The name Jim Zack has been swirling around Shamokin for the better half of the week, but right now there seems to be a lot more unanswered questions than affirmatives.
Zack, who is now under the spotlight due to accusations of doing work for the PIAA while working as the Shamokin Area transition administrator, has kept his lips sealed throughout the process. He has also allegedly failed to respond to right-to-know requests from an area newspaper — an accusation that no journalist takes lightly, including those at The News-Item. The district, which includes solicitor Tim Bowers, board members and administators, are also failing to comment on the situation, which adds further difficulty to reporting on the allegations.
The day the story broke, a school board member told us that he/she felt misrepresented, and that the district was “looking into” information from an outside source, not that they had suspected issues and launched an independent investigation on their own volition. Since then, The News-Item has not had a single call returned from members of the board it has attempted to reach.
Looking at the alleged issue itself, if Zack taking phone calls regarding PIAA business while in his office at the Shamokin Area School District campus constitutes a crime, then assuredly, the man is guilty. That type of activity is something that has likely been done by every PIAA administrator in the state at some point. The vast majority of the PIAA organization is comprised of those who are employed as administrators within school districts across the state. Brackets for various postseason tournaments have been emailed during “school hours,” and questions from reporters about sporting events have been answered during that time period as well.
The News-Item’s newly-named managing editor spent the last three and a half years covering sports in the district, and has seen countless school administrators working as chairmen of postseason sports. The list of similar circumstances likely run rampant throughout the PIAA.
We respect journalists for pointing out illegalities, regardless of the status quo, or whether or not the accused was aware of the law, but what we don’t understand is why only Zack is being questioned. There are countless other organizations that school employees belong to and work with, many of which are not affiliated with the district.
The News-Item has received a few angry calls that are suggesting the newspaper is covering up for Zack, which couldn’t be further from the truth. When it comes to situations where verified facts are scant and rumors are running rampant, we feel it is in the best interest of all involved to see how the situation develops before breaking news.
Though no stories have appeared in The News-Item, we can assure our readers the issue is being reported on diligently. Phone calls are being made, contacts and sources are being tapped, and we have no intentions of letting any facts fall through the cracks.
The News-Item expects the upcoming board meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, will help to shed light on the situation, but until then, it is unlikely for a story to appear unless verified facts can be obtained regarding Zack’s work habits within the district.
There is always a place for watchdog journalism within our community, and The News-Item is not disputing reporting done by other outlets in the region, but we will not act on outside reporting to craft our own stories when we can not independently verify the accuracy of said items.