New principal gets the ball rolling

Demetrius Ball is Cal High’s third leader in the last five years


Judy Luo

New principal Demetrius Ball waves to the crowd during Cal’s annual homecoming parade.

From his beginnings of playing college football to then serving in the Army, now-educator Demetrius Ball is getting the ball rolling for 2022-23 as Cal High’s newly appointed principal.
Although many know Ball through his three years as principal at Iron Horse Middle School, he’s had a much longer history in education.
As a junior in high school, Ball was inspired to become an educator by his own principal, who he said supported him from seventh grade through high school.
“I wanted to help students feel the way she made me feel, like I belonged,” Ball said.
Ball was able to gain first-hand teaching experience in a fifth grade classroom while participating in his high school’s iQuest program until he was recruited to play football at West Point, the United States Military Academy.
From there, he spent five years on active duty in the field of artillery for the Army while pursuing his master’s degree.
After serving in the Army, Ball pursued his teaching dreams in Tracy and Oakland before heading to Baltimore and Howard County in Washington, D.C., until he arrived in San Ramon.
Once in the Tri-Valley, Ball became an assistant principal at Dougherty Valley High before transitioning to principal at Iron Horse. Now, as Cal’s third new principal in five years after former Principal Megan Keefer’s three-year run, Ball is excited for the new environment the school has to offer.
“I’ve been super impressed with how respectful our students are, how supportive you are of each other, and how you’re taking care of our school,” Ball said. “And the staff is great too.”
During his time at Iron Horse, Ball built strong connections with his staff, including new Principal Marissa Norris, who was his former vice principal.
“Mr. Ball pretty much, you know, took me under his wing and was just teaching me how to do this admin thing,” Norris said. “One of the things that I admire about him most is that he’s so down to earth, and he’s cool, calm, and collected in every situation.
“I’ll walk up to [Mr. Ball], ‘I got a random question’ and he’s like, ’Okay, random question, what is it?” Norris added. “He’s always there to support.”
Ball impressed district staff during the hiring process with his visions for Cal, his respect for students and families, and his passion for the field of education. Melanie Jones, the district’s executive director of human resources who helped with the hiring process, said Ball stood out to her since he was already involved in the district.
“One thing that stands out to me is that [Mr. Ball is] a member of the community,” Jones said. “And the fact that his own kids are going to be going through our schools I think is reflective of his level of commitment.”
During his very first week as Cal’s principal, Ball’s introduction came with several new controversial changes to school rules. These included restricting access to the parking lot during school hours, prohibiting DoorDash, and strictly enforcing bathroom visits.
“I wanted to kind of establish a baseline set of parameters and structure, so that we are making sure that the most important thing we do in schools – teaching and learning – that those things were able to happen,” Ball said, “Given the opportunity, I’d probably go back and you know, maybe communicate that more prior to instituting them.”
In response to feedback from the community, including a brief student walkout on Aug. 21, Ball reopened the main building and Fine Arts building for lunch and adjusted the rules to allow students without fifth or sixth periods to stay and eat lunch on campus.
”From the standpoint of not just an administrator, but someone who works on campus, and you know that ultimately, student safety is your responsibility, he’s just doing what makes sense,“ Norris said.
Despite some community pushback against his initial policies, Ball is enthusiastic about making Cal a comfortable environment for all students. With upcoming teacher-planned lessons, student productions, and new extracurricular activities, Ball is looking forward to what the school year has in store.
“Having the opportunity to be part of a journalism class, or being in a club, being part of the band, being part of the drama program, being exposed,” Ball said, “I think it’s key that we provide those opportunities for students to find their space.”
As principal, Ball thinks being present is one of the most important contributions he can make on campus. He wants to be seen as approachable and supportive to all students regardless of decisions he makes. He asks that others share their comments and concerns openly and with mutual respect to him and any other administrators.
“I like how present he is,” assistant principal Jeff Osborn said. “He’s out and about. He’s out before school, after school getting into classrooms, which is something administrators have always been trying to do.”