Dr. Hernandez takes on huge role


Esteban Serrano, Lead Editor

Along with the many changes brought to this school year, perhaps the biggest one yet was the change in principals. Stephen Walswick had announced around Christmas time last year that he would be leaving Central Catholic to head back home to Southern California. With his departure, came a new principal. Dr. Lee Hernandez, a graduate of St. Mary’s University, is now the current Principal of Central Catholic.

Dr. Hernandez was born in Germany because of his dad being in the Army at the time. Until he was three, his family moved him down to San Antonio. He then moved again with his family to Abilene, Texas, before moving back to his second home to attend St. Mary’s. His Ph.D is in Educational Leadership.

“It was a pretty strenuous process,” Hernandez says on the road to him landing this job. “When Mr. Walswick sent out a letter to the community regarding that he’d be leaving at the end of the school year, a number of folks that I worked with and have worked with immediately encouraged me to apply.” Those people had seen his work previously, and told him that Central would be a good fit for him. “I wasn’t looking for a job at the time,” he says. Although, this wouldn’t be the first time he would be considered to apply for the principal position. He claims that the same year Walswick applied, someone had told him to apply, but he was hesitant and ultimately didn’t. “I hold Central Catholic with high regard and I didn’t think I was experienced enough to apply at that time,” he says.

The process included other things such as submitting a video to a committee. “It was probably one of the hardest things I had to do,” he says. “For eleven minutes of video, it took me six hours to shoot.” He continues, “The next step was to interview in front a panel that included teachers, parents, leadership from the campus, board members… so I got through that process and from there, it was no doubt to the other candidate and myself in which we had to interview with a group of students, met with the various leadership teams on the campus then ran a faculty meeting. After that, in April, we also had to do a presentation in front of the school board,” all of which Hernandez describes as a “long and difficult” process.

While at St. Mary’s, Hernandez said he met a lot of guys who are alumni of Central. In fact, he claims contact with most of them has not been cut off since. “What a lot of alumni talk about is ‘the brotherhood.’ I experienced that first hand- anything I ever needed, they were there. Phone call? They were there,” he says. “Just seeing those connections and life-long relationships, it’s really is what stood out to me.”

Hernandez says on a more academic-based look, he is also very impressed with Central’s, as a whole, performance in the classrooms and beyond. “The National Merit Scholars, the athletic scholars, the Robotics team and the success they’ve had… There’s been a lot of things I’ve been able to see from a distance what makes Central. And to be able to be apart of that is huge.”

As for the community, Hernandez takes a deep dive into what his students and even parents can expect from his leadership throughout the year. He says a priority that is vital to his success, is relationships. “Really working on just the cultural aspects of the campus, how we interact, how we communicate.” He continues, “People see me out and about in the hallways, and really making those connections with folks. Kind of getting back to having those intimate relationships with people, really being connected to the community with regards to their (students) needs… What we can provide in order for them to cross that stage, fully confident in who they are as an individual and what they have to add to any organization or institution.”

One characteristic that Central is well-known for is tradition. This ranges from Section R to tailgates, and the old Alma Mater song to ethics in and out of the classroom. Hernandez was asked if he thinks there is a burden on his back with tradition- he says definitely not. “Education doesn’t look the same as it did twenty or thirty years ago,” he says. “I don’t see it as a burden, but as positive. Everywhere you go they have traditions- traditions that we say are sustainable. There’s just some things that you don’t get away from, because it creates that foundation for who you are as an institution.”

Dr. Hernandez explains that he is excited to work with both students and teachers throughout the rest of the year. Hernandez also explains that a transition through former Principal Stephen Walswick was a “blessing” to him. Apart from things like his signature “Fangs Up” hand gesture with students, (originally used as a mascot symbol at St. Mary’s University) and his desire to keep Central’s tradition alive while making new ones, Hernandez is confident and looking forward to having fun this school year.