The exterior of Highland View Elementary in Bristol, a school declared "functionally obsolete" in 2011 but still in use. Courtesy of Bristol Public Schools.

Two months ago, I was part of an excited crowd of parents and friends who filled the auditorium at Blacksburg High School for a remarkable concert – in fact, five remarkable concerts performed by middle and high school students.   Even the first concert performed by Blacksburg Middle School students who had just months of training was amazing in the confidence with which the band members performed.  These young musicians came from a wide range of talents, experiences, and backgrounds. Together, they found they could create a rich sound and an exuberant shared experience – an experience thanks to Montgomery County’s public schools that continue to enrich the lives of local families.

I am thankful for the musical talent and teaching skill of Blacksburg High School Band Director Darrell Pearman and Middle School Band Director Harry Farmer who have made this musical experience possible for these students.  How fortunate our community is to have musicians of their calibre who also have the patience and skill to focus children and teenagers’ endless energies on the complexities and joys of music. 

Just this past week, 46 Blacksburg Middle School students placed in the 2022 All-District Bands, the most of any school in our district and a new record for the middle school. Such excellence in our public schools should be celebrated especially after the educational challenges posed by Covid in the past few years. 

We have such a valuable resource in Montgomery County’s public schools. Their excellence helps us attract and retain young professionals and their families to our area as well as educating a new generation for our everchanging economy and technology. I appreciate the commitment that our Board of Supervisors and the School Board has made to support our public schools financially – especially during the Great Recession when state funding was cut. 

We need to hear voices of support for the remarkable work of our teachers, band directors, librarians and staff of our schools.  This year, our state coffers are full, but our teachers are still underpaid and rural communities in Southwest Virginia face the reality of 50-year-old decaying schools and no local financial capacity to replace them. 

This year, Southwest Virginia legislators hold leadership positions in the General Assembly. It may be our best hope ever to energize the legislature to invest in addressing millions of dollars -actually billions – in school construction needs and thereby investing in our region’s future.  Let your voice be heard.

Elizabeth Obenshain

Beth Obenshain is a native of Blacksburg and lives on the family farm on Prices Fork Road. She worked for 30 years in journalism at The Richmond Times- Dispatch, The Fayetteville Observer and The Roanoke...