Throughout his career in public education, Mountain View High School Principal Dave Grissom said he never lost sight of his true passion: youth sports. And starting in July, he'll bid farewell to his job as a school administrator to pursue that passion full time.
Grissom started out as a business major, shifting gears to get a degree in history before teaching and becoming a principal at Santa Clara High School, and later Mountain View High in 2013. But underneath the education-focused career trajectory, he never strayed far from youth sports.
He coached football and baseball and, when the busy job of principal made those commitments impossible, his outlet became serving as a Little League Baseball umpire in Mountain View, Los Altos, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara. If residents throughout the South Bay recognize him or his name, Grissom said it's probably because of baseball.
Now 25 years into his career in high school education, Grissom announced that he is leaving Mountain View High at the end of the school year to become commissioner of the Central Coast Section (CCS), the organization in charge of interscholastic sports for 75,000 student athletes from San Mateo to San Benito counties. He replaces current commissioner Duane Morgan, who announced his retirement last month.
"The timing is just right. I'm very happy with what we've achieved since I've been here," Grissom said. "But it's time for me to look at other options. The commissioner's job doesn't come up very often."
Even back in the 1980s, Grissom said his interests have always been firmly rooted in athletics, which drew him to education in the first place. He said he loves seeing kids follow their passion for sports, not just students at Mountain View High but his own children as well. Though it's been his focus from the start, he said coaching had to take a back seat when he became a principal 13 years ago.
"When you get into high school administration your job is just too busy on a daily basis to allow you to coach," he said. "It's not manageable, to be perfectly honest. The amount of time you need to dedicate to students in athletics just doesn't allow you to coach."
The transition to CCS commissioner appears to be a natural fit. During his career as a high school administrator, Grissom has gradually risen through the ranks of the organization's governance structure starting by representing the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League before rising to CCS board member and finance committee chair, eventually landing his current role as CCS president.
During his tenure at Mountain View High, Grissom said he got the chance to see some extraordinary success stories among the school's sports teams. Girls soccer has transformed into a highly competitive team that ranks among the best in the entire country, with what he describes as a "hell of a pipeline" of talented young players. He said boys basketball under coach Kevin Mack has also been extremely successful clinching two CCS titles in just three years while the boys baseball team went on a strong post-season run to take its own title last year.
Former school board member Joe Mitchner, also deeply entrenched in youth sports, told the Voice that Grissom will be missed at Mountain View High, but that that his love for sports administration makes the opportunity to be CCS commissioner hard to pass up. Given his tenure at the high school and past role in CCS, Mitchner said he is exceptionally qualified to take up the torch.
"I think he'll be terrific in this new role," he said.
Having a principal like Grissom around, with a passion and experience in athletics, has been invaluable for the sports programs at the school, said Shelley Smith, Mountain View High's athletic director. He said the school's athletic program has shown consistent improvements every year, putting Mountain View on the map for high school sports amid steep competition.
"He was great for bouncing ideas off of and just general support if we had ideas and directions we wanted to go," Smith said. "It was a great sounding board."
The recent emphasis has been on finding and keeping solid coaches, Smith said, including new hires for basketball and baseball that have led both teams into CCS playoffs and victories. He said the stability of the coaching staff is probably the best thing that's happened for the sports programs at the school.
Outside of sports, Grissom described the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District as a resource-rich place where students are well served by an incredible confluence of support from the school board, the PTSA and high-quality teachers. The students are also extremely academically driven, taking on some of the most ambitious class schedules stacked with Advanced Placement (AP) classes.
"I'm so proud of what the district can provide our kids. This is such an incredible public high school the kids in this school and in Los Altos are so well-served and so well taken care of," he said.
Reflecting on his career, Grissom said it's amazing to see how swift advancements in technology have completely changed the way education looks and how high school students interact with one another. In just in the last five years, all students are expected to have their own Chromebook or laptop to work from at school, tapping into an online suite of Google apps to do assignments.
The meteoric rise in social media usage has also been staggering, he said, altering the landscape of how teens communicate.
"Our world moves so fast now," he said. "In some ways it's a little sad that it moves so fast that it's hard to catch your breath because you're on to the next thing."
District officials say the search for a new principal will likely launch in either May or June, and will include a candidate search based on feedback from staff, students and parents. Smith said he probably won't miss Grissom he'll be seeing him all the time when he's CCS commissioner but he worries that the transition in high school leadership could risk some of the amazing progress in Mountain View High's sports program.
"I don't want to lose that momentum in what we have," he said. "I certainly hope the selection committee and whoever is involved takes that into consideration."