May 24, 2001 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

La Grande High School principal Jeff Kleck announced Thursday that he will resign next month to pursue a new career.

Kleck is concluding his third year as principal at LHS and his 23rd year as an educator.

I appreciate what he has done for La Grande High School, said Jerry Sessions, school district superintendent. We wish him well on his new career.

Klecks resignation is effective June 25. He declined to discuss details about his new career opportunity. Kleck, however, does plan to remain in La Grande. His wife, Tammy, is a secretary at Central Elementary School

Jeff Kleck said that he has enjoyed working with young people throughout his career.

I have enjoyed watching kids grow and become successful young adults. I will miss them, the principal said.

Central Elementary School Principal Bruce Kevan, who earlier was an assistant principal at LHS, said he enjoyed working for Kleck.

He was always looking to the future and trying to figure out how to make things better. That is what made him fun to be around, Kevan said.

LHS athletic director and assistant principal Verl Miller also spoke highly of Kleck.

He was outstanding to work for. He gave me great pointers whenever I had trouble, Miller said. He always supported everything I was doing.

Miller credits Kleck with playing a key role in changing La Grande High Schools class schedule. The change reduced the length of classroom periods in the schools block schedule and added a period each day.

It (the schedule change) was needed to better serve the students at La Grande High School, Miller said.

Assistant Principal Jim Boen credits Kleck with doing a lot to improve campus security. Kleck made a point of having LHSs administrative team visible during breaks between classes.

In addition Kleck and other administrators made a point of roaming the streets around the school and talking with students to make sure everything was all right.

He has a good rapport with kids, Boen said.

Athletic director Miller said Kleck played an important role in getting La Grande High School moved to the 3A classification from 4A in September. La Grande has enjoyed enormous success on the state level after moving to 3A, which is for smaller schools with 301 to 824 students. Miller said that a presentation Kleck made to the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) in Wilsonville was pivotal in getting LHS moved to 3A.

Miller also credits Kleck with helping obtain funding to improve the high schools outdated weight room. It is now considered among the finest at the 3A level, he said.

Kleck came to LHS after serving as principal of Grant Union High School in John Day for three years. He came to John Day from Hermiston High School where he taught biology for six years. At Hermiston, Kleck was the high schools nominee for Oregon Teacher of the Year.

Klecks move to La Grande was a homecoming of sorts since he is an Eastern Oregon University graduate and started his career in the community. He taught at the old Valley Christian Education Center in La Grande for three years in the early 1980s and then became attendance officer at La Grande High School, serving from 1984-85.

Jeff has a big heart, Miller said. If he had any fault it was that he didnt let people know what a big heart he had.