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Date of Issue: November 18, 2009

Time running out for Levengood

Levengood on short time at AME

Anna Maria Elementary School principal Tom Levengood didn’t realize three years ago when he signed up for the Florida Deferred Retirement Option Program how much he would enjoy his work at AME.

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Anna Maria Elementary School principal Tom Levengood at his desk.
Islander Photo: Kimberly Kuizon

Or that the time would pass so quickly, but he now has two and a half years to go before retirement.

The state offers DROP to its employees on completing 30 years of employment, or once they turn 62.

In the DROP program, employees receive their salary and retirement funds for five years, although they cannot reach into their retirement account until they reach full retirement age.

“When I reached the end of my 30 years my intent was not to join DROP. However, I was working at a more difficult school and if I had stayed there, I would have retired,” Levengood said.

Levengood was then working at Bayshore Elementary, a high-needs school. “I’m the type of person who has to focus on student needs, and I remember days when there would be lines of students sitting outside my office waiting for me with problems. I couldn’t turn any of them away, so I would work sometimes over 14-hour days,” Levengood recounted.

It has been close to three years since Levengood first entered the hallways of AME, and things have changed for this principal. “I wouldn’t have joined DROP, without a question, if I had been here,” Levengood said.

There is one ray of hope for those who are not ready to retire. According to state statutes, an employee such as Levengood can apply for a new position one month after his or her DROP date.

However, there are a few stipulations. Employees can not reapply for the position they once held. In Levengood’s case he can not reapply for the principal position at AME. Employees also can not be involved in the school system for one month. Volunteering is even out of the DROP equation.

“I have plenty I can do, just the end of 35 years have come quickly,” Levengood said. “I want to get the kids as far as I can get them before I leave,” he said.

Levengood’s retirement — his DROP — is set for summer 2011.