Mental Health Awareness: A Top Priority at California’s San Ramon Valley Unified School District

May 21, 2024

On the eve of Mental Health Awareness Month, nearly 150 school system leaders from across the country were able to get a firsthand look at the wide-ranging scope of work underway to support student well-being at the San Ramon Unified School District (SRVUSD) in Danville, Calif.

The three-day Mental Health and Social and Emotional Learning Summit was held last month and hosted by AASA, The School Superintendents Association and SRVUSD.

John Malloy addressing group
San Ramon Valley USD Supt. John Malloy: “Positive mental health for our students and our community is an absolute priority.”

“Positive mental health for our students and our community is an absolute priority,” said John Malloy, superintendent, SRVUSD. “Post COVID we know that there are challenges that we have for our kids that we have to face. Kids can’t learn effectively when they don’t feel well. That is what is driving our work.”

SRVUSD was proud to highlight the student experience through a variety of classroom and school visits, and student and staff panels showcasing the work throughout the district.

“It is a priority for district leaders throughout this country to be focusing on this important issue, which is why an opportunity to come together through this summit is so important. It was an honor and privilege to serve as host site,” said Malloy.

“We are all here to learn and grow together,” said Paul Imhoff, AASA past president; AASA Mental Health Cohort co-lead; director, government relations, Buckeye Association of School Administrators, Ohio, at the summit kick off. “The work we are doing is not an individual sport.” Dan Bridges, superintendent of Naperville Community (Ill.) Unit School District and AASA SEL Cohort co-lead told the gathering, “You’re in a place where you’re among friends. You are here as a champion. We hope you leave here with some new tools in your toolbox.”

School visits during the summit included stops at Bollinger Canyon Elementary School, Charlotte Wood Middle School, Monte Vista High School, Vista Grande Elementary School, Stone Valley Middle School, San Ramon Valley High School, Quail Run Elementary School, Iron Horse Middle School, Dougherty Valley High School, and California High School. During the visits district leaders had ample opportunities to visit classrooms and wellness centers to experience how the district is supporting the mental health and social and emotional needs of students.

Students team building activity
An exercise in communication at Charlotte Wood Middle School. Students are assigned to build a house out of plastic cups without speaking.

“I appreciated looking at what their multi-tiered systems of support are for students who need extra levels of support, whether it be for academics, behavioral or social and emotional needs,” said Amanda Calhoun, assistant principal Ephrata High School, Ephrata Area (Pa.) School District. “This gave me a lot of ideas of what we are already doing and how to bolster them, such as here’s how we can gather data, here’s what we can do with that data and here’s how we can empower teachers to provide the most specific and targeted support based on individual student needs.”

Debbie Petish, executive director of curriculum and instruction at SRVUSD, who was deeply involved in organizing the Summit said, “We have systemwide expectations, yet we also ensure that schools have the autonomy to do what works best for their community. The visits allowed our guests to observe how each site nurtures student success and social emotional well-being.”

Attendees were energized by listening to the various panels comprised of students who shared impactful advice and commentary throughout the summit. “We have great teachers who care about us,” said one high school student. “A benefit of the wellness center is they have checkups and have sessions to make sure you’re fully ok,” shared another.

At this panel, high school students elaborate on their experiences with social emotional and mental health support services at their schools.

During a panel comprised of middle schoolers, one student advised attendees, “It’s important to have, like, freedom. Not too much of it but not too little of it,” said one student. Another followed with, “These privileges motivate us to do better because we know the teacher has the ability to take the privileges away.”

SRVUSD is one of 15 school districts nationwide recently named to participate in the District Comprehensive Approach pilot, a transformational program administered by AASA and The Jed Foundation (JED) that guides districts in improving systems of support for pre-K-12 students' emotional well-being. Inaugural district cohort members will be at the forefront of learning and leading powerful mental health and suicide prevention practices that will benefit both staff and students.

“Our district’s strategic direction focuses on social and emotional well-being as a driver for effective learning,” said Malloy. “When we are focused this way, with this kind of energy, it almost elevates our practice. It allows us to do that much better work for our students and that’s why we and all the districts that are here are very committed to this work.”

Click here to read A Journey Toward Connected Leadership: Reflections from the AASA Mental Health and SEL Summit, a blog authored by summit attendee Tricia Mooney, superintendent of the Hermiston School District 8R in Hermiston, Ore.

Click here to view the photo gallery from the Spring 2024 AASA Mental Health and Social and Emotional Learning Summit.

Click here for more information on the AASA Mental Health Cohort.

Click here for more information on the AASA Social and Emotional Learning Cohort.

Click here to access the AASA Mental Health Awareness Month web page.

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


In the Fall of 2022, SRVUSD was designated by as a “Lighthouse” system to serve as models of positive change in public education as part of AASA’s Learning 2025 Network.