The West Tisbury school committee voted last night to appoint Robert A. Tankard as interim principal at the West Tisbury School, ending with smiles and expressions of success a search process which began just three weeks ago.
“I think you got a good man,” said Pat Gregory, a West Tisbury resident who served on an advisory panel made up of teachers, parents and other com­munity representatives. The school committee vote was unanimous and followed the recommendation of the advisory panel.
“I am very pleased and I think West Tisbury is going to benefit from this,” said school committee chairman Roger Blake. Committee members also strongly praised the people of West Tisbury who particpated in the proc­ess.
Mr. Tankard, who was chosen from a final field of four candidates, will re­place Irwin Freedman, who leaves this week to take a job in Hollis, N.H. Mr. Freedman was principal for 11 years.
“I’m so excited; this has been a great day and I’m ready to go to work,” said an exuberant Mr. Tankard when reached at his home shortly after he accepted the position.
A teacher on the Vineyard since 1972, Mr. Tankard has taught physical education at the Tisbury School since 1973. For eight years he was head foot­ball coach at the high school, and at one time he owned a sports store on the Vineyard which earned him the affec­tionate nickname Coach T. A 1964 graduate of the Martha’s Vineyard Re­gional High School, Mr. Tankard was the first regional high school graduate to return to the Island to teach in the local school system.
More recently he obtained his mas­ter’s degree and has developed an in­terest in administration.
After voting to appoint Mr. Tan­kard yesterday school committee members talked about the process, which they praised, and their goals for an interim principal. Interviews with the four finalists were conducted over the weekend and included one question developed by the children in the West Tisbury School. The question was: “How do you talk differently to kids and adults?”
It was a question which gave every candidate pause, according to school committee member Mary Jo Joiner. Other questions centered on such issues as leadership, curriculum, communication, racial attitudes and hu­man potential.
“I was looking for a kid person,” said Mr. Blake. “I was looking for someone skilled in communications,” said Mrs. Joiner. Committee member Carol Brush agreed with both. And all agreed that Mr. Tankard had an excel­lent interview. “He had some wonder­ful qualities and we were impressed with the way he expressed himself,” said Mrs. Brush. Committee members cited some of Mr. Tankard’s most memorable comments which they said included: “There are two things you can give a child that no one can take away — love and education.”
The other finalists were Peter Pal­ches, a longtime educator and former Vineyard schools superintendent; Richard Goodell, a former teacher and assistant principal at the West Tisbury School, and Martha Hines, an educa­tor from off-Island.
Committee members said it was a difficult decision because three of the four candidates were in strong con­tention for the position. “We had three extraordinarily qualified candidates,” said Mr. Gregory. “The com­petition was great and it was a difficult decision,” said Mrs. Joiner, who again praised the advisory panel for its guidance.
The school committee vote is pen­ding contract negotiations and also Mr. Tankard’s release from his position at the Tisbury School. The committee will meet again in emergency session tonight to decide whether an acting principal is needed before Mr. Tan­kard begins the job. Mr. Freedman’s last day is Wednesday. But once all the mechanics are accomplished, Mr. Tan­kard is expected to be in place at the head of the elementary school within two weeks. The position will run for the remainder of the school year; next spring the school committee will launch a search for a permanent princi­pal.
Mr. Tankard, who is 46, lives in Vineyard Haven. He is married and has four children and two grand­children.
Yesterday he expanded a bit on his child philosophy after accepting the principal position. “Kids are my life,” he said. “If they took kids out of this world then they might as well take me with them. Kids need someone to be on their side when they take their first steps in the world and that is what I want to be — a support system. My skills are people and my heart is in working with kids.”
Mr. Tankard said he plans no sweep­ing changes at the West Tisbury School and its unique learning environment, fostered for more than a decade by Mr. Freedman. “I just want to communi­cate with people and hopefully to help everybody find common ground when it is needed,” he said. “When you are in education the cause is the children and that’s the bottom line. That is what I am most concerned about.”