San Carlos Elementary School District officials voted at their Sept. 12 board meeting to give the superintendent a $1.3 million home loan so he could move into the district, but the timing of the money transfer caused some to question the process.
Superintendent Craig Baker said for the past couple of years he has been looking at moving from Redwood City to live in the city of which he is superintendent. The one-year loan, that comes with a 2.65 percent interest rate, has $2,870.83 a month payments. There is also a penalty of 4 percent of the monthly amount due if any payment is made after the 15th of the month in which it is due.
At its Thursday, Sept. 26 meeting, the school board will discuss whether there are any action steps that should be taken because the transfer of funds for the superintendent’s loan occurred one day prior to the board taking formal action to approve it. The escrow on the San Carlos home Baker purchased was scheduled to close Sept. 13, but went through on Sept. 11. This was a mistake and the district will look into why there weren’t controls, Baker said.
This loan is a routine matter, said Trustee Seth Rosenblatt, who is frustrated with the hullabaloo surrounding the loan.
“It’s hard to predict when a small group of people will get really excited about something of small importance,” Rosenblatt said.
“But this ‘made-up problem’ can have real ramifications. It’s already had a devastating toll on our amazing district office staff who had to spend so much of their time last week dealing with this silliness rather than serving children,” Rosenblatt wrote in a blog post. “I have been flooded with calls, emails, texts and in-person conversations by folks who are shocked at this nonsense, and many have been trying to counter the ignorant comments on social media sites, but unfortunately social media sites often favor the ignorant.”
This is a completely fabricated controversy, Baker said.
“It’s disheartening because this is a very common thing for a superintendent to get temporary assistance to move into the community where they are superintendents,” he said. “There’s nothing illegal, unethical or in any other way wrong with this sort of arrangement. It’s been egged on by some very shoddy journalism. That said, the public has an absolute right to understand these sorts of things and to ask questions and to get answers.”
Baker’s son goes to Central Middle School and he wants him to be able to walk to school with his friends.
“I would like my son to be in the community where he goes to school,” he said. “I want to be in the town where I’m the superintendent because it makes for better connection and it’s taken a long time to figure out how I can make that happen. I’ve always believed in the importance between community and schools.”
What was the impetus for the bridge loan?
“Truthfully, I never thought we would enact the bridge loan,” he said. “It’s a loan based on in the event that I found something, while my house was on the market, that in case the timing didn’t work out from one to the other, the district would do a bridge loan to make it possible for me to make an offer.”
The district is making money, Baker said. The promissory note stipulates he has up to a year or when his house sells in Redwood City, which is in escrow and he is waiting for it to close.
San Carlos City Council candidate Michael Corral attended the school board meeting in which the loan was approved. He said he didn’t know much about school boards but attended the meeting after reading about the issue online.
“I don’t think that something of this magnitude should just be on consent calendar since it’s of major concern for a lot of people,” he said. “They should have made special public outreach. ... It infuriated me to find out the board meeting and vote were essentially a show for the public when in fact this was decided a long time ago. They couldn’t have possibly followed protocols? I don’t know how money can leave the district without a formal vote without someone being held accountable.”
On the matter of former school district trustee Carrie du Bois acting as his real estate agent, Baker said having her as an agent is completely appropriate.
“Even if she were [still on the board], there wouldn’t be anything wrong with it,” he said. “The person who raised that is one of two people who seemed to have a problem with this at all. It’s an absurd accusation and laughable to say it’s inappropriate.”
What will the district do in the future moving forward?
“We will be discussing this next board meeting to have an audit to look at the process to communicate better with the public,” Baker said. “If it was left in my contract that the district would consider a bridge loan so I could move into town, it would have been vetted with the community months ago. I wish we had dealt with this back then. All along, I will be making money for the district, not getting money.”
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