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  Thomas Klepper

Principal dies of heart attack

By Neil Nisperos/Staff Writer

Tom Klepper was a hands-on kind of principal who mingled with teachers, visited classrooms and made an effort to know the names of his students.

The Vandenberg Middle School principal died early Wednesday morning at his home of an apparent heart attack, leaving an entire school district in a state of shock and mourning.

An educator since 1980, Klepper, 52, had led VMS for the past three years. He is survived by a wife and three children.

“I'm in classrooms every day,” he told the Record in March during a Principal for a Day event. “I want to go out there and see the kids and know their names.”

Klepper first came to the Lompoc Unified School District in December 1982 as a substitute teacher. He was a teacher at Lompoc Valley Middle School from 1984 to 2000, and served as principal of Cabrillo High School from 2000 to 2002 before transferring to VMS.

A USC alumnus, Klepper had a love for Trojans football and decorated his office with Trojans memorabilia. His love of sports extended to the after-school faculty basketball game, said Doug Baker, a sixth-grade VMS teacher.

Faculty and administrators from VMS and throughout the district expressed sadness and shock at the news of Klepper's death.

Baker said the faculty have taken the news “really hard.”

“Whenever something unexpected happens like this it has a tendency to hit hard,” Baker said. “I've been teaching at Vandenberg Middle School for 15 years, and Tom was one of the most supportive administrators. He was always able to talk to teachers and when we needed something he would get it for us. I think he understood it was his job to make sure we could do our job.”

LUSD Superintendent Frank Lynch said the last time he saw Klepper was on Tuesday at the district office.

“I'm just in shock,” Lynch said. “It happened so suddenly.”

Lynch said Klepper left Vandenberg Middle “in very good shape academically.”

“He always had a big smile; he loved doing what he was doing very much and he was in love with working for the kids,” Lynch said.

Lindsey Taylor, a teacher at Fillmore Elementary School, worked with Klepper when he served as a summer principal at Lompoc High School in 1994.

Lynch said district officials visited VMS on Wednesday to discuss the situation. For the time being, former Superintendent Ann Gary will act as principal until a permanent replacement is found, Lynch said.

“It's a great group out there,” Lynch said of the VMS faculty. “We met with them this morning ... School activities are going to go on as usual. That's what Tom would expect.”

Neil Nisperos can be reached at 737-1056, Ext. 1059, or nnisperos@lompocrecord.com.

October 20, 2005


Alpha Tau Omega at USC