Mike Westbrook, who passed away of a heart attack on Jan. 19, had worked for Portage (Mich.) Public Schools since 2002. Photo courtesy Portage Public Schools

Mike Westbrook, who passed away of a heart attack on Jan. 19, had worked for Portage (Mich.) Public Schools since 2002. Photo courtesy Portage Public Schools

PORTAGE, Mich. — A school district here announced that the longtime head of its transportation department died of a heart attack while shoveling snow on Saturday.

Portage Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bielang released a statement on Sunday afternoon to notify parents that Mike Westbrook had passed away.

The statement said that very few other details were known at the time, and that the district “will need time to process and mourn this loss.” Westbrook’s staff members and bus drivers were told about his passing, and “we would ask to give them your understanding and support during this difficult time," Bielang added in the statement.

Bielang also said in the statement that Westbrook’s work “impacted every student who rides a bus” within the district, and that he was "masterful at the logistics of creating bus routes," which were essential in getting students to and from school and other events safely and on time.

“He often went out of his way to make sure students with special needs or circumstances were cared for so they arrived at school safely and comfortably,” Bielang added.  

Westbrook was also a key contributor to the logistics and coordination required to transport students around the county for programs such as Employment for Education, Employment for the Arts, Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center, and other cooperative programs, Bielang mentioned in the statement.

“Mike will be greatly missed,” Bielang said. “He was an outstanding individual who cared for his staff, drivers and was dedicated to the more than 5,000 students who ride the bus every day. Please keep his family, friends, and coworkers in your thoughts.”

Before his work at Portage Public Schools, Westbrook, 51, worked as a school bus driver and then as a scheduling assistant for Kalamazoo Public Schools for 13 years, according to his obituary.

Staff members Westbrook worked with had a chance to get together and process the news of his passing on Monday because school was canceled due to inclement weather, said Michelle Karpinski, community relations manager for the school district.

“He was very well admired among the bus drivers,” she added.  

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