Tom Corbia spent the past 40 years teaching in various schools in Port Chester-Rye Union Free Public School before .
After retiring, however, Corbia realized he wanted to keep working with kids and so he ran for a spot on the board of education. In Tuesday’s election, he’s one of three people up for two open spots on the board along with current board members Blanca Lopez, the current president, and Jim Dreves.
“I loved being involved with the children. It was a lifelong venture,” said Corbia, who taught in every school in the district. “I just wasn’t ready to cut it short, and I wanted to give back to the community. I spent 40 years here in Port Chester and I’ve cherished every minute of it. I just want to continue helping out children in need.”
When friends said he’d make a good member of the school board, it was the first he ever thought about running. He said if they helped him run, he’d go for it, and so he began his first campaign for public office. He said he doesn’t regret it at all.
“I’ve met some wonderful people,” Corbia said. “I promised myself when I got around to the individual groups and many of the people I didn’t know, I said I’d be a good listener. I took mental and physical notes. And that’s what I did. I met with them, listened to what they were saying and let them know that if I was elected, I’d work tirelessly in getting these issues resolved.”
Corbia added that a lot of groups were focused on some of the same issues, such as bringing back the 13.5 reading positions that were eliminated in the proposed budget.
“The best chance to get our kids to where they need to be is to get those teachers back,” Corbia said.
Another big issue facing the board is mandates, especially those that are unfunded or under-funded. Corbia said everyone knew all the state mandates would catch up with the district, and it appears they are there now. With all the state mandates, he said schools don’t have enough money to fund other programs and the state needs to “let the schools breath a little bit.”
Corbia said a lot of groups are also concerned with the ongoing negotiations between the district and the teachers union. At a school board meeting, Corbia said one person from each side should be locked in a room until they work something out. He said the talks have gone on too long, and they need to get this done already, especially if the teachers all agreeing to use the same health plan can save the district enough money to bring back the reading teachers.
“The contracts are not settled and that’s a priority,” he said. “If it’s not a priority, I’ll make it a priority if I’m elected to the board.”
He also thinks there should be a complete audit run on each school to see if there is anything duplicated or that can be combined. More than that, Corbia thinks the entire district just needs to work together. If things don’t improve, some possible programs for cuts include band and athletics, both of which have a large number of parents come out to fight for them. He said hopefully it doesn’t get to that point, but it’s important for the district to come together.
“Every single entity, we all have to be together,” he said. “Everyone’s got to hold hands.”
Between his time in the classroom and his discussions with various groups in the district, Corbia feels he’s ready to join the board.
“The time is there, the experience is there. I want to make it happen,” he said. “My only agenda is the kids. All the adults need to be put on the back burner.”