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Dr. Jennifer Tong

Walk a Mile with Me: Students with Mental Health Issues
Friday June 8 - 11:00am & 1:45pm

Jennifers Pic

All across the country, children and youth are experiencing mental health issues. These issues can seriously affect a child's ability to reach his or her potential. In Canada approximately 1 in 5 people experience mental health or addiction problems and approximately 70% have their onset during childhood or adolescence. These problems cause much distress and can impact the way these students act at home, at school, with their peers, and in the community, yet mental health of students is often overlooked in schools. How should we respond to this critical issue as Catholic educators?

We recognize, as Catholic educators, that our students are created in God’s image and likeness and we must care for them accordingly. Therefore, we are compelled to provide equitable and inclusive educational opportunities to promote healthy social and emotional development for all children and youth in our care.

Participants attending this session will have a glimpse into the world of children and youth in our Catholic schools who have mental health issues. The session will discuss how we can and should respond to our students through the lens our Catholic perspective. The practical issues of the cost of financial and human resources to Catholic schools/school districts to support students with mental health issues will also be addressed.

About Dr. Jennifer Tong 

Jennifer has been involved in Special Education both in public and independent schools for over 30 years. She began her career as a classroom teacher and shortly thereafter became a district teacher for students with learning disabilities. With the movement towards full integration, district classes were disbanded and Jennifer continued working as a learning resource teacher supporting both high and low incidence students. In 1995, she was hired by the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese (CISVA) as their Special Education consultant and is currently the Director of Learning Support for the CISVA. Jennifer has been instrumental in developing policy and practices in Special Education for the CISVA and had implemented a variety of programs and support services. She regularly coordinates and provides professional development for teachers, administrators and support staff.

Jennifer received her B.ED., M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia. Jennifer’s current research focuses on Special Education policy and students with behaviour disorders and mental illnesses. Other areas of interest include inclusive education, early intervention, transition planning, and students with behaviour disorders and mental illnesses.

Jennifer has been involved with many professional organizations including, but not limited to, the BC Council of Administrators for Special Education (BC CASE) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). She has participated in and chaired many committees at the local, provincial, national and international levels throughout her career. She has served on various advisory committees at post-secondary institutions and well as for the BC Ministry of Education.

Jennifer currently resides in Vancouver, BC with her husband and is the mother of two adult children. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her children and family.


Strategies in Negotiating Successfully with Government
Friday June 8 - 11:00am & 1:45pm

Non-profit organizations must be exceptionally creative if they wish to procure a hearing with senior government bureaucrats or cabinet ministers on important issues that have a financial impact on the organizations. In fact, it is as much of an art as it is a skill. This session will review two recent cases where independent schools in British Columbia were successful in negotiating with government. The first involved property tax exemption for Catholic as well as other non-profit independent schools, protecting the sector from a potential $7 million in annual property taxation. The second involved negotiating proportional funding for independent schools from the classroom enhancement funds provided to the public sector after the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favour of the BC Teachers Federation in 2016, which contested the BC government’s removal of class size and composition clauses from the public sector collective agreement in 2002. These negotiations resulted in $23 million in additional operational funding for Group 1 and 2 independent schools in BC.

How was the Federation of Independent School Associations in BC (FISA) able to secure a legislative change to protect independent schools from property taxation? What lobbying strategies were implemented that led to guaranteed property tax exemptions for independent schools?

How were independent schools able to secure proportional funding from the Supreme Court of Canada ruling against the BC government in the BCTF’s struggle to return class size and composition agreements to their 2002 negotiated contracts with public school boards?

This session will highlight specific strategies that have been successful in negotiating with government on issues that could otherwise have had significant financial consequences on BC’s independent schools.

About Dr. Peter Froese

Peter has been involved in public and independent school education for the past 35 years. He began his career in the public schools of BC where he worked as a teacher, vice-principal and principal for 22 years. Four of those years were spent with the Canadian Department of National Defense in Lahr, Germany, where Peter administered a Middle School.

From 1997 - 2010, Peter was employed at MEI as Superintendent, one of the largest independent schools in British Columbia with an enrolment of approximately 1600 students.

Peter holds a BA degree from University of Winnipeg, an MEd in Educational Leadership from the University of Victoria and an EdD in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of British Columbia. He has also taught graduate level courses in educational leadership at UVic and UBC./


At the present time, Peter is the Executive Director of the Federation of Independent School Associations in British Columbia where he also serves as the vice chair of the Board of Directors for the BC Council on International Education. He is a member of the Innovation Partners Working Group, established in British Columbia to support public and independent schools in developing innovative practices to support student learning.

