The Akron school district rallied its supporters Wednesday before the push begins for a levy this fall.


While the district didn’t call the event at Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron a levy kickoff, proceeds will benefit the levy effort, volunteers signed up for the campaign and school and city leaders urged support from those who had gathered.


Superintendent David James told the crowd about his recent trip with six Rankin Elementary students who went to Miami to see LeBron James receive the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award. James, an Akron native, paid for the trip.


“That’s the type of commitment we need from everyone out here today,” David James told the parents, residents, staff and students in attendance.


Mayor Don Plusquellic and City Council President Marco Sommerville, who spoke before catching a plane for Chicago to meet with bond counsel on new bonds for the next phase of the Akron school construction project, also pumped up the levy. Plusquellic said people shouldn’t blame the district for how legislators in Columbus haven’t fixed the state’s method for funding schools.


“It’s totally unfair for voters to take it out on our young people,” he said. “This is vitally important.”


Plusquellic said people must support the levy to prevent classrooms from being packed with 35 to 40 students.


“This is about our kids,” he said. “It’s always been about our kids.


“Support this levy,” the mayor concluded. “If you don’t, shame on you!”


The Akron school district is facing a $28 million deficit in the 2013-14 school year and will put a levy on the Nov. 6 ballot. The district has not decided on the amount of the levy request.


Voters narrowly rejected a 5.5-mill levy request last fall.


The district recently made cuts to bridge a $24 million deficit this year, with the biggest savings coming from the elimination of 202 jobs, including 139 teachers.


The district invited parents, students, staff, city officials and community leaders to its “APS Proud” rally, which included performances by several student groups.


Those who attended were invited to give videotaped testimonials that will be used in the levy campaign in exchange for a chance to win one of several donated prizes, including an iPad. Another rally sponsor was the local franchise owner of Game Truck, who donated the use of his mobile truck packed with video game equipment.


Student performers included a group from the district’s National Inventors Hall of Fame School, who performed a song they wrote that urged people to “do the right thing ... even when no one is watching you.”


Sunday Atkinson, who has two children in Akron schools, described herself as an “overall supportive parent.” She said she will do her part to help with the upcoming campaign and urged other parents to do the same.


“Parents need to be more involved,” she said. “It does make a difference.”


Donna Neal, who has two grandchildren who attend newly built Akron schools, isn’t overly concerned about the levy effort.


“They’ll find a way,” she said. “They always find a way.”


Several students who attended the event, however, are concerned about the looming cuts and the potential for deeper reductions. They said they will help with the campaign.


Faith Brown, a Litchfield Middle School student, summarized her thoughts on the levy with one word: “Hoping.”


Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com.