For Ernest Cerda, this summer hasn’t been much different than past summers. He’s been relaxing, helping his brother Art take care of his parents and riding his bike.
But when school starts Aug. 24, you won’t see Cerda in the hallways at North Dallas. He retired from the district in June.
“It hasn’t hit me yet because I’m used to being off during the summer,” said Cerda, a Class of 1967 NDHS graduate. “It feels like a summer break.”
Cerda said he started looking into retirement when he turned 66 in February.
“Was it time?” he asked. “Yeah, it was time.”
Cerda has been working as an administrative assistant at North Dallas for nine years, but he started as a volunteer in the library during the 1991-92 school year. One of his proudest moments was being named Volunteer of the Year by the DISD in 2003.
During his 20-plus years at the school, his activities included starting the NDHS Booster Club, taking photos at the school and numerous events, and coaching the tennis and golf teams.
“It’s tougher as you get older,” Cerda said. “In today’s coaching world, you can’t do like in the old days. To give 110 percent, it takes a toll. There’s more to coaching than just teaching.”
Danny Linn, ND Class of ’64 alum, said he has known Ernest and Art since high school.
“[Ernest] has been the go-to guy for the Booster Club and Alumni Association for many years and most of all for the school,” Linn said. “That’s why he received a Volunteer of the Year award that is still displayed outside the library of North Dallas High School.
“I know he will be missed around the school during normal school hours, but I suspect we’ll continue to see him supporting the students and staff.”
When asked about his memories at ND, Cerda said it was building the tennis program from six girls and four boys in his first year to eight girls and eight boys the next season.
“I think that first year in team tennis, we didn’t have a full number,” he said. “That concerned me. I said next year, we’re going to have seven and seven.”
ND went on to win three consecutive tennis team titles and five spring district titles, but it was the first team tennis title that Cerda will remember most.
“We had a lot of depth, and they were all just as good,” Cerda said. “I knew we were going to win, and they did exactly what I thought they were going to do. They were highly motivated kids.”
Cerda has enjoyed working with the ND student athletes. His third memorable moment was Marzia Mazzeo, his top player and an exchange student from Italy, defeating the top player from Kimball for the district title.
“When she told me, I was totally speechless,” Cerda said.
The North Dallas girls golf team under Cerda’s guidance, also won a district title in 2014.
“Ernie had some of the strongest relationships with his athletes that I’ve seen at North Dallas,” yearbook adviser Ryan Davenport said. “His tennis players competed with a sense of honor, and quitting was not an option. After school you could walk by the copy room to find a half-dozen kids in the copy room carrying on with Mr. Cerda … and then there were other times when a student would be caught in his maroon wingback chair getting some much-needed life coaching.
“As a teacher, I always appreciated how helpful Ernie was. To say he was dedicated to North Dallas High School would be an understatement. It will be hard for us to find a devotee to take his place. However, Ernie modeled for all of us — students, staff, faculty and coaches — what it means to put others before ourselves.”
When he attended North Dallas, Cerda said he played football and threw the shot put in track and field. After graduating from ND in ’67, Cerda spent two years at El Centro, and he also took up tennis, hitting balls and playing at Cole Park. Then he joined the U.S. Army, and served in the Vietnam War. When he returned after two years, he started selling sports equipment for Wilson in April 1971. In the mid-80s, he started playing golf.
He started the Booster Club in the mid-1990s, selling caps and T-shirts. He worked with parent Steve Lyons in early 2000, before turning over the club to its current leadership.
“He cares for the kids and will do anything to help promote goodwill,” said Gil Sandoval, vice president of the Booster Club.
During his time in the library, Cerda said was able to research the history of North Dallas. Cerda is also known as the official – he says “unofficial” – school historian.
His research and work with Sheri Manning (Class of ’63) led to an historical marker with the city, and eventually an historical marker with the state. The marker is in front of the school.
“Coach Cerda is going to be truly missed at ND, not just from a coaching standpoint, but being in that copy room every day,” said Brian Barnett, the school’s athletic coordinator. “Ernie was a tremendous resource for all of us, students as well. His contributions to our golf and tennis programs will be a hard act to follow.”
Cerda said he enjoys riding his mountain bike every day, spending about an hour riding to Reverchon Park or Spence Junior High. So far, he said he’s almost run over a bird and two squirrels.
“I’m taking one day at a time,” he said. “This retirement thing is just another day.”