Albio Sires has come full circle.
Raised in West New York as the son of immigrants who fled Cuba in 1962, learning the language and culture as he attended Public School 4, he has, through hard work and persistence, achieved the rank of United States congressman. And on Friday, Oct. 4, the town of West New York honored him by renaming P.S. 4 as the Albio Sires Elementary School.
The Albio Sires Elementary School is located at 6300 Palisade Avenue.
Addressing a packed auditorium of local dignitaries and students, the panel of distinguished guests hosting the event included West New York Mayor Felix Roque and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
“I cannot think of a better role model for our children.” – Felix Roque.
As a student, Albio sires exhibited a strength for basketball, quickly becoming a star player. His skills netted him a scholarship to St. Peter’s College, where one of his classmates was future County Executive Thomas DeGise.
“He starred there,” said DeGise,” and used his athletic prowess and his ability to get himself a good education. And when he got that education, where did he come? Right back to West New York. Right back to Memorial High School as a teacher and a coach.”
In addition to working for the school system, Sires became a successful businessman before entering politics, beginning with a stint as mayor.
“He was the first Hispanic mayor of the town of West New York and in 2004 he was elected mayor of the year by his fellow mayors, a tremendous honor,” said Superintendent Fauta. “He was elected to the New Jersey assembly, served two terms as speaker of the Assembly, the first Hispanic speaker. As speaker he did many things for education. He increased the funding for public education and afterschool programs to get kids off the streets and away from the gangs.”
Focus on education
“Albio did it all,” said Menendez. “He built a career as a teacher, an educator. He understands the value of education in his own life, he understood it in the lives of those he taught. He understands that ultimately it is the key that unlocks social mobility and economic opportunity in our country.”
Menendez, whose seat in congress was filled by Sires when Menendez became a senator, went on to list some of Sires’ accomplishments in politics. “Albio created more affordable housing than any other mayor in New Jersey at its time. He brought business leaders and community leaders together to build partnerships that worked in new businesses, revitalizing neighborhoods, making schools better and our streets safer. As the speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, he recognized the need in the aftermath of what happened on that tragic day in September 11 to create a committee for homeland security and state preparedness and made it happen. He raised the minimum wage and he expanded job training opportunities. He has always cared deeply about the people he represents. He’s always been an education advocate, dedicated to educational opportunities for everyone.”
“My mother use to say if she ever lost this finger when we first arrived in this country,” said Sires, indicating his index finger, “she would be a mute. She would go the store and she would say [pointing]: one, one, one. That’s how she went shopping.”
Sires and his brother were two of only three Latinos in their school. He fondly recalled the teacher who taught them English, instructing them with flash cards and phonetics.
“When my brother and I when we first went to Number 4 School, we did not speak the language. So when everybody got up to salute the flag, we would put our hand on our chest and mimic what everybody was saying.”
“Nothing ever stops Albio Sires,” said Menendez. “Whether it’s on the basketball court at St. Peter’s or in the halls of Congress. He is as tough as they come and also as smart.”
“I cannot think of a better role model for our children,” agreed West New York Mayor Felix Roque. “He has led by example and has shown them what they can make of their lives, and how important it is to give back to the community that raised him.”