Be a Mental Health Trailblazer

Are you a pre-K–12 senior district leader dedicated to improving the well-being of your students and community? By participating, you get to be part of a comprehensive mental health program designed to meet the critical needs of all learners.

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District Comprehensive Approach

teacher helping students in the classroom

The District Comprehensive Approach (DCA) is a transformational program from JED and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, that guides districts to enhance systems of support for the emotional well-being of pre-K12 students. Based on JED’s proven approach to preventing suicide and improving student outcomes, the DCA is an evidence-based framework that combines expert support, best practices, and data-driven guidance to protect mental health and prevent suicide for millions of students.

Thank you for your interest in the District Comprehensive Approach (DCA) program. Applications for the 2023 cohort are closed. For more information and further updates, sign up for additional information below.DCA SIGN UP

Why It’s Needed

  • In 2021, more than 40% of high school students said they experienced persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Almost one in five students made a suicide plan.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 34. 
  • Suicides in students ages five to 11 has risen 15% every year over the past decade.

Schools play a critical role in supporting student mental health and reversing these trends but may not have the resources or training to take on this monumental task before them. 

By joining our inaugural cohort, you will be at the forefront of learning and leading powerful practices to benefit your staff and students, and you will play a formative and pioneering role in reinventing how schools help students thrive across the country.

Timeline and Commitment

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  • Overall, this commitment involves four years of planned work.
    • Year one: pre-planning, data gathering, and strategic planning.
    • Years two to four: technical assistance support.
  • Pre-work: Two to three hours per month of pre-work from August to December 2023.
  • Gatherings: 
    • One full-day kickoff during the second semester of the 2023-24 school year.
    • Three additional convenings spread across 2024-25 and 2025-26.
    • District individuals are covered by The Jed Foundation.
  • Implementation phase:
    • Four to six hours of deep strategy and implementation work per month throughout the duration of the program.

When will I be notified of the status of my application?

  • All applicants will be notified electronically of their application status in July 2023 by a member of the AASA/JED DCA team.

How many leaders from my team can commit?

  • Your district leadership team can include as many participants as you would like (typically between five and 10), but our capacity for gatherings is limited to two representatives from each participating district.

Inaugural Participation Benefits Include:

  • By participating, you get to be part of a comprehensive mental health program designed to meet the critical needs of all learners.
  • As a member of our first district cohort, all program fees will be waived since you will provide critical feedback throughout the process that will inform, improve, and ultimately shape a nation-wide program to best support student mental health.
  • Expert Insight and Technical Assistance. Each district will be supported by professionals in education and mental health who understand the challenges administrators face. Their mission is to support and build your district’s capacity to achieve your goals. Your success is their success.
  • Data-Informed Actionable Plans, Customized to Your Community. No two districts are the same, which is why the DCA will begin with a thorough evaluation of your district’s strengths and student mental health needs. We will then partner with you to create a strategic plan to efficiently and effectively enhance what is already working and innovate to address unmet needs and create a safety net specific to your students.
  • Best Practices to Enhance Your Policies, Programs, and Resources. JED is at the forefront of school mental health and suicide prevention. With JED’s expertise, participating in the DCA will allow JED to help you make informed decisions and enhance policies, programs, and resources with insight into clinically reviewed and peer-informed best practices.
  • Access to an exclusive peer-learning space to meet, collaborate, innovate, and implement with other district leaders facing similar challenges
  • Exclusive Professional Executive Networking Opportunities with other district leaders and high impact community partners



Your District Comprehensive Approach Team of Experts

Mort Sherman, Senior Associate Executive Director of the Leadership Network at AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Mort Sherman has more than 30 years of administrative experience in raising academic standards, closing achievement gaps, and uniting stakeholders. He has served in public education for more than 40 years, including 25 as a public-school superintendent. Now serving as the associate executive director of the leadership network at AASA, Sherman is responsible for programs that support aspiring and sitting superintendents. Recent initiatives include the creation of the AASA Collaborative, the Urban Superintendents Academies in cooperation with Howard University and the University of Southern California, the Personalized Learning Cohort, and the Aspiring Superintendents Program.


