisco where our ships loaded them at Fort Mason for the 12 to 14-day voyage to a Pacific destination. Some trips we stopped in Hawaii to load Marines from their facilities located there.

One trip, usually 30 to 35 days round trip. We loaded a troop from Stoneman who showed illness signs a couple days underway from SF. He came aboard after complaining of flu-like symptoms, but was released because he pleaded with his authorities to be able to stay with his outfit. After a couple days at sea headed east, he was diagnosed as having a very serious form of infectious meningitis, something which is deadly, and a very serious issue when involved where several hundred troops are confined in close quarters in the ship’s lower decks. On that trip we had about 3,500 troops, plus several hundred crew members.

A quick urgent message, not coded, to our Navy Medical Department brought back directions on how to respond to the emergency. The directions were to give everyone on board a medicine in pill form twice a day for seven days. Questions for our two doctors on board: do we have that many pills in our medical supplies? Answer: Yes!

While messages were sent and received, the young soldier died. To avoid any further contact with personnel, his remains were wrapped in a rubber sheet and placed in the refrigerated produce locker until we reached Yokohama.

Assuring that every one on board received the medication to avoid anyone else being stricken with the deadly infection was the assignment of our medical staff with clip boards of all hands on board standing at the heads of the chow line at each meal checking off names. Those not attending a meal would be tracked down and given the pill. No exceptions.

Rumors popped up during the remainder of the trip regarding other victims in the cold storage lockers, etc. Fortunately, just rumors.

With 3,500 troops lining the rails alongside the dock in Yokohama, you could not hear a whisper when the deceased troop’s body was carried down the gangway. We had had a very serious situation coped with successfully. But, the remaining troops were headed for combat in Korea in a few days. Not a happy situation.

READY for another military engagement in the Middle East? Why is it reported that the current administration seems bent on provoking confrontation with Iran? What’s the real reason we have the USS Abraham Lincoln battle group sailing in the area ready for engagement? Is the Oval Office Occupant being encouraged to do something about which he does not know all he should know? He’s not known for deep thinking or taking advice, you know. This situation could become very ugly very quickly with publicly mentioned reports about perhaps sending some 120,000 troops to the area. I am certain that some of those nations will not take kindly to such speculation.

TIRED of the 2020 elections yet? Now, we have another candidate, this one from Montana, tossing his chapeau into the political skirmish. Wonder where all of these men and women think they can get the funds to qualify to be on the debate stage? Then, how long can they survive the days after day after day of travel and speeches? How can they distinguish themselves from the other 20-plus would-be presidents? Only so many days and so much energy. Also, so much $$$ available to solicit. It will be a long trip for the candidates. Also, a very long trip for the nation’s voters who have to listen to all those wonderful ideas of how to restore the nation after the current group of ‘outstanding’ officials tear it down.

CHEERS for our nation’s Fourth of July upcoming. However, the celebration sounds like a planned campaign rally for the self-indulgent White House Occupant. A possible speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial? Be sure to bring your red MAGA ball cap!! Ugh!!

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