Van Deusen takes over as South Eastern superintendent

In his first stint as a superintendent, Nathan Van Deusen has stepped in to lead South Eastern School District.

South Eastern Superintendent Nathan Van Deusen sits in his office, ready for the 2019-20 school year. He began a three-year term at the district July 1.

"I think he brings a consistency of leadership style," said school board President James Roberts. 

Former South Eastern Superintendent Jeffrey Hughes retired at the end of June. He created trust with the board and teaching staff. That's something Van Deusen said he hopes to continue..

Van Deusen will serve a three-year term, which began July 1 with a yearly salary of $145,000.

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Though a first-time superintendent, Van Deusen said he felt prepared from his tenure at Cocalico School District — about an hour northeast of York — where he was elementary principal for 10 years and assistant superintendent for three years.

Dealing with challenging situations involving students, parents and teachers, "it kind of refines you by fire," he said.

Van Deusen  holds a doctorate in administrative teaching and learning from Walden University, a master's degree in administration from Towson University and a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Messiah College.

He was chosen out of 16 candidates in a "very extensive" interview process and had the qualities the board and leadership team were looking for, including a background in finance and curriculum, Roberts said.

He wore "a lot of hats" at his previous district, overseeing areas such as special education and athletics, which Roberts said is unusual for an assistant superintendent.

"Special education in the state of Pennsylvania requires someone extremely knowledgeable," he said, so hiring him was a "no-brainer." 

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Van Deusen's day begins at 3:45 a.m. in West Lampeter Township, Lancaster County for morning exercise, and when he's not at the district, he's spending time with his wife, Stephanie, and three boys; Benjamin, 15, Ian, 13, and Jack. 11.

In his new role, he will be committed to issues such as keeping taxpayer burden low — which he said the school board has managed to do in recent years with no tax increases — and focusing on trauma-informed practices for students.

"My goal is to make the South Eastern School District a student-centric district," he said, meaning it would meet the needs of the whole child.

The district already has emotional support classes and learning programs, a social worker and school psychologist, as well as the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support program, he said.

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Roberts added that consistency in curriculum, managing expenses as families stay in the district with no new influx of students, school safety and remaining competitive with other districts are other pressing issues at South Eastern.

Keeping mandated costs low alsois a concern, though out of the district's control, Van Deusen said.

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Reducing cyber charter costs, which are increasing while the number of students is not, while also providing more academic accountability for those schools, is important, he said.