Assistant Director General,
Celebrates 25 Years of Service
at the LBPSB
by Julie Liebman
“It has been a pleasure working with a talented and engaged community that is committed to learning and education. I am privileged to work with such a wonderful team.”
With an impressive education in law and finance, Carol Heffernan started her career at the Royal Bank of Canada handling personal and business loans but didn’t feel as professionally fulfilled as she expected.
In 1996, the former Lakeshore School Board posted a position for an Assistant Director of Finance. Having just completed an MBA, Carol applied and as they say, the rest is history.
“The transition to the public sector really was more in line with my personal values. I have a finance background but wasn’t satisfied working in a purely corporate environment. I find the combination of public education and finance extremely stimulating and like to see the tangible impact I can make in the education sector.”
Celebrating 25 years of service: A female leader in a unique community
Much has changed in 25 years and more and more female leaders are in decision-making positions, sitting on boards, leading organizations, and making extremely difficult corporate decisions.
“Back in 1996, I could walk into a meeting being the only female in the room. In fact, a gentleman once asked me whose secretary I was. I like to think that this would never happen in 2021 and that there is more female representation in senior management,” she says. “Women bring a different type of leadership style to the table, and I’m honoured to be surrounded by so many inspirational LBPSB women.”
When asked how she raised four children while juggling a demanding career, she tells women to take some time to self-care. “Go for a run, a power walk, take some time for yourself and do something that makes you happy.” She also credits her supportive husband who understood her career obligations, which often include weekends and evening meetings.
Praise for her team and the LBPSB
Reflecting on what the most difficult thing about her job is, Carol is adamant. “By far, the biggest challenge is being forced to do a school closure. As leaders, we must look at the school board from a macro
viewpoint to ensure services to the LBPSB community. But we know it can be upsetting for families. Closing a school in the English community is extremely unfortunate and I always empathise with everyone this affects, from the students and parents to the teachers and staff,” she says.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic brought its share of challenges also.
“The pandemic confronted us with many unknowns, and we needed to act quickly and efficiently to protect our employees and students. Our staff really stepped up to the plate with courage and resilience at a time when there was tremendous uncertainty. Although the pandemic is still ongoing, I am extremely proud of everything we’ve accomplished in the past 20 months. We launched online learning, purchased more than 450 air purifiers, upgraded hygiene and sanitation protocols, and created outdoor classrooms. I am blown away by our teachers’ creativity and ingenuity.”
When it comes to giving back and mentoring others, Carol returns to her roots and says she enjoys working with the finance team.
“Understanding how a school board is financed is extremely complex and it takes a few years to build a solid foundation. It’s rewarding to see the progress the team makes every year.”
Finally, looking back, one of the things she is most proud of is the sense of camaraderie and dedication to learning that the LBPSB staff have.
“Over the years, I’ve realized that most of our workforce is in it for the right reasons. We are in it to serve our youth and adult students and that makes my job incredibly fulfilling.”