John Higgins

North Hill parent Gina Lang shopped for schools for her three children Sunday at an informational fair at the Akron-Summit County Public Library that brought area school districts, charter schools and private schools under one roof.

She and her husband, Tony, were looking for an alternative to Akron Public Schools for their three children, who attend or will attend Harris elementary school and eventually, Jennings Middle School.

“I don’t dislike Harris, but we would prefer religious schooling,” she said. “We just can’t afford it.”

The fair also saved her time from visiting a school, taking a tour and only then realizing she couldn’t afford the tuition.

“It’s easier to go walk to a table and know that tuition is something we couldn’t afford rather than calling and meeting with them,” she said. The fair gave them a chance to learn about schools that hadn’t turned up in an Internet search, such as Mayfair Christian School in Green.

“The Mayfair Christian School? I didn’t know that was so close,” she said.

School Choice Ohio, an advocate for voucher programs, sponsored the fair to kick off national (and Ohio) School Choice Week.

In the last few years, library events have focused on telling parents about the state’s EdChoice scholarships, which allow children at schools with poor academic performance to attend private schools with a publicly funded tuition voucher.

Annette Bush, a regional outreach coordinator for School Choice Ohio, wanted to expand the fair’s appeal.

“I had this dream and it seemed it worked out pretty well,” Bush said. “I wanted parents to look around and shop, just like at a shopping center.”

Akron school officials didn’t shy away from the opportunity to showcase their wares alongside charters and private schools.

“The Akron Public Schools has 50 tables and I have 16 other schools,” Bush said. “I just didn’t know that we were going to take over the whole library, but we did.”

Akron Superintendent David James reminded parents that they have choices within the Akron district, from specialty schools in science and the arts to vocational training or the chance to earn college credits while still in high school.

“Public schools are part of that whole school choice movement,” James said during a presentation in the auditorium.

Schools gave away pencils, pens, water bottles, tote bags, refrigerator magnets, candy and other enticements along with pamphlets, newsletters and sign-up sheets for tours.

Pastor John Wilson, administrator of Chapel Hill Christian School, said it was a rare venue to promote the school and he was so busy answering questions, he couldn’t leave his table. Usually when he sets up his information table, it’s at events that are not exclusively about education.

“Today, everybody here is coming to talk about school,” he said.

Parent Dionne Moore-Dennis appreciated seeing all the schools under one roof, too. Her daughter is a second-grader in the Barberton school district, but she’s shopping around for a school that emphasizes study of diverse cultures and languages.

“This is a good opportunity,” she said. “That way, you see what is actually out there with the different public schools on top of the private schools.”

John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or Read the education blog at