With primary elections around the corner, Brent Bode, Antonio Machado Catano and Adrian Sheridan are vying for two spots in the general election for Director of District 2 on the Ferndale School Board.
School board directors in Ferndale are elected officials who serve on the board for four years. Directors oversee operations of the school district, the superintendent, the budget and curriculum. They each serve as representatives of the five geographic areas within the district.
The District 2 seat will be vacated by Melinda Cool, who will not be running for reelection. Cool was elected in 2019 and served as vice president of the school board. The top two primary finishers will be voted on by residents of the District 2 region and advance to the general election.
Coming out of the pandemic, the Ferndale School Board has been awash with controversies, bouts of misinformation and riotous public comments at school board meetings. At the center of it all, many agree, is a widening political division in Ferndale as the city grows and changes, and as schools recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The three candidates shared similar focuses: supporting students, teachers and schools, and making sure education in the Ferndale School District is relevant and useful.
Machado, 45, said he wants to ensure that teachers are supported and have the tools and technology they need to provide a solid education to students. Machado wants to see students finding success after graduation, whether that be at a college or university, a trade school or in the workforce.
“If we give them the tools, they will succeed,” he said. “The best way to do it is through the teachers.”
Machado also believes that parent involvement can complement and supplement the education students are getting at school.
Machado was born and raised in Mexico and came to the U.S. for an education. He and his wife have three children who attend Ferndale schools. He works for the Western States Petroleum Association and served on the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce from 2018 to 2022.
Sheridan — an 18-year-old, 2022 graduate of Ferndale High School — said he’s most interested in making curriculum relevant to the changing times and progressing technology. He also would like to see improved communication and connection between the school board and students.
Sheridan touts his youth as one of his biggest assets. He said he has a unique perspective as a recent student who experienced the issues impacting the district today. Sheridan believes he will be able to connect with students at a more personal level and engage with them on the issues that impact them.
“At the end of the day, the most important thing is to show other people that there is a place for [young people] in making change,” he said.
Sheridan studies chemistry at Whatcom Community College and has served on the City of Ferndale’s Parks, Trails, and Recreation Board.
Bode, 32, said he has no specific goals, other than working with the school board as a team, instilling a sense of belonging for students and communicating with families to include their input in school decisions.
“One of the most challenging parts for all students coming out of COVID really is students being able to interact with one another and implementing that culture of belonging,” he said.
Bode said communication is key to garnering community involvement and support, then making decisions.
“It’s impossible to please everyone, but we can certainly try to create a successful environment for the students,” he said.
Bode is a longtime Whatcom County resident and has lived in Ferndale with his husband since 2018. He is a graduate of Western Washington University, where he currently works as the senior assistant director of admissions. He has worked in higher education for more than a decade.
The Ferndale School Board has two other seats up for grabs in the upcoming election. Current president and incumbent Kevin Erickson is being challenged by Beth Perry for director of District 1. Incumbent Toni Jefferson and Nancy Button — who in February accused the Ferndale School Board of defamation — will compete for the District 3 seat. Candidates in those races have been advanced to the general election.
Machado is organizing campaign events with Perry and Button. The three know each other in the Ferndale community and are navigating the election process together. While they don’t see eye to eye on every issue, Machado said, he knows they would work together well if all three were elected to the board.
Bode and Sheridan are running their own campaigns.