DCA District Spotlight: Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland

In March 2024, The Jed Foundation (JED) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, announced the selection of 15 school districts to participate in the District Comprehensive Approach (DCA) pilot, a transformational program that guides districts in improving systems of support for pre-K–12 students’ emotional well-being. 

In an ongoing series of blog posts, we feature each of the 15 districts and their work of learning and leading powerful mental health and suicide prevention practices that will benefit students around the country. 

Members of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)'s social workers unit.
Members of the social workers unit from Montgomery County Public Schools

District: Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in Maryland

Number of schools: 211

Number of students: 160,000+

About the district: Located just outside of Washington, D.C., MCPS is the largest school district in Maryland.

JED and AASA asked Damon Monteleone, associate superintendent of the Office of School Support and Well-Being, about what MCPS hopes to accomplish during its time in the DCA program. (Responses have been edited lightly for length and clarity.)

What is your primary reason for participating in the AASA/JED DCA inaugural cohort?
Over the last five to 10 years, MCPS has greatly expanded and enhanced its services, programs, and supports. The district has developed formal student well-being teams, assigned a full social worker unit to support all three school levels, implemented a districtwide restorative justice framework, partnered with outside agencies to provide direct therapeutic services for 68 schools, and enhanced our partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services so they have a permanent presence in our high schools.  

Our charge now is to create a cohesive, integrated framework so that all of our services and supports are aligned and data-driven to assess both need and impact. We envision that by partnering with JED, we will develop a comprehensive districtwide framework built upon the foundation of JED’s seven domains. 

Why is student emotional well-being a priority to your district and community?
Well-being and family engagement constitute one of the three pillars of the Montgomery County Public Schools’ strategic plan. We know that for students to achieve academic success, they must have a strong social-emotional foundation; feel safe, supported, and welcome at school; have positive and productive relationships with their fellow students, teachers, administrators, and school staff; develop the skills to manage their emotions; and know when and where to seek help if needed. Furthermore, students’ families must feel welcomed, be engaged, and trust their school leaders. 

What does participating in the DCA program mean for the well-being of your students and the culture of your district?
Optimally, participating in the DCA will provide MCPS with an opportunity to learn from experts in the field, be thought partners with other leading school districts, and implement research-driven, evidence-based practices to improve student well-being and mental health and increase positive academic student outcomes. 

How do you hope to move the needle in your district as it relates to mental health?
MCPS seeks to continue to dismantle the myth that mental health and well-being are addressed only when there is an issue, but instead that it is maintained. We envision being able to isolate and elevate what services, supports, and programs are currently working effectively for students, identify current gaps in our services, and develop data infrastructure to monitor our services in real time to better advocate for funding and programs moving forward. This will help us further differentiate resources, build staff capacity in this area, and provide accountability for the well-being of youth.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.