Sherman’s service includes eight years as a superintendent in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where he was a founding member of the Southern New Jersey Standards Initiative and the Delaware Valley Minority Achievement Consortium. Sherman was superintendent for South Orangetown Central School District in New York for five years; superintendent and principal at the Norwich Free Academy in Connecticut for four years; superintendent in Tenafly, New Jersey; and assistant superintendent in Westport, Connecticut. He began his career as a middle school and high school English teacher.

As superintendent of the Alexandria City Public Schools in Alexandria, Virginia, from 2008 to 2013, Sherman helped implement significant improvements, including academic plans for secondary students, professional learning plans tied to student outcomes and the district strategic plan, an International Academy for English Language Learners, revised professional evaluation systems, introduction of AVID and IB, the creation of Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Centers, a school-based health clinic, and a pre-K initiative.


Ann Levett, Assistant Executive Director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association

M. Ann Levett, a Savannah native and proud product of its public schools, was appointed superintendent of Savannah Chatham County Public Schools (SCCPSS) effective June 1, 2017, after serving as the deputy superintendent and the chief academic officer of the district. Immediately prior to returning to SCCPSS, she served as dean of the school of education at Middle Georgia State College.

Prior to her tenure at Middle Georgia State College, Levett served as executive director of the School Development Program (SDP), a national school reform program at Yale University School of Medicine. In addition to coordinating SDP’s school university partnerships across the U.S. and its territories, Levett led reform efforts in Dublin, Ireland, and Rennes, France. She also consulted on significant community development projects in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and several major U.S. cities. In October 2007, she was appointed to the board of education for New Haven Public Schools in New Haven, Conn. She also served as a board member for two charter schools in New Haven. Upon returning to Georgia, she held several key positions at the state level and maintained her positions in several national and international organizations.

Levett earned a Bachelor of Science degree in speech and language pathology from Armstrong State College in Savannah after completing most of her studies in education at Savannah State College. She also earned master’s degrees in special education and public administration, and an education specialist degree in educational administration from Georgia Southern University.

Levett earned her doctorate in educational administration at the University of Georgia in 1992. In addition to her formal studies, she participated in leadership development programs at Harvard University, Yale University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Delaware, the University of California San Diego and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Prior to working at Yale University and Middle Georgia State College, Levett served as chair of the master’s in educational leadership and principal licensure programs at Antioch University McGregor in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She moved to higher education after spending more than 20 years in public education in the positions of interim superintendent, deputy superintendent, assistant superintendent, secondary principal and special education teacher.

Levett also served as a National Review Panelist and Site Visitor for the U.S. Department of Education’s National Blue-Ribbon Schools (National Schools of Excellence) program for more than 12 years. She is a speaker for state, national and international conferences, and she operated as an educational consultant for school districts, community organizations, universities and other entities. Levett created and conducted leadership development academies for principals, aspiring administrators and parent leaders in addition to programs designed to address behavior management issues and special education concerns. She also wrote as a reviewer for two major education journals, The Journal of Negro Education and The High School Journal.

Paul Imhoff, District Comprehensive Approach Pilot Expert Consultant

Dr. Paul Imhoff retired in December 2022 as the superintendent of Upper Arlington City Schools after 10 years in the Ohio district, and he began his new position as Director of Government Affairs for the Buckeye Association of School Administrators in January.

His administrative experience in public education has spanned over 25 years, including as superintendent of Mariemont City Schools and assistant superintendent in Madeira City Schools, both in Cincinnati.

He was the 2021/2022 President of AASA, and was named the 2018 Ohio Superintendent of the Year.

