‘Stoss Boss’ announces retirement, reflects on career
By SHELLY WILKISON
It’s one of the nicknames that followed him for decades from the football locker room at Texas A&M University to the hallways of Liberty Hill High School.
Stoss Boss, or Stoss the Boss, is the perfect nickname for Robert Stoss, who at 6-feet 4-inches is a towering presence at LHHS.
But in some circles, Stoss is also referred to as Superman because of the resemblance to Christopher Reeves, who was perhaps best known for his acting role as Superman.
After seven years as Assistant Principal and 32 years in public education, Stoss announced earlier this month that he is trading the comforts of an office and his super-principal reputation for the wide open spaces of a Liberty Hill ranch.
Stoss, 55, is retiring at the end of the school year. He and his wife, Bonnie, are looking forward to spending time working on the ranch — mending fences, caring for livestock and enjoying the outdoors.
“I love being outside, working on fences and tending to the cows,” Stoss said. “I will miss being around the students and staff, but it is the right time (to retire).”
Stoss joined the high school administrative team in 2008 — a short time after Principal Bobby Mabry was hired. Stoss’ position was a new one created as the school began showing signs of rapid growth. Although a resident of the LHISD, Stoss came to LHHS by way of Georgetown’s 9th grade campus where he served as assistant principal. Before Georgetown, he was principal (1996-1998) and assistant principal (1993-1996) at Burnet High School.
Mabry said Stoss was a natural fit to watch over the ninth and tenth grades in Liberty Hill. He joined D’Onda Kristan on Mabry’s administrative team. Kristan oversees 11th and 12th grades.
“With his wealth of experience, I didn’t know if I could get him here,” Mabry said, remembering the day Stoss came to the school for a job interview.
Mabry said Stoss quickly became an integral part of the high school’s administrative team, and through the years has made an impact that will be long-remembered by co-workers and students.
“He is meticulous and professional, and most important, he sees the big picture of what we’re doing here,” Mabry said. “He is always looking out for the best interests of students. He is firm, but fair, and he always listens calmly to their side of the story. They (students) leave knowing that he listened to them.”
“I try to be as fair and consistent as possible,” Stoss said, but he admitted that sometimes his normally calm temperament turns to frustration.
“I have gotten mad, and raised my voice,” he said. “But for the most part, I try to stay calm.”
He said he becomes frustrated by the attitude of so many young people who take their education for granted.
“I tell them, ‘never in your life will you be surrounded by as many adults who care for you this much’,” he said. “Schools are fighting more to keep them in school, whereas before, these are the ones who would just drop out.”
Kristan and Stoss work closely together and their offices are next door to each other. She said her partner is very patient with students and refuses to let one of them slip through the cracks.
“He gives them every opportunity and is very patient,” she said. “We share a common goal and that is to get kids to graduate and get that diploma. A lot of times, a home situation gets in the way of that. We try to build a bridge to provide the students a safe place to be.”
“I think I come across pretty formal, and yes, the kids probably find my stature a little intimidating,” Stoss said. “But really, I like to have a lot of fun.”
Mabry said Stoss, who has become a personal friend as well as a respected co-worker, is a prankster.
“He has a dry sense of humor, and really is a prankster,” Mabry said, laughing as he recalled Stoss’ frequent use of sticky notes as a vehicle for the more comical communications. In most cases, it’s about an ongoing rivalry between their alma maters, he added.
While student discipline is a significant portion of his job, Stoss also supervises teachers and conducts regular classroom observations. He is also responsible for the custodial staff and building maintenance. When the campus opened in 2013, Stoss became the liaison with contractors and was a stickler for making sure even the smallest problem was quickly corrected.
“There are a few days without (discipline) problems,” he said. “But in my experience, these are the most well-behaved students.”
Looking back, Stoss said he began thinking about a career in public education as a high school student in Austin. He played football and was greatly influenced by his coaches and teachers.
Stoss grew up in unusual circumstances.
He and his older sister lived alone in an apartment near McCallum High School, raising themselves in the absence of their mother and step-father who lived in Saudi Arabia.
Stoss said a 25-year-old relative served as their legal guardian, but for the most part, he and his sister took care of each other.
“When I played football, my coaches looked after me. They and my teachers, and the football team became my family,” he said.
Stoss said when his step-father and mother moved overseas, he wanted to stay behind to play football rather than attend an international school in Saudi Arabia.
Upon graduation, he went to Texas A&M University on a full football scholarship where he played defensive end. During his college football career, the Aggies went to two bowl games. Today, his office is full of Aggie memorabilia, including a prized football helmet.
Although successful at football, Stoss blew out both knees at A&M, so playing pro was not an option, he said.
He started his teaching career at Cypress-Fairbanks where he taught US History and coached football and soccer. By age 29, he had earned a master’s degree in educational administration because he realized coaching was not conducive to raising a family. He said coaching required more time than he was willing to give.
Stoss and his wife have been married 32 years. They have two daughters — Heather and Shelby — both graduates of LHHS.
Stoss said he is looking forward to days with less stress, but admits he will miss the interaction with students and following their growth and success.
“I enjoy seeing the kids who were disciplinary problems in ninth grade go on to graduate,” he said.
Stoss said one student who was repeatedly assigned to alternative school for disciplinary infractions, then transferred out of district, returned to LHHS after some time and sought out Stoss to inform him he would be “staying out of the office.”
“And he did,” Stoss said with a smile, adding that the student successfully completed high school and went on to college.
“The kids love him,” said Kristan. “And I’m not looking forward to him not being here anymore.”