He came from Alabama with intentions of being an assistant principal after eight years of leading Northview High School in Dothan. But after stints at two local schools, David Hopson decided he wanted to run a school again.
And what better place to do so than almost literally in your own backyard? As he nears his one-year anniversary at Grayson High School, Hopson can't think of a place he'd rather be.
"This is my community," said Hopson, who lives less than a mile from the school. "I've never had that (proximity) in my career in anything I've done.
"I love this community. I'm part of a school I'd choose over any other school. I'm just where I want to be."
I got to spend some time with Hopson last week during the Principal For A Day program, and it didn't take long for his immense pride in Grayson to show through. I hadn't been to the school in a long time, and much has changed since Grayson was a brand-new school almost a decade ago.
Grayson has grown into a huge place. It's hard to believe it's been around for nearly 10 years, and there's much to be proud of, from its top-ranked football team and top-notch athletic program to its strong academic and arts curriculum to the technical school that caters to all county students.
I enjoyed touring the school and meeting the students and teachers. But what I like most about opportunities like this is the interaction between those people and the principal. Endlessly upbeat, Hopson had kind words for everyone he passed in the hall, and that attitude continued on to lunch, where we were joined by distinguished guests.
Hopson had invited Jack Britt and Roy Couch to eat with us. Couch is president of the Grayson High School Alumni Association, and Britt has been a huge part of that group, even building the trophy cases that you see when you enter the school. They are graduates of the old Grayson High and they feel a strong bond with the new school.
Hopson encourages that bond and enjoys hearing Couch and Britt tell stories about Grayson and the way Gwinnett County was when they were students. These guys are the very definition of "old school."
"Everybody here knows these guys and loves them," Hopson said.
Just as he tried to connect the old with the new through Couch and Britt, Hopson is doing the same within the walls of his school. Grayson is no longer the new kid on the block, and it's no longer run out of a trailer like it was when it first opened. It has grown into an impressive place, a school that is a factor both academically and on the playing field.
Some have been around to personally see all of that change. Thirty-six teachers have been at Grayson since it opened, and they will be honored Dec. 6 when the school hosts its 10th anniversary party. It will be quite a celebration with much reminiscing.
Hopson will be thinking about the old days, too. But like all principals, his focus is on the future and how far his school can go. Judging by my recent visit, the future looks very bright.
E-mail Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.