Saturday, August 06, 2016

TOP STORY >> Lighthouse eyes microscope

Leader staff writer

Ten years ago, if a teacher needed a new microscope or a coach needed new uniforms for his players, and with no money in the budget for extras, the employee might turn to the school’s PTO or the Booster Club.

Once again, the Internet is changing everything.

But charter school supporter Mike Wilson says this is no different than raising money the old-fashioned way—by selling candy or a hosting a pie supper.

When Laundon Tucker, a life sciences teacher at Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School Preparatory Academy, wanted to buy a microscope, camera and tissue slides for use in her science classroom, the school said the money wasn’t in the budget.

So she turned to, the website that helps teachers raise the money they need for equipment or special projects.

According to the website, Charles Best, a teacher at a Bronx, N.Y., public high school, wanted his students to read “Little House on the Prairie.” As he was making photocopies of the one book, he thought about all the money he and his colleagues were spending on books, art supplies and other materials.

Best believed there were people who want to help cover the costs, if they knew where their money was going.

He set up the website about 10 years ago and word began to spread.

Lighthouse Principal William Felton says he hated to turn down Tucker’s request but the money wasn’t in the seven-year-old school’s budget. He was pleased with her ingenuity.

While the charter school receives about $6,000 in federal funding per student annually, as well as free and reduced lunch money, Felton says his school doesn’t receive the same amount of funding as public schools.

Wilson says charter schools do not receive any property-tax money designated for traditional public schools. Public schools could receive as much as $2,000 more per student per year.

Felton says, “Public schools get considerably more money per student,” and he goes on to say, “I support (Tucker’s) efforts and the efforts of any teacher who is working for the betterment of their students.”

Wilson also urges residents to help the local students out.

“We need to support teachers’ programs that go above and beyond. Our schools, even public schools, have to watch their budgets and need help,” Wilson says.

The school has been open since 2009 and is governed by a local independent board of trustees.

Tucker isn’t greedy and would be happy with just one college-level microscope, tissue slides and a camera that she could connect to a projector that she could point to different parts of interest on the tissue slide.

The slides would allow students to study various systems of the body, and she says the equipment she hopes to purchase is important for her students’ education. She understands the importance first hand.

When first arriving at Hendrix College in Conway, she struggled to catch up because she didn’t have access to a college-grade microscope while in high school.

Now, she sees her students having little experience in microscopy work.

“Learning how to use a microscope is tough without the proper supplies to enhance the experience,” she says.

The equipment would be used by her 10th through 12th grade human anatomy and physiology, biology and advanced placement biology classes.

“This would put them ahead of the game and they would get the best experience I could give them,” she explains.

Her students also support her cause.

Jaylen Manuel says, “I like using microscopes because I like to be able to use my hands with the stuff we’re learning.”

Another student, Kristen Haynes also absorbs more knowledge with hands-on experience. “Labs were my favorite part of biology and I learn better by seeing actual examples,” she says.

Tucker says she heard from school officials that her request, sent by email, is circulating throughout the community.

Of course, she appreciates that teachers like her have a new way to raise money and it gives her more funding options.

“I feel like I’m starting to get support from the community,” she says.

So far, she has raised about $100 of the $1,210 she needs to buy the microscope. The website, linked to her Facebook page, will allow her to continue raising funds until October.

“I’m really happy with the donations so far,” she says.