Whenever we experience a turbulent or uncertain time, we look for someone to ground us, steer, and guide us as we stay on course.
For the WRDSB, Bill Lemon has been the guiding force that has helped us navigate welcoming our students back safely and managing Covid-19.
Lemon, superintendent of student achievement and well-being, in addition to his regular portfolio that includes healthy schools, critical events response, and mental health, is the lead for managing Covid-19 cases in our schools.
“When I became a superintendent, I never expected to manage this type of work,” said Lemon. [Editor’s note: To be fair, no one ever expected they would be managing this kind of work.] With no training in community health or the medical field, Lemon’s Kinesiology degree from 1991 is coming in handy. “I have learned a whole new language and got to work with some incredible people at Region of Waterloo Public Health.”
The WRDSB has always had a strong partnership with Region of Waterloo Public Health, but COVID-19 has increased our cooperation and created stronger relationships. “Bill is a great champion for COVID-19 response with schools and tremendous support to Public Health efforts to manage COVID cases and prevent the spread,” said Jessie Johal, manager of COVID-19 case and contact management at Public Health. “Bill has created a very streamlined approach of notification of cases to Public Health and actioning dismissals to ensure that once the case is reported, the outreach happens within 24 hours, and usually within hours.”
COVID doesn’t take a break at the end of the workday or on weekends, and neither does Bill Lemon. He organizes meetings with school administrators and necessary central staff at the WRDSB to review case details and outline the next steps, seven days a week. These steps include ensuring cleaning is coordinated, and families receive the necessary information they need.
While humbled to be named a WRDSB Champion, Lemon is quick to point out that he is not the only person that schools rely on when a COVID case is confirmed. “There are many people across our organization supporting this work,” he says. “When we support a school dealing with a positive case or an outbreak, departments pull together to make the best of the situation.”
Making the best of the situation is a quality that’s needed when helping others through a potentially stressful time. Lemon’s attitude and sense of humour have helped administrators and staff remain calm and feel reassured. The team at Public Health also appreciates Lemon’s perspective, “His calm and responsive approach has been instrumental,” said Johal. “Especially during surges when Public Health resources are not as available. He has been there to mobilize in different ways to support during a surge of cases. It feels like Bill is a part of the Public Health COVID-19 team. He pivots and rises to the occasion to ensure the health and well being of our school communities.”
Through every case meeting and phone call, Lemon’s priority remains our students’ and staff’s safety. “When you boil it down, this work is really about maintaining confidence in public education,” he says. “Families need to be confident that our schools are safe.”
“Every day, our administrators and staff are keeping our schools safe during a pandemic. Every day they are also providing a learning environment for our students,” says Lemon. “Alone, these tasks are mighty, combined, they are heroic.”
We can say the same about Bill Lemon.