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Eastern York's new superintendent drawn to district's 'close-knit community'
Eastern York School District's new superintendent is all about school community.
He's even standing in as a Harvard law professor in the high school musical, "Legally Blonde," this year.
"They heard that I like to be involved," Joseph Mancuso III joked, on being approached by musical advisers on opening day about the role.
"It’s important for me to support every activity that takes place at school, whether it be a chorus concert, a band concert, a fall festival ...” he said, adding that it's an important way to get to know students, parents and the community better.
Mancuso, 52, started as superintendent July 1 — and he was drawn to the district's "close-knit" community.
"The school district is kind of the hub, so to speak," he said, recognizing strong support of the district, at large, through attendance of events, pride in the schools and active involvement in parent teacher organizations and booster clubs.
Formerly assistant superintendent for South Middleton School District, in Cumberland County, about an hour northwest of Eastern York, Mancuso said this is also a new role for him — but one he embraces.
Mancuso is looking forward to new responsibilities — such as helping guide the district's vision and working more closely with the school board — and one skill he believes he will bring is building relationships.
"That’s the most important thing that you need to have," he said, "so that you can share ideas openly to continuously improve your organization."
Background: Growing up in Connellsville, Fayette County, Mancuso did not always aspire to work in education.
“Originally I was thinking about a career in, potentially, law,” he said, “but a lot of my experiences prior to that had been working with young people," often with a teaching component, he said, such as giving swim lessons or being a playground leader.
When he was injured playing football his sophomore year in college, he had the opportunity to become a student coach, which "further put me into a teaching environment," and that was enough for him to change his major.
Mancuso always had an interest in history and government, so he received his bachelor's degree in social studies education at Edinboro University.
His first teaching position was as a long-term substitute at then-Connellsville East Junior High School in 1989, where he also worked as assistant football coach, before moving into full-time coaching and teaching positions at Boiling Springs High School the following year.
After five years of teaching, he moved into leadership roles at the high school, as assistant principal for four years and principal for 15, before becoming assistant superintendent of that district for the last four years.
“I have to attribute that to people who have seen something in me that at times I don’t think I saw," he said of mentors who helped push him beyond the classroom.
Mancuso has two degrees in educational leadership — a master's from Shippensburg University and a doctorate from Widener University.
Sports fan: On his down time, Mancuso returns to his favorite hobby — sports.
He likes being outdoors, watching some of his favorite Pittsburgh teams such as the Penguins and the Steelers — for which he has season tickets — but mostly, he enjoys spending time watching his son and daughter play.
“My big hobby is just doing things with my family,” he said.
Mancuso lives with his wife of 28 years, Susan, in South Middleton Township, where he watches his 16-year-old daughter Brinn's field hockey games at Boiling Springs High School. His son Evan, 19, played football and basketball in high school and just started at the University of Pittsburgh.
Goals: "I have talked with everybody about my theme of listening, learning and leading in the district," he said, noting that his first priority is to see what works and look for areas of improvement.
Another reason he felt Eastern York was a good fit was its quality of programs.
“There were a lot of programs and practices in place that I felt aligned with what my mission and vision were educationally," he said.
For example, educators in English language arts at the elementary level are working to develop their own curriculum — a hybrid model using Chromebooks, along with traditional materials — and will soon be extending those ideas to math.
Other areas of success include student achievement and technology — with programs such as coding in place for K-5 — and Mancuso wants to support and enhance those opportunities.
He said he's always looking to improve safety as well, adding that ensuring students feel safe is "our No. 1 priority."
Above all, Mancuso is looking forward to working with educators "who are already doing a wonderful job" and focusing on “being better tomorrow than we were today.”