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Efforts underway to save ceramics class at LAUSD middle school

Mike Szymanski | September 8, 2015

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A student in ceramics class at Mark Twain Middle School.

A student in ceramics class at Mark Twain Middle School.

For 35 years, a group of mostly women gathered to work with clay at their adult education ceramics class, but now it may be canceled due to an LAUSD Catch-22 snafu.

Adults, students, grandmothers and their grandchildren have attended the Adult Education Ceramics class at Mark Twain Middle School, and sometimes the class draws as many as three dozen people. Old-timers estimate that nearly 1,000 have taken the class over the years.

Ellen Levy, who started as a student, is now teaching the ceramics class. At first, she was an LAUSD employee. But now the class has become fee-based activity, effectively turning Levy into a former LAUSD employee. And as an outside program, LAUSD is insisting that it be covered by insurance, paid for by the program leaders.

“LAUSD has made it a nightmare for us to exist, and that is sad,” said Linda Jones, who attends the class with her children and grandchildren. It is cost-prohibitive to pay to insure their class, and those restrictions were only required recently at the Mar Vista school. Students use the kiln and ceramics classroom during the day and have their own thriving arts program with regular art shows.

“It has remained a wonderful class with great creative energy and now we are threatened,” said Joanne Jaffe, one of the longtime adult students. “I am passionate about this program.”

The women appealed to their district board representative, Steve Zimmer, who is also president of the school board, but said they got no response. So five of them went to the school board meeting last week to make an appeal in person. The group has exhausted other options to move and remains hopeful that the district can waive the insurance or find another way to keep the program at the school.

“It is a group of mixed ages and cultures and we are sharing experiences and knowledge, it would be a shame for it to end,” Jaffe said.


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