The Voice of the Bellwood-Antis Student Body

The BluePrint

The Voice of the Bellwood-Antis Student Body

The BluePrint

The Voice of the Bellwood-Antis Student Body

The BluePrint

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Charges shake up B-A’s athletic department

Kate Wallace
Recent charges against an employee have impacted the Bellwood-Antis School District.

Recent events have led to a shake up in the Bellwood-Antis School District.

Almost three weeks ago on January 10, Mr. John Garritano took over as interim athletic director after one current and one former district employee were placed on administrative leave. Garritano has been the assistant athletic director since the early 2000s.

On January 11, Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry announced the arraignment of Charles Burch and Timothy Andrekovich for their role during former Bellwood wrestling coach Ryan Blazier’s investigation.

Both defendants were arraigned that day, and an unsecured bond was set at $50,000 for each defendant. Both bonds have been posted and Burch is on administrative leave until further notice.

On Tuesday, January 30, the men faced their first hearing, after which the case was bound for court, setting the stage for a jury trial.

Charles Burch was charged with allegedly intimidating a victim of Ryan Blazier. (Jon Kost)

Burch, B-A’s athletic director, was “charged with intimidating a witness for threatening a student victim of Blazier’s if the victim told anyone about the allegations,” from the 2020 incident, according the Attorney General’s report.

Andrekovich, a retired history teacher who coached in the wrestling program, was charged with allegedly endangering the welfare of children by allowing Blazier to have unsupervised access to students while a “safety plan” was put in place.

According to the Attorney General report, Burch allegedly called one of the victims to his office and threatened consequences if the student told anybody else of their worries about Blazier.

Blazier was arrested on February 23, 2020 for sexual misconduct, assault, and the harassment of minors.

Later, Blazier was convicted of the sexual assault of  two minors on Bellwood-Antis school property.

Along with the two students, he was also charged with sexually abusing a girl from ages three to eight, leading to an investigation that began in December of 2019. Blazier was permitted to continue working as a wrestling coach while the 2019 charges were being investigated.

The BluePrint’s article here discloses Blazier’s charges more in-depth.

Senior Judge Daniel J. Milliron sentenced Blazier to 21 to 42 years in prison on January 6, 2022, along with a lifetime registration as a convicted sex offender and enrollment in sexual offender treatment programs. 

A recent settlement of $1 million dollars for one victim was approved by the Bellwood-Antis School Board through a unanimous vote on November 7 of last year.

The settlement went to one of the two student victims who sought to hold the district accountable by claiming that little was done to prevent the abuse.

During December of 2019, school officials including Andrekovich and Burch were told that Blazier was under investigation for child sexual abuse, and a plan was put in action to make sure Blazier was not alone with children on school property.

Andrekovich is accused of having to have failed to implement a “safety plan” that was put in place by the district, despite his agreement to enforce the protocols. He allegedly was aware of “wrestle offs” that Blazier would conduct that took place with him and students alone in a locked room and continued allowing students to be left alone with him, according to the Attorney General report.

“As school district employees, these defendants were trusted by students, parents, and the community to protect, educate, and mentor young people,” stated Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry in a press release. “Instead, they were notified of abuse allegations and failed to take adequate measures… Let me be clear: when you have the professional responsibility to safeguard the well-being of children and fail to do so, we will investigate and prosecute that conduct.”

Timothy Andrekovich was charged with allegedly endangering the welfare of children during Ryan Blazier’s investigation. (Anson Jones)

The school district has denied those claims, stating that Blazier was solely responsible for his crimes.

Blazier’s initial arrest led some members of the Bellwood community to question the school district and want to know if it truly had the best interests of their children at heart.

In an emotional school board meeting on March 10, 2020, the community expressed concerns of failed mandated reporting, the handling of the allegations, discussed sexual abuse statistics, and requested full transparency along with expressing their frustrations during the public meeting.

Community members also urged the current superintendent Thomas McInroy to step down.

McInroy later retired from his role in early 2022 and was replaced by current superintendent Edward DiSabato.

In an official statement by Mr. DiSabato, he disclosed he “cannot comment on specific personal matters” but stated that Burch was on leave, Andrekovich is no longer a district employee, and Garritano was named interim athletic director and will be coordinating all Bellwood-Antis athletic programs.

A non-profit group called Blair County Rising Against Child Abuse was a prominent community group during Blazier’s case and even held a protest after the board meeting back in 2020.

“This should be eye opening for our community,” commented Rochelle Simpson, who was a leading figure in the group during the Blazier investigation. “We as parents and community members need to be more involved with the school to ensure the safety of our children.”

The group is still active today. Simpson said members of the group are wondering what the school board will do about these allegations in future school board meetings. “It’s a shame it took this long to hold some people accountable,” also stated Simpson.

Not only are community members concerned, but students in the district are becoming more aware of the issue, which has been covered extensively by media outlets like the Altoona Mirror, WTAJ, and WJAC.

We as parents and community members need to be more involved with the school to ensure the safety of our children.

— Rochelle Simpson

Students at Bellwood-Antis were met with uncertainty of whether their school would keep them safe after the initial arrest of Blazier was made, although the school assured them they had nothing to fear. 

Now that these charges related to the case are being brought up years later, there have been hints of distrust between students and their school.

“These charges are four years too late,” commented Bellwood senior Gabe Waltermier. 

Even with skepticism amongst students, there are still emotional attachments students have with teachers such as Burch. Some students expressed hope that Mr. Burch would be exonerated.

Burch and Andrekovich’s cases are being prosecuted by Pennsylvania Deputy Attorney General Julia van Leeuwen, who are both innocent until proven guilty.

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