Michigan Transportation Director Dies of Heart Attack

Nicole Schlosser
Posted on January 22, 2019
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.  

Related Topics: Michigan

Nicole Schlosser Executive Editor
Comments ( 3 )
  • Mike Gwizdala

     | about 3 months ago

    Mike was one of the best. He had a passion for his drivers, kids, and the school bus that was incredible. He was always smiling and had positive outlook. He will be truly missed through out our state. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family, especially his transportation family in Portage.

  • See all comments
More Stories
Pam McDonald, president of CASTO, honored a male and female driver in the audience who have the longest school bus driving careers with crowns. Here, Donald Hain from San Marcos Unified School District takes his crown and accepts the title of "king" for the day.

PHOTOS: CASTO 2019 Highlights

Take a look at some of the speakers and sessions at the California Association of School Transportation Officials' annual conference. There was even a special appointment of school bus "royalty."

File photo courtesy John Horton

Keeping an Extra Eye on School Bus Safety

Although school buses are the safest form of transportation for students, it is heartening to see more attention being paid to keeping an extra eye on safety — for both students and drivers.

A Chihuahua who boarded a Texas school bus and refused to get off was taken to an animal shelter by police. Photo courtesy Austin (Texas) Independent School District

Chihuahua, Goat Board School Buses

The dog boards a Texas school bus, refuses to get off, and police take him to a shelter. Meanwhile, a goat makes a couple attempts to climb into a Utah school bus.

Be the First to Know

Get the latest news and most popular articles from SBF delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the school bus industry and don't miss a thing!