Head of School at The American College of Sofia in Bulgaria
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Head of School
The American College of Sofia (Bulgaria)

Appointed - Richard Ewing
Mar 1, 2014
Mar 31, 2014

The American College of Sofia

Sofia, Bulgaria

Seeks a new Head of School

Effective July of 2015

ACS is an historic, highly selective, co-educational secondary school



General Description

The American College of Sofia (ACS) is a private, coeducational, college-preparatory school serving students in Bulgaria. It offers a curriculum providing its graduates access to universities in Bulgaria, the United States, the United Kingdom and many other countries. The College offers a five-year program and awards three high school diplomas, Bulgarian, American, and International Baccalaureate.

ACS is the second oldest American school outside the United States, tracing its roots to schools established in the 1860s. It was closed after World War II erupted, and its property was confiscated by the Communist government of Bulgaria. It was reopened in 1992 at the urging of its alumni and the governments of both Bulgaria and the United States. It now occupies, under a lease from the Bulgarian government, approximately one-third of the campus and most of the buildings it held before World War II. ACS is situated on 52 park-like acres on the slopes of Mt. Vitosha, eight kilometers from the city center.

In addition to its rigorous academic program, ACS is well known in Bulgaria for its personal approach to meeting the needs of its students and its wide-ranging extracurricular program. It is widely recognized as the best secondary school in Bulgaria.


ACS operates in seven large four-story buildings, constructed in the late 1920s and 1930s and designed in the classical style. Since 1992, all have undergone extensive renovation with the assistance of the U.S. Government. In addition, there are a large air-supported gymnasium, full-service cafeteria, 425-seat auditorium, 180-seat concert hall, three science labs, three computer labs, large library, small student dormitory (27 students), and four large villas, recently refurbished into 12 modern apartments, in which most of the international teachers live. The President's residence is the Floyd Black House (approximately 3500 square feet of floor space), a gracious building overlooking the campus, also extensively refurbished in the past two years. It contains a large living room, dining room, library, kitchen and half bathroom on the first floor and four bedrooms with three full baths on the second. Full utilities are provided. All five of the villas are nestled into the school's own small forest, and a large tree-filled park separates the villas from the school buildings. The President is assigned a school automobile. Shopping areas (including supermarkets) are within one kilometer of the campus, and Sofia has many good restaurants and cultural events.

In 2011, the America for Bulgaria Foundation (ABF) funded a comprehensive master-planning process led by an American architectural firm.  The result is a roadmap for extensive improvements to the campus.  In the fall of 2012, ABF approved a $6 million grant to build a Campus Center including a new library and new cafeteria.  The Board has approved the design and the ACS administration is applying for a building permit.

The College shares its pre-war campus with the Bulgarian Police Academy. As a result, the police patrol the gates 24 hours a day and restrict admission to those connected with or having business or social engagements at the College. The College also has its own security force that patrols the campus 24 hours a day.  


Mission Statement

The American College of Sofia is an independent, highly selective, co-educational not-for-profit secondary school. With English as the primary language of instruction, the College offers a rigorous core curriculum, enriched by an array of elective courses and extra-curricular activities. While the College's primary mission is to educate Bulgarian youth, it embraces qualified students of all nationalities, races and faiths in the belief that a wide variety of students will enrich educational opportunities for all.

The College integrates the values and best practices of American pedagogy with the rich educational traditions of Bulgaria and Europe. It aspires to prepare students to meet the most demanding criteria of any university in the world. The College enables students to develop critical thinking skills, participate in respectful exchanges of diverse opinions and become enthusiastic lifelong learners. In so doing, students will learn to demonstrate sensitivity to the global human condition and the environment, cherish democratic values, and become responsible citizens and leaders.


We believe that knowledge is both quantitative and experiential. The desire to learn is natural. Students learn by doing and explaining what they have learned. Learning happens best when there is cooperation between teacher and student and when the student's own interests and desires are respected. The most effective learning process is one that creates conditions for students to develop to their highest potential and guides them to a greater understanding of their place in the world.

The College promotes honesty, openness and excellence among its students, serves as a model for other learning communities, trains responsible citizens for leadership positions, remains abreast of the society's sociopolitical transitions, and acts as a bridge between the American and Bulgarian educational systems.

In an effort to expose our educational community to a more culturally diverse world, the College provides an atmosphere in which all points of view are explored, debated and respected. We encourage our students to expand their horizons through cultural and educational exchange programs.

To provoke a sense of the unique potential in all our students, we work actively to insure that all students are given a substantial base of knowledge that will enable them to think critically and creatively. We promote responsibility, honesty, discipline, independence, optimism and integrity. Students develop a love for learning as well as confidence in their own abilities. Furthermore, College students develop an appreciation and respect for other ideas, efforts and cultures. We believe that our students will leave the College instilled with the lifelong desire to better themselves as well as the world around them.

