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Date of Issue: August 13, 2008

AME principal looks forward to a 'great year'

Anna Maria School principal Tom Levengood said he is looking forward to a great school year as his staff returns to work refreshed from summer break.

Teachers planned to return to campus Aug. 12 and find Levengood in the kitchen, whipping up a welcome breakfast with help form school guidance counselor Cindi Harrison and art teacher Gary Wooten. On the menu: apple, cranberries, pecans, blueberries and white peach variously combined in French toast.

Following the meal, Levengood was to meet with teachers to share his expectations for the upcoming year and then everyone was to prepare for the Thursday, Aug. 14, open house.

Students return to school Monday, Aug. 18.

Levengood said there are 301 students enrolled for the 2008-09 school year. “We’ve registered more students than we lost from last year. Enrollment is high in both kindergarten and fourth-grade,” he said.


Staff changes

New teachers have not been added to the staff, however, a few changes have been made. Levengood announced that second-grade teacher Katie Boesen resigned and, in her place, he rehired Lauren Waite, a first-grade teacher let go due to budget cuts at the close of the 2007-08 school year.

Waite will again teach first-grade.

Other teachers have made grade-level changes, including Jackie Goens, from fourth-grade to second-grade, and Becky Demo, from first-grade to third-grade.

Kristen Kerber and Wooten will share physical education responsiblities. In addition to teaching music to all grade levels, Kerber will teach kindergarten and first-grade gym.

Wooten will teach PE to the remaining grade levels in addition to continuing with the gifted program and art.


Reading exploration

Levengood said AME plans to continue with its book study group, which is optional for the teaching staff. With budget cuts came the loss of AME’s full time reading coach, but Manatee School District staff members Ruby Linda Zickasoose and Beth Seberson will step in to fill that void.

“The Art of Teaching Reading” by Lucy Calkins is this year’s selected book. Calkins works at Columbia University in New York and, according to Levengood, “She is known as the guru on how to teach reading.”

According to Levengood, both first-grade teachers Heather Nyberg and Waite independently planned trips to New York over the summer and took part in a workshop given by Calkins. Levengood said Nyberg attended a workshop on reading and Waite’s workshop focused on writing.

“Both teachers are very excited about sharing what they learned with staff,” Levengood said, “and I give them both kudos for taking the initiative to go [to the workshops].”


Auditorium face-lift

The school auditorium is no longer being left in the dark by the Manatee School District. Work has begun just prior to the startup of school to update its lighting and audio systems.

Levengood said new lighting being installed under the covered walkway leading from the main building to the auditorium will help with evening gatherings.

New auditorium lighting and dimmer controls are being installed and rewiring the auditorium will provide more power to the facility.

A control booth is being built in the rear corner of the auditorium, where all audio and lighting equipment can be controlled from a raised platform. Levengood said the new vantage point makes it possible to see the entire stage and will improve overall sound quality.

AME can say goodbye to the projector and milk-crate stand in the middle of the auditorium. The school can say farewell to the days of projecting onto a large cloth sheet, too, as the district plans to install a large screen and a ceiling mounted digital projector.

The stage ceiling has been raised so that no lights will be visible to the audience, the paneling on the front of the stage is being replaced and metal air-conditioning grates that no longer function will be removed.

And the stage floor has been resurfaced.

“The new stage floor is exciting,” Levengood said. “It’s not a brown chocolate mess. Underneath all that was a white oak hardwood floor.”

Finally, Levengood said, plans to install a public bathroom to serve the auditiorim and a portable runway to connect to the stage are still in the works.



On the first day of school, parents of kindergarten students should take them to their teachers, who will be awaiting them at the school auditorium. Levengood said that having parents of new students say goodbye at a central location and allowing teachers to lead their group of students to their classroom makes the process of starting school easier for the few students who are “criers.”

Also helping with the new transition, Levengood said, is early dismissal for kindergartners at noon during the first week.

School supplies pre-packaged for each grade level will be on sale at the open house starting at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14, and supplies will be available throughout the year from the Parent-Teacher Organization store in the caboose.

Finally, Levengood has scheduled the first AME School Advisory Committee meeting at 3:15 p.m. Monday, Sept. 8. The committee is open to parents and community members.

For more information, call the administrative office at 941-708-5525.