IRVING PARK — In conducting its first-ever principal search, the Local School Council of Disney II Magnet Elementary didn't have to look far. The council extended an offer to current interim principal Bogdana Chkoumbova, who gladly accepted the four-year contract.
"We have the person we want to be our leader," said Matthew Robertson, LSC vice chair, as he announced Chkoumbova as the council's choice at Wednesday night's LSC meeting.
Chkoumbova, 43, was caught by surprise, unaware principal selection was on the evening's agenda.
"I didn't know I could lose my job tonight," she joked.
It's been a quick rise for Chkoumbova, a native of Bulgaria, where she earned a bachelor's in education and a master's in special education and speech pathology.
She joined CPS in 2001 as a special education instructor at Chopin Elementary.
While at Chopin, she completed a master's in educational administration from Governors State University and later spent a year as a fellow with the Renaissance Schools Funds before being appointed to the Disney II post in January 2008.
Prior to this point, Chkoumbova had been serving as an appointee of Chicago Public Schools, not under a contract with the LSC.
Now that she's officially at the helm, Chkoumbova will not only steer Disney II Elementary but also a planned Disney II high school expansion, which was approved by the Board of Education in December and is slated to open in fall 2013.
She recently met with Chicago Board of Education president David Vitale to discuss needs and plans for the expansion.
"He assured me there will be a lot of support from the district," Chkoumbova told the LSC.
To date, that support hasn't extended to providing a home for the high school, the location of which is still to be determined.
Chkoumbova's preference is for the building to be in "somewhat close proximity" to the elementary campus at 3815 N. Kedvale Ave., which would provide more opportunity to share staff and facilities.
Her current focus is on curriculum planning for the high school, including exploring options for certificate programs in arts and technology that would marry college prep curriculum with real world skills and training.
As examples, she cited certificates in Adobe graphics design or culinary arts, which might focus on hospitality management or health and nutrition.
A team is also finalizing the enrollment process, news of which parents are eagerly awaiting. The high school will accept 250 students in its freshman class.
"Having a K-12 magnet school is new for CPS. There is no model," said Chkoumbova.
In investigating enrollment practices at other CPS magnet high schools, she's discovered that each one has a different strategy and criteria. While unsure of which model Disney II may follow, Chkoumbova knows what it won't do.
"I don't want to be selective enrollment where testing is required," she said.