(Top, from left) Julli Bennett, Amy Blades, Chris Keator, (lower) David Skinner and Shannon Zabaldo

Five run for four spots on Plainwell school board

Nov. 6, 2018, general election

There are five candidates running for four terms on the Plainwell Community Schools Board of Education.

Each nonpartisan term lasts four years.

They include incumbents Shannon Zabaldo, Julli Bennett and Amy Blades joined by newcomers Christopher Keator and David Skinner.

Kim Shafer did not file for reelection.

Anthony McNeel, another incumbent, is running unopposed for a partial term on the board, which expires Dec. 31, 2020.


Julli Bennett


Bennett has served on the board since July 2014 and is currently board president. Julli and her husband Rob have six children, ranging in age from 7 to 20. Her family has resided in Gun Plain Township since 2001 and she and her husband run Bennett Family Agency in downtown Plainwell.

“Being a board member requires dedication, passion for our children’s development, support from home and a spirit to always achieve what’s best for our community—all qualities I possess.

“I’ve enjoyed my time on the board thus far and am proud of the work we’ve done and the direction this district is headed. We have more work to do with the bond, and I want to be a part of that process.

“I manage a very large family on a strict budget and I intend to look at the district from the same lens.


Amy Blades


Blades has lived in the district 16 years and is the Owner of travel agency Goofy Getaways. A Comstock graduate, she attended KVCC. The Plainwell school board Treasurer has served for nine years, seven as President. She has received Master Board Member certification from MASB. She attends Radiant Church and is an active volunteer in the Plainwell community. Amy and her husband Charles have three sons, with two at PHS.

“I have a passion for the students as well as our community. It’s imperative we always keep our focus on what’s best for students.

“We have a phenomenal district with amazing people who work hard for our future leaders. It’s important to have experienced members on the board.

“I have been a strong advocate in Lansing for public education and take pride in being a voice for our students. I will continue to listen to this community and speak the truth.”


Chris Keator

Chris Keator and his family moved to Plainwell in 2014. He has a PhD and is currently a faculty member at WMed.

“I grew up in central New York state in an area very similar to Plainwell. After living in Oregon for five years, and then the Caribbean for three years, southwest Michigan feels like home.”

His son Tyler went to Cooper Elementary and is currently in eighth grade; his daughter Cass graduated in the PHS Class of 2018. Keator said he is a big proponent of education and extracurricular activities—Tyler attends ATYP math at WMU and currently plays four sports; Cass graduated in the Top 24 of her class and was a 2018 Academic All American in swim.

“I’ve served on more than 20 different committees focused on higher education. My goal is to use those experiences to improve our district, to help Plainwell students strive for even greater accomplishments.”


David Skinner

Skinner grew up in southwest Michigan and relocated to Plainwell four years ago. With Walbridge Construction Company in Kalamazoo, he is Director of Construction for the Portage Public Schools 2015 Bond Project. He earned a bachelor’s in Construction Management at Ferris State University in 1998. He has a sophomore son at Plainwell schools and a senior daughter at Arts Academy of the Woods in Frasier.

“I chose to make Plainwell our home for its strong community and excellent school system. As a single parent, I felt it offered an education that is competitive with larger districts.

“Regarding future campus improvements and a potential bond, I am uniquely qualified given my years in K-12 construction to help navigate that process, maximizing dollars for the Plainwell community.

“If elected, I will continue to help our district make positive decisions regarding budgeting priorities and work tirelessly to ensure our children are set up for success.”


Shannon Zabaldo


Zabaldo graduated from WMU with a degree in sociology, focusing on criminal justice and social work. She is a support specialist at Christian Neighbors. She serves on the Plainwell BOE and the Plainwell Education Foundation. She and her husband Mark have two children who attend Plainwell schools.

“I have served on the board of education since 2014 and am the board Vice President. I have been taking classes through the Michigan Association of School Boards for the past four years and have achieved the Award of Merit.

“I am proud of the work that we have done promoting transparency, trust and unity in our school system.

“As a board member, I ask questions, gather input, and research policies before coming to a decision on all issues.

“I am committed to providing children with the best possible education and believe in fostering growth in every student on their own learning curve.”


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