“I think students at large get a sense he’s connected to the school and it makes them feel connected to the school,” said Monica Wilke-Lewis, a special education teacher at the school and who knew Welsh when she was a Hoover Tornado in the ’80s. “More kids are involved and active, and see Hoover as their school and not just a school.”
It has been a challenge to get there, Welsh said, especially in the ’90s and in 2000. A spate of homicides and fatal car crashes shocked the school and surrounding community.
Two Armenian Americans were murdered in separate inter-Armenian disputes, one being shot near the Hoover campus and the other being stabbed in Brand Park. In May 2000, another student was killed in front of the school while trying to break up a dispute between Latino and Armenian students and gang members.
“In such a short period of time, we had those tragedies and violent deaths,” he said. “I was thinking about those kids that passed on since I’ve been here . . . I think I added a very stable factor to Hoover High School and the community over some very tumultuous years — social change, demographic change and issues that were difficult to look at.”
Incoming freshman were taken to Big Bear and Catalina for the next few years, trips that provided valuable healing for students and their families, Welsh said.
“It was like Moses coming off the mountaintop,” he said of the program that ended in 2004.
The role of the principal has changed too. Not only has Hoover, in Welsh’s time there, evolved from a system of co-principals, but the position has taken on new roles with the advent of standardization and accountability exams.