Peter is a former counselor with the BC College of Teachers and an inspector for the Ministry of Education for independent schools in BC and China. He is married to his wife, Ruth, and has two adult children, both of whom have completed doctoral degrees. Peter and Ruth enjoy spending time at their log cabin, which they built on Ruth Lake in central BC.



Norm Letnick

Advocating for Change from a Provincial Government

Friday June 8 - 11:00am (English)
Friday June 8 -  1:45pm (French)

norm letnick

There are many pathways to success when advocating to government for change. Norm Letnick will share some of his experiences and observations on what may be effective and what may not. A Question and Answer period will be provided.

About Norm Letnick

Norm Letnick is currentlFriday June 18 - 10:45am 1:30pmy serving his third term as MLA. He has served four years as the Minister of Agriculture, chair of B.C.'s standing committee on health, vice-chair of cabinet's committee on the economy, as a member of the Treasury Board, and the Legislative Review Committee.

Norm served on Kelowna city council from 2005-2008, Banff town council from 1992-1998, on the St. Charles Garnier Parish council, as secretary/treasurer of the Banff Shine Club, chairman of the Catholic Banff Hospital Board, founding president of the Banff Housing Corporation and president of the Kelowna Gyro Club. In addition to being a member of the Kelowna Rotary Club, Norm volunteers for many service organizations in particular the food bank, the Gospel Mission, and Inn From the Cold.

Norm owned four small businesses, specializing in computer programming and taught for nine years at Okanagan College mostly in the IT area. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a Rhodes Scholarship nomination from the University of Calgary, a Master of Business Administration degree from Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh, and is currently working toward the completion of a PhD with UBC. 1st Session (English)


Blaine Melnyk & Sheri Onushko

International Students in Your School. Why Bother?
Friday June 8 - 11:00am 


As the presence of international students have become a factor in many of our schools; we often ask about the impact of hosting these students.  Obviously, the financial benefit is well documented, however, what are the other reasons for hosting international students?  What is the impact within the classroom and the school community?  Do international students add to the culture of the school or do they take away from it?  In a mixed media presentation from the perspective of two different international coordinators, we will discuss these issues and many more in an open and interactive environment. 

About Blaine Melnyk

Blaine Melnyk has been in education for over 20 years. He started as a teacher in Saskatoon, then tried Arizona for a bit, before settling in one of the most beautiful areas of the world (Kelowna). After seeing a few international students each year at his school, all with generally no support, he proposed to develop and market a “boutique” international student program in a small school environment. This program would be created with an emphasis of creating a culture of internationalism and global engagement within the school. He focused on the building of healthy relationships between all stakeholders in order to create win-win situations along the way.

He is married, and has two active children. In his efforts to lead a balanced life, Blaine is passionate about mountain biking and cyclocross racing along with his family.

Sheri school pic 2017About Sheri Onushko

Sheri Onushko has been active in the field of international education for the past 20 years. She got her first taste of international travel by taking a position as an ESL teacher in Korea after graduating from UVIC. It was during this year in Korea that she developed both a love for Kim-chee and for travel! Since that time she has been involved in curriculum design, coordinating homestay programs and developing international education programs at the elementary and high school levels. She has lived and worked in Korea, Australia, Bahrain and Taiwan. All of these experiences have led her to her current position as Director of International Education at Island Catholic Schools.

After moving from Grande Prairie, Alberta where she was born and raised, she now lives in Victoria, BC with her husband, two sons and two dogs. Her family is very active and play all kinds of sports, especially soccer, which can be played year-round in Victoria! As the presence of international students have become a factor in many of our schools; we often ask about the impact of hosting these students. Obviously, the financial benefit is well documented, however, what are the other reasons for hosting international students? What is the impact within the classroom and the school community? Do international students add to the culture of the school or do they take away from it? In a mixed media presentation from the perspective of two different international coordinators, we will discuss these issues and many more in an open and interactive environment.


Danny Brock

Catholicity Ain’t What It Used to Be: Lessons for the New Evangelization from the life of a high school Religion teacher
Friday June 18 -  1:45pm


Danny Brock came to Canada from New York to serve in the Frontier Apostolate with Bishop Fergus O’Grady OMI. Danny has taught high school Religion and directed youth retreats in Canada and the United States for over 25 years. He has a master’s degree in pastoral ministry and is currently Coordinator of Religious Education at Saint Andrew’s Regional Catholic High School in Victoria, BC. He is the author of Teaching Teens Religion (Novalis), Catholicity Ain’t What It Used to Be (WestBow), and the editor of I Met God Today (St. Mary’s Press).

In this secular post-religious culture, students come to us with a ‘holy-longing’ for the sacred. Danny will share stories, insights and practical ideas to show how a faith-friendly culture can be created in our high schools.