Students will gain a comprehensive understanding of the basic areas of knowledge, use this knowledge in critical and independent ways, obtain and analyze others' opinions, and be able to communicate them clearly and effectively in English and Bulgarian. They will be aware of society's needs and act selflessly in taking leadership roles in the community and in executing decisions.

The College provides students with a variety of learning experiences, both structured and unstructured, to promote active learning. Students acquire knowledge through being challenged to find their own solutions to problems, research and discovery in the outside world and exposure to experts. Knowledge can be gained through lectures, labs, workshops, class discussions, peer tutoring, leadership opportunities, elective courses and extracurricular activities.


ACS enrolled 702 students in school year 2013-2014, 97% of them Bulgarian. The others come from many countries ranging from South Korea to the United States.

Bulgarian students are admitted through a comprehensive admission examination given in Bulgarian to 7th grade students. Bulgarian students may apply after the 8th and 9th grade by taking the ISEE in English, completing an essay, and interviewing with a panel of educators. ACS is the school of choice for most Bulgarians who value high-quality education, so that its students are among the country's best and brightest. They achieve at very high levels. The average SAT I score of all Bulgarian students taking the SAT in SY 2012-13 was 1990/2400.

Non-Bulgarian students, mostly the children of diplomats and business persons, are enrolled on a rolling basis if they are proficient in English and have maintained at least a B average in their previous school. The International Baccalaureate Diploma is offered to them.

Almost all graduates go on to higher education. Many (80-90%of students who applied for assistance) are offered scholarships and additional financial aid sufficient to enable them to go the United States.  Out of the 2013 graduating class, 67% attended UK colleges and universities, 17% attended other European schools and 7% attended US colleges and universities.  Since 1997, when the first class in the new era graduated, alumni have been admitted by every Ivy League school, by 15 of the top 16 universities and by 22 of the top 26 liberal arts colleges, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report.  ACS graduates are regularly admitted to the top universities in the UK as well.


Faculty and Staff

There are 77 FTE faculty members, including 25 international faculty members recruited from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. In addition to the President, there are a long-serving and highly capable Deputy Director, a Dean of Students, two college counselors, a faculty development coordinator, two librarians, and a Business Manager with a staff of four persons. There are a full-time doctor, nurse and psychologist. There are various administrative assistants and secretaries, including Public Relations, Registrar, Receptionist, as well as security guards, gardeners and cleaners. There are approximately 180 employees in all.


For Bulgarian students, the first or prep year is intensive training in English. That is followed by a curriculum dictated by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education for all language schools in the country. Students take 12 to 14 courses each semester, and the school operates on a modified block schedule. All teachers are bi-lingual, and most courses are taught in English, using American textbooks. International students in the 11th and 12th grades are automatically enrolled in the IB Program. Standardized testing administered by the school includes the PSAT for all 10th graders, English oral fluency test for 9th graders, and TOEFL tests for 8th grade students upon the completion of their first academic year at ACS. The school also administers AP Exams for interested students.

A wide variety of elective courses are offered to the students, designed and presented by our own teachers. Over 40 electives are offered each semester, including College Life school newspaper, yearbook, creative writing, art, Balkan dances, Junior Achievement, advanced math, choir, computer, etc.

ACS participates in various national and international academic and sports programs. There are many student clubs, including Model United Nations, Debate Club, Math Club, Science Club, various community service clubs, Hiking Club, Chess Club, Snowboarding, etc. A wide variety of extracurricular activities are offered, including interscholastic sports teams for boys and girls, Bulgarian drama, and art activities. The school presents an annual Christmas Concert, Science Fair, Arts Fest, Faculty Follies, School Musical, alumni receptions, Senior Independent Honors Projects, etc.


ACS is accredited by Decision 3440, October 6, 1992, of the Bulgarian Council of Ministers. It is officially a language high school, although its science, computer and math programs are strong, as borne out by the fact that our students regularly compete successfully in academic competitions in Bulgaria and internationally.  Currently, there are ACS students on the Bulgarian National Physics Team and the Bulgarian National Math Team.   Also of significance, the American College of Sofia regularly scores first of all schools in the country on the Bulgarian Language and Literature matriculation exam administered by the Ministry of Education.

ACS has completed its self-study and expects to be re-accredited by The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools after the team visit in October 2014.  ACS was first accredited by MSA in 2005.


ACS is governed by a Board of Trustees (currently 23 members) that is elected by the members of Sofia American Schools, Inc., a non-profit, educational foundation chartered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1926. Some Trustees have served for more than 20 years. Eighteen of the trustees reside in the United States and include two former U.S. Ambassadors to Bulgaria, prominent attorneys, educators, businessmen and a journalist. Five of the trustees reside in Europe, four in Bulgaria. Four trustees are graduates of the College and four are parents of former ACS students. The Board meets three times a year, once in Bulgaria. It delegates all day-to-day school operations to the President and expects him/her to manage them with a high degree of independence. It primarily sets school policy, hires and evaluates the President, and maintains financial control. The school also has an active Parent Teachers Association that conducts various fund raising activities and contributes greatly to the life of the school. It also sponsors an annual Spring Reception to honor teachers and present the Teacher of the Year award at graduation. The PTA has no school operational responsibilities.

