MCPHERSON — The president of the McPherson school board will seek a seat on the State Board of Education held by a member of the conservative majority that controls it.
Donna Viola said if she unseats Kenneth Willard, of Hutchinson, a priority would be to remove Bob Corkins, the education commissioner who was picked in October by the board's conservatives on a 6-4 vote.
Because Corkins had no experience as a teacher or school administrator and is a supporter of school vouchers and charter schools, his selection has not gone over well with many local school officials.
Viola would face Willard in the Aug. 1 Republican primary. Her selection as a challenger was the result of the flip of a coin after she met last week with another potential candidate, Hutchinson attorney Ken Peirce, whose wife is a principal in the Hutchinson school district.
The 7th District Willard represents on the board encompasses all or part of 20 counties in south-central Kansas, and superintendents from some school districts in the area met earlier this year to discuss strategy for finding a challenger they could support.
Viola said she initially took a wait-and-see attitude on Corkins, but her view of him soured after he told school representatives attending a Blue Ribbon School awards program that "we can do better."
"That told me right there that he had no clue what it takes" to win the Blue Ribbon award, she said.
The state board's conservatives also have drawn widespread criticism for adopting science standards that treat evolution as a flawed theory.
Viola said she would have voted differently from Willard on that issue but added, "I don't want to make a big deal out of evolution."