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
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
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
“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
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
October 20, 2005