Issues for the Future

The President must continue to develop standards for teaching and assessment, further refine the IB program, develop and control the budget, make the necessary improvements according to the accreditation report approved by MSA in 2014, and work with the Board to refine and implement the school's strategic plan.

America for Bulgaria, a significant philanthropic foundation in Bulgaria, continues to show an interest in supporting ACS.  The school has generated considerable momentum in implementing the master plan with the successful grant and plan for a Campus Center.   The President must sustain the momentum by supervising the design development and construction of the Campus Center as well as planning the next project in the master plan.

The Position

Dr. Paul Johnson, President since July 2010, is retiring at the end of June 2015.  He and his wife Teresa have found ACS to be stimulating and rewarding, extending for two years after the initial 3-year contract. 

The President of the College is a president as well as a headmaster. In addition to leading the academic side of the College, the President represents the College and the Board of Trustees before the Bulgarian Government, the American Embassy, Embassies of other countries, the international community in Sofia, the press and the public. The responsibilities of the position include:

  • Maintaining good relations with the Bulgarian Government and strong ties with the American Embassy.

  • Maintaining the high profile and respect that ACS has gained with the Bulgarian public and with the international community in Sofia.

  • Continuing the development of a strong parents organization (heretofore unknown in Bulgaria).

  • Recruiting able students from all parts of the country.

  • Recruiting, nurturing and leading a group of highly qualified teachers and administrators, Bulgarian, American and international.

  • Reporting regularly any events of importance to the Board of Trustees, attending its meetings, recommending changes in academic and administrative policies and the improvement of facilities.

  • Developing programs that ensure both academic excellence and high standards of student behavior.

  • Managing carefully all aspects of local finance.

  • Participating in efforts to increase the College's revenue through fund raising and other activities.

  • In consultation with the Board of Trustees, implementing the facilities master plan developed in 2011.

Preferred Qualifications for this position are as follows:

  • Experience as a teacher and administrator.

  • Experience in an outstanding American prep school or high school.

  • Experience in an international school with students predominantly from the host country.

  • Ability to manage all school operations and make decisions without direct oversight from the Board of Trustees.

  • Willingness to become involved in all school and community activities.

  • Ability to recruit, retain, evaluate and motivate highly competent Bulgarian and international teachers and administrators.

  • Ability to prepare and manage a tight budget.

  • Ability to communicate well orally and in writing.

  • Willingness to learn at least a basic speaking knowledge of Bulgarian.

  • Long-term interest with a minimum three-year commitment.

  • Experience in fund-raising and marketing.

  • Experience with U.S. accreditation.

  • Experience in supervision of construction and renovation.

  • An understanding of the role of and the limitations of a school in a country still trying to overcome decades of Communist rule.

Salary and Benefits

Excellent salary and benefits package will be competitive and will depend on the qualifications and experience of the successful candidate.

Procedure for Filing Application

 A vigorous search for outstanding candidates is now underway. We seek candidates who can be available for a July 2015 start.

The Board of Trustees of the American College of Sofia has appointed Search Associates (John F. Magagna) to act as consultant in the search for a new President. The deadline for application is March 31, 2014.  Finalist candidates will be interviewed in Washington, D.C.by the Search Committee. A short list of candidates, with spouses if appropriate, will have the opportunity to meet with faculty, parents, students and non-teaching staff in Sofia. The Board hopes to make an appointment no later than June 1, 2014.

While it is the intention of the Board to make an appointment as soon as possible after the conclusion of the interviews, please note that the Board reserves the right to close the selection process and to make an early appointment should the right candidate be found prior to the deadline indicated above. For this reason it is important that interested candidates apply at the earliest possible time. Search Associates will review applications as soon as they are received, and those that are selected will be forwarded promptly to the search committee for further review.

Candidates should send the information requested below. It must be submitted EXACTLY in the form and manner requested. Please DO NOT send any information other than that which is specifically requested:

  • A letter of application, no longer than two pages, explaining your strengths as a candidate and why you are interested in this particular position

  • A current resume not to exceed two pages

  • A one-page statement outlining educational beliefs and leadership style

  • A one-page list of references with phone numbers and email addresses

  • A maximum of four letters of reference which may already be in your possession

Please note that ALL the above materials must be scanned into a SINGLE PDF ATTACHMENT (low resolution preferred) and sent to Search Associates at both of the e-mail addresses listed below. Also, please note that it is important to limit the size of your SINGLE PDF to 5MB. (No photographs, color, etc.):


with a cc to


For further information about the American College of Sofia, please see www.acs.bg

Did You Know…?

Senior Associate Bill Turner’s international teaching career has taken him to Sudan, Italy, Qatar and the UAE as well as his home country of England. His very first teaching position was in rural Sudan.