HOLMES BEACH -- Principal Tom Levengood couldn’t stop the tears from forming after reading a letter he recently received from a parent of a former student.
Parent Marie Gentle heard Levengood was retiring from the Manatee County School District after 35 years. She met Levengood as her son Aaron’s elementary school teacher. Now, Aaron is 29-years-old.
“He’s just an awesome, awesome man,” Marie Gentle said about Levengood, who currently is principal of Anna Maria Elementary. “He made Aaron stick to a project.”
A career educator, Levengood’s last day as principal of Anna Maria Elementary School is June 23. He has worked in nearly every grade at elementary schools throughout the district. He’s served as an assistant principal. For the last 16 years, he’s been principal at Anna Maria Elementary on Holmes Beach and Bayshore Elementary schools. Over the years, he has worked under the administration of at least six different superintendents.
“I can’t believe it’s been 35 years. All in Manatee County,” Levengood said with a hearty laugh, one of his trademarks.
In his classroom days, Levengood would decorate his room with whatever the students were learning. A study of the rainforest would find his room decorated with macaws and other animals found in the region.
“We tied everything into what we were studying,” Levengood said.
One of his high points came while teaching first grade for seven years.
“I knew if they were reading at the end of the year, it was because I taught them,” he said.
Another career high included facilitating the construction of the new Bayshore Elementary School. But, his most precious time, he says, has been his 4 1/2 years at Anna Maria Elementary School.
“This is definitely the highlight of my career,” he said. “This is truly a community school. The support we have here is incredible.”
Area service groups helped the school “practically double the budget,” Levengood said. Without their support, “we would be struggling -- trust me,” he added.
Levengood, with his wife Becky, have raised three children: Kyle, Kari and Amy. Becky, who worked as an educator before retiring two years ago, takes care of their grandchildren: Kallee, Ryland and Logan. Levengood speaks of his love for his children and grandchildren much like he shares his appreciation for his students and parents. A motto decorating his wall says it all: “Children are not things to be molded. But persons to be unfolded.”
“I’m going to remember how close he is with all of us,” student Emma Moneuse, 11, said.
School board member Barbara Harvey said, “He is a dedicated educator who has prioritized his life with his family, his faith and his profession. He’s a strong part of the fabric of Manatee County schools. And he will be missed.”
Three area principals are vying for Levengood’s post. They are Samoset Elementary School Principal Scott Boyes; Orange Ridge/Bullock Elementary School Principal Doug DuPouy and Blackburn Elementary School Principal David Marshall.
“I would be pleased with any one of them,” Levengood said.
Tuesday evening each of the three candidates met parents and teachers at Anna Maria Elementary. The reports from last night will eventually be sent to Superintendent Tim McGonegal.