Tony Walker, Senior Vice President of Academic Programs at The Jed Foundation

Dr. Tony Walker serves on JED’s executive team – a national nonprofit that serves as a thought leader on school mental health and youth suicide prevention. JED works within higher-education institutions and pre-K–12 schools and districts to help leaders build systems that promote more positive mental health outcomes for youth.Walker leads JED’s Academic Programs team, supporting the implementation of JED’s programs and best practices for comprehensive school mental health and suicide prevention programming across our nation’s education landscape.

Before joining JED, Walker served as a leader at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute in his home state of Texas, contributing to public policy discussion on matters of school-linked mental health and leading a consulting team and portfolio of projects within the state’s 1,200 school districts and over 200 higher education institutions related to mental health programs and best-in-class student services.

Walker previously worked in multiple roles in public education, including as a teacher, school counselor, and, most recently, as an executive district leader of student support services at Uplift Education, a high-performing network of schools dedicated to providing excellent educational opportunities to more than 23,000 students in North Texas. Founding this work at Uplift in 2011, Walker established and supervised five large departments servicing 44 schools, including counseling services, social-emotional learning, student discipline and restorative practices, prevention programs, and strategic community partnerships. Under his decade of leadership, Uplift developed and implemented one of the largest school-based mental health systems in Texas, allowing students and families direct access to licensed mental health clinicians in every school, robust SEL experiences, in-district family therapy services, and a full array of other wrap-around programs and supports.

Walker is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified School Counselor, and holds a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Missouri, a master’s degree in counseling, and a doctorate in counselor education and supervision from Texas Tech University. His research interests include leader coaching and mentorship, wellness programming, school-based mental health program development, and mental health crisis response across pre-K–12 and higher education systems.

Jennifer Reed, Senior Director of School and District Programs at The Jed Foundation

Jennifer Reed is a professional educator and Licensed Professional Counselor with more than 15 years of experience and expertise in supporting the social, emotional, and mental health of students through strategic systems and program development. Before joining JED, Reed was the Director of Strategic Education Initiatives at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, where she supported the growth, development, and implementation of innovative new school mental health programming across K-12, higher education, and other partners across Texas. She previously served as Director of Clinical Services in the Mental Health Services department in Dallas ISD, where she led the nation’s largest comprehensive school mental health program. Reed’s multifaceted career has advanced collaboration between schools and strategic partners in identifying solutions to improve service delivery and ensure equity in access to high-quality school-linked mental health care to students and families.

Reed is a first-generation college graduate and reflects her family’s South Texas Latina roots in her hard work, dedication, and passion. She has bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and human development and family sciences from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in counseling from the University of North Texas. She is also a Licensed Professional Counselor working with families and adolescents experiencing a variety of concerns.

Michelle Mullen, Senior Vice President and Chief Design and Impact Officer at The Jed Foundation

Michelle Mullen is an adaptable, versatile leader with nearly 20 years of experience in independent research, program design, evaluation, and implementation. She pairs her formal training in implementation science and commitment to equity through participatory action and stakeholder engagement to inform all aspects of her work, from designing interventions and programs to evaluating impact. Her areas of expertise are mental health, young adult services, young adult career development, and enhancing academic persistence in college students. At JED, Mullen leads a multiple disciplinary team to implement and evaluate programming focused on improving help seeking and help giving, enhancing mental health, and preventing suicide among teens and young adults in schools and other key settings.

Mullen is also a researcher in the Department of Psychiatry at UMass Chan Medical School. Her research focuses on career development of young adults, standardizing complex interventions to better support college students with mental health conditions, and evaluating the effectiveness of various educational supports to enhance persistence of college and high school students. Mullen received her master’s degree from Boston University and her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.


About AASA, The School Superintendents Association AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to equitable access for all students to the highest quality public education. For more information, visit

About The Jed Foundation JED is a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. We’re partnering with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention programs and systems. We’re equipping teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge to help themselves and each other. We’re encouraging community awareness, understanding, and action for young adult mental health.

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