By Andy Sevilla
Counselors and staff were available Tuesday at Barton Middle School to help students mourn the loss of an eighth grade teacher and coach, Michael Russo.
Russo died Monday afternoon after a short illness, according to Hays CISD officials, though no further details surrounding his condition were made available.
“We got some very sad news shortly before the meeting started,” Hays School Board President Robert Limon said before beginning Monday night’s meeting. “We learned that Barton social studies teacher and coach Michael Russo passed away this afternoon after a short illness.”
Russo joined Barton Middle School in 2008, and Limon said he “was a much-loved figure on campus.”
Barton Middle School Principal Teri Eubank told school parents in an email Monday night, “This afternoon, we lost a dear faculty member, Coach Michael Russo. … He touched many lives each day here at Barton.”
When the Hays Free Press broke the news of Russo’s passing, many of his students’ parents offered their condolences and expressed his impact on kids’ lives on social media.
“Both my boys had Coach Russo for football and as a teacher,” Diane Mitchell Johnson posted on the Hays Free Press Facebook page. “He was a wonderful person to not only the kids and school but to the community.”
Krysti Pyle posted on Facebook, “He coached my son last year. We can not believe this news. He was such a stand up guy and will be missed. Praying for his family.”
The Hays school board began its meeting with a moment of silence to honor Russo Monday night.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his students, his colleagues and his family,” Limon said before beginning the moment of silence.
In 2013, Russo, along with other adult chaperones, ferried 36 eighth graders from Barton Middle School to Washington D.C. and then to New York City. The group spent five days visiting historical and monumental sites in both cities.
“Coach Russo helped students see the world with his summer trips to Washington DC-NY Trip,” Starr Cruz wrote on Facebook. “… My heart goes out to his wife and family. RIP Coach Russo.”
Funeral details were not available by press time.