Westwood school chief readies to call it a career

‘What we’re offering at Westwood right now is second to none for a small district.’
— Supt. Ernie Minghine

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — Ernando Minghine said last week that this year would be his last as the superintendent of Westwood Community School District.

Minghine, better known as “Ernie,” will retire effective July 1, bringing to a close a three-decade run with the district that included stints as an educator, an administrator and most recently, eight years as superintendent.

He began his career in 1970 with Livonia Public Schools, where his penchant for project-based learning – and ambition to pursue those opportunities – had him on track as a budding star educator.

There, Minghine helped institute programs for at-risk students that would serve as pillars to a career built on engaging what he calls the “disenfranchised” children, or those who otherwise would have fallen through the cracks of a system not suited to their educational needs.

There he also was introduced to what would be a recurring theme throughout his tenure as a public school administrator: the seemingly annual budget cuts.

“Every year I was getting pink-slipped,” Minghine said. “Every year I did get called back, but here I was young, married, a newborn – actually two newborns at that time — and there was an opportunity for an administrative position in Westwood that the (Livonia) superintendent recommended me for.

“And of course the rest, as they say, is history.”

Minghine was interviewed and hired by former Supt. Equilla Bradford and began working in Westwood as the assistant principal at Robichaud High School. From there he went on to a long run as an assistant superintendent under Bradford.

When chronic illness forced Bradford to lighten her workload in 2000, Minghine became something of the acting superintendent, attending to many day-to-day functions that she couldn’t.

When Bradford retired in 2002, the “acting” was dropped from Minghine’s title and he became the full-fledged executive of the roughly 2,500-student district.

In eight years at the helm, Minghine has been instrumental in several initiatives that officials say have helped to improve student achievement. The acclaimed Cyber High School program, started last year, has given hundreds of at-risk students an alternative to conventional classroom learning through a Web-based curriculum.

Westwood is the only district in the state to offer such a program, Minghine said, and already enrollment has swelled to 540, with another 150 students on a waiting list.

In the same vein, Minghine helped forge a partnership with Ombudsman Educational Services, a private educational company specializing in innovative teaching practices, to provide yet another alternative learning environment geared to nontraditional learners.

And shortly after his retirement, this fall, Westwood will become one of only five districts in Michigan to have a New Technology High School, a project-based learning curriculum with a focus on smaller class sizes and, of course, technology.

“I’m not saying that everything we’ve done has been the ultimate,” said Minghine, who also brought to the district K-12 foreign language classes in Mandarin. “But I think we have a really competitive K-12 curriculum, and what we’re offering at Westwood right now – with the innovations and so on – is second to none for a small district.”

Once retired, Minghine said he plans to spend more time with his family and engaging in hobbies that he hasn’t been able to pursue during his career. Tops on that list is a tour of Major League Baseball spring training camps.

“I have a son in Phoenix, Ariz., and a sister in Ocala, Fla., and I told them both, come next year, I am going to do the spring training circuit,” he said. “I’m going to go to Arizona and do spring training with my son, and then I am going to go to Florida to see my Tigers.”

Westwood officials currently are in the process of finding Minghine’s successor and hope to have a new superintendent in place when his retirement becomes official.