School District Leaders in Mental Health Convene in Northern Virginia for AASA’s Mental Health Summit

May 08, 2023


James Minichello

Gathering to Fuel Ideas and Solutions on Behalf of the Wellness of School Communities Nationwide

Alexandria, Va. – May 8, 2023 – AASA, The School Superintendents Association, in partnership with the Cook Center for Human Connection and The Jed Foundation (JED), is pleased to host the AASA Mental Health Leadership Summit, May 10-11, drawing K-12 champions of mental health and wellness to the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Va.

District leaders will gather to explore the latest data, research and trends around the mental health needs of students and school communities across the country. Attendees will also discuss wellness strategies and participate in action-oriented group activities to ensure they walk away with next steps to bring back to their home districts.

“A catalyst behind the success for our students largely depends on ensuring that our school systems effectively address the mental health disparities in our school communities,” said David R. Schuler, executive director, AASA. “Bringing some of our nation’s foremost thought leaders in public education together will provide us with opportunities to reimagine what it means to lead, learn and grow while maximizing best practices around this key topic in our society. We are grateful to the Cook Center for Human Connection and The Jed Foundation for partnering with us in our summit.”

“A catalyst behind the success for our students largely depends on ensuring that our school systems effectively address the mental health disparities in our school communities,” said David R. Schuler, executive director, AASA.

“Superintendents are leaders not just in their schools, but in their communities, and by prioritizing mental health for their families and coming together to discuss this important issue, they can create a positive impact beyond their schools,” said Anne Brown, president and chief executive officer, Cook Center for Human Connection.

“For those of us in the mental health and education space, our mission is the same: we want for every student to find connection and care within their school community and be equipped with the tools they need to succeed, even if they are struggling,” said Rebecca Benghiat, president and chief operating officer, JED. “We’re deeply honored to be working with AASA and the Cook Center for Human Connection as we strengthen the ability of district leaders to provide evidence-based interventions that best support the mental health of their students and school communities.”

Many superintendents and other administrators attending are part of AASA’s new Mental Health Cohort, which builds on the organization’s “Live Well. Lead Well.” campaign to connect district leaders committed to serving the mental and general health of each other, their staffs and their communities.

The summit’s keynote speakers will include:

(May 10)

  • Kortne Edogun-Ticey, senior advisor, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education
  • Bernadine Futrell, deputy assistant secretary, U.S. Dept. of Education
  • Andrew Hoffert, assistant superintendent, Wilson (Pa.) School District
  • David R. Schuler, executive director, AASA
  • Dan Simons, founder and co-owner, Farmers Restaurant Group
  • Lauren Smith, chief health equity and strategy officer, CDC Foundation

(May 11)

  • Dan Bridges, superintendent, Naperville (Ill.) 203 Community Unit School District
  • Jordy Sparks, director of diversity, equity & inclusion, Oceanside (Calif.)  Unified School District

The summit comes just a month after JED and AASA announced an exclusive partnership to create a multi-year initiative to develop and deploy a comprehensive approach to mental health and suicide prevention for school districts. The District Comprehensive Approach will provide PreK-12 school districts across the nation with an evidence-based framework—combined with expert support, best practices and data-driven guidance—to protect mental health and prevent suicide for millions of students.

District and school leaders interested in participating in a focus group as part of the JED/AASA program can click here for more information.

“We are thrilled to partner with AASA on the creation and national implementation of this critical framework to reduce suicide and support student mental health,” said Benghiat.

Last October, superintendents and other administrators met in Provo, Utah, where participants were fully engaged and expressed their eagerness for more information, more opportunities to gather and more resources. Many superintendents and education leaders felt well-being is crucial for the on-going academic success of our students.

Click here to view the photo gallery from the Mental Health Leadership Summit in Utah.

“Even before the pandemic, we saw growing needs around mental health across all groups of people. The pandemic accelerated an already-growing problem, which is why this summit is critically important,” said Paul Imhoff, AASA past president and director, government relations, Buckeye Association of School Administrators (Ohio). “If we’re going to fulfill our mission of educating our students, we have to make sure our students and staff are well physically and from a mental health perspective.” 

Visit the AASA website for additional information. Superintendents and other educators can also contact Mort Sherman, senior associate executive director, AASA Leadership Network, at, or Debbie Magee, director, AASA Leadership Network, at


About AASA
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