Fox in the schoolhouse

Like many of you, Bites probably spends too much of the workday checking Twitter. Last week Sac City schools Superintendent Jonathan Raymond used his Twitter account (@scusdsupt) to urge followers to “like” Fox40 News on Facebook and help provide pencils for the district.

What the heck, Bites followed the link and gave Fox40 the little blue thumbs-up to see what would happen. Nothing happened. There was no information about the pencil give-away, and it’s not at all clear that Nibbles’ and Bits’ classrooms will get any extra ration of yellow No. twos.

Feels like a bait-and-switch, but no harm done, Bites supposes. Easily un-liked in the unlikely event that Fox updates on Beyoncé’s baby bump or rabid skunks in the downtown mall should ever become too tedious. Not that they ever will.

Still, some local teachers last week groused about Raymond’s seeming endorsement of Fox. Lots of Sacramento educators don’t trust the Fox brand. Can’t imagine why.

Probably doesn’t help matters that Fox founder and right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch has reportedly plowed millions of dollars into the Sacramento-based StudentsFirst organization, which is leading a national campaign to end teacher tenure and tie teacher job security to student test scores.

The group is the brainchild of Mayor Kevin Johnson’s still-fiancée Michelle Rhee. And while the Murdoch-Rhee connection had been bandied about the blogosphere for a while—StudentsFirst doesn’t reveal its donors—Murdoch’s patronage seems to be confirmed in journalist Steven Brill’s new book, Class Warfare.

Brill also wrote the now semi-famous article “The Rubber Room” for The New Yorker. And while Bites hasn’t read the book yet, most reviews make it out to be a somewhat more anti-teacher version of Waiting for Superman. The New York Times even wondered, “Can an education reform movement that demeans and trivializes teachers succeed?” Seems to work well enough around here.

Speaking of under-appreciated public servants, this paper gave folks at Sacramento City Department of Utilities a lot of grief a few weeks back—trying to nail down a lot of information about the thirstiest water users in town for our feature, “Sacramento’s top 20 big water users.”

One loose end: As we noted at the time, it seemed unlikely that Natomas Charter School really used 54 million gallons of water in 2010—more than all the other schools in the Natomas Unified School District combined—as was suggested by the City’s meter records. But since nobody in the City or at the school or at the NUSD could explain the weird numbers, we were kind of stuck with them.

After a few weeks, it turned out that the school’s astronomical water use was just a billing error. More or less what Bites figured, still we promised we’d assure readers that the charter school isn’t secretly running a water park or bottling plant or shipping our water off to Los Angeles for profit.

We’re sure the whole project will go more smoothly next year. And at least the City and SN&R are more or less on the same page about the public’s right to know who the biggest water users are in the community. Not like some public water districts that think it’s OK to keep the names of local water hogs secret—looking at you Elk Grove, Citrus Heights, Carmichael.