Top Vineyard school administrators are nearing the final bell in deciding who will be the next principal of the regional high school.

The decision comes amid stinging public criticism over the recent hasty departure of two principals. Previous high school principal Gil Traverso resigned in August after barely a year on the job. Last month, Oak Bluffs School principal Jack Rizzo resigned after six months on the job.

The high school principal search has been active for several months, and three finalists were named late last week, all from off-Island. Assistant superintendent Richard Smith said this week that an extensive search drew 20 applications, but only one from an Island resident already working in the school system.

“We would value and would love to have folks here on the Island that are trained and ready,” said Mr. Smith, who led the search committee. “Folks who have had any kind of administrative experience, they don’t exist right now . . . . to make a jump from teacher to principal, while it happens, and it happens a lot of times with success, we are looking for someone who has a principal’s position.”

The three finalists all have deep experience in the education field. Sara Dingledy is principal of Westchester Square Academy in the Bronx, N.Y.; David Fabrizio is principal of the Ipswich Middle School on the north shore; and David Williams is former principal of the York Middle School in York, Me.

The process has been marked by a few unusual twists. Mr. Williams had a drunk driving arrest in Maine last year that was later followed by his resignation as principal. His case is still pending and slated for a hearing in York County Superior Court on Friday this week. The matter was fully disclosed to the search committee, Mr. Smith said.

“When we offered an interview to Mr. Williams, he disclosed that,” Mr. Smith said. “We were aware of it. We talked about it as a committee. We felt as if what we saw on paper was at least intriguing enough not to eliminate him. He gave a wonderful, strong interview.”

All three candidates will visit the Vineyard next week for public but informal tours of the school to meet parents, students and teachers. Mr. Smith said time will be set aside for a question-and-answer session with each candidate. The sessions will be open to the public, and anyone interested in attending will be encouraged to question the candidates directly. The sessions will run from 4 to 5:15 p.m. on each day in the library conference room.

“The whole reason we’re bring them here is for them to find out about us, and us to find out about them,” Mr. Smith said. “We will learn how folks will handle that kind of scrutiny.”

In a departure from the norm, the search committee will not conduct final interviews in public; instead their semi-finalist interviews which were taped by MVTV, the local access cable television station, will be aired. The interviews will be aired as part of scheduled programming for Comcast customers but cannot be seen via online streaming, a deliberate decision by the search committee, according to MVTV staff.

Taped interviews were viewed by the Gazette at the MVTV station this week; resumes from the candidates were also provided by the superintendent’s office.

Mr. Fabrizio has three degrees from Salem State College. He taught history and social studies in Lawrence, Haverhill and Methuen. He served as an administrator in North Andover and Ipswich.

In his interview, he spoke of his experience teaching in both wealthy and poor communities.

“I started my teaching career at Lawrence High School,” he said. “It’s where I had grown up, it was where I went to school. It’s one of the poorest cities in the state. They needed somebody who cared about them, who loved them, who spent time with them.”

Ms. Dingledy has degrees from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., and The School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vt. She taught social studies in a suburban Albany school and then in two New York city public schools. She became an administrator at two public schools for advanced students, The Brooklyn Latin School and Westchester Square Academy in the Bronx.

”Whether I’m a teacher or an administrator, I think the work is very similar,” she said in her interview. “You’re looking to create a culture in your classroom, looking to create a proactive supportive space in the classroom. As an administrator, you’re looking to do that with the entirety of the school.”

Mr. Williams has degrees from Westfield State College and the University of New Hampshire. He taught science at the Dover Middle School, before becoming a middle school principal in Maine.

He talked about the demands educators face in complying with the growing list of state and federal mandates.

“I think compliance is a lousy motivator,” he said. “It doesn’t work for kids, it doesn’t work for adults. We’re going to take a look at what our vision is, and hopefully it’s a shared vision and people in the community had a collaborative input. That vision is what drives our school improvement plan.”

Mr. Fabrizio will visit the Island on Wednesday, Jan. 13, Mr. Williams on Thursday, Jan. 14, and Ms. Dingledy on Friday, Jan. 15.

“There will be a mechanism to provide our superintendent [Matthew D’Andrea] with feedback,” Mr. Smith said. “After that process is over, the superintendent will possibly whittle down to one, probably more likely whittle down to two.”

He said Mr. D’Andrea plans to take a small contingent off Island to visit the schools where the candidates have worked and speak to references, before making a final decision.

The search committee, which has now disbanded, met for a total of about 20 hours over several months, Mr. Smith said.

After finalists were announced last week, online comments began to flow on Island news and social media sites, many of them critical over the lack of Island candidates. During the monthly high school district committee meeting Monday night, Mr. Smith and Mr. D’Andrea found themselves defending the process.

“There are some wildly talented teachers, teacher leaders in our schools,” Mr. Smith told the school committee. “We have to, as administrators, central office and school leadership, figure out ways to clear paths for them and give them opportunities to really learn the trade before they get into what’s becoming a more and more difficult job.

“We’ve had two principals that have recently left our Island schools and it is easy to look backwards and connect the dots of why that happened. That doesn’t mean that we should stop taking good risks in looking for good people to kind of augment the talent we have on the Island.”