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Stone Academy students and instructors demand accountability and answers

Students are demanding a comprehensive 'teach out' plan.

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Emotions boiled over Monday during a demonstration at Stone Academy’s East Hartford campus. Dozens of students and instructors demanded immediate answers on what will happen to their money and course credits following the school’s closure.

Possible answers came late Monday as Stone Academy released their first public statement since the controversial and sudden shutdown through a contracted public relations person. In the communication, Stone Academy directed those affected to their website, where a list of ‘transfer partner institutions’ was posted. The list included Goodwin University, The University of Bridgeport, Lincoln Tech and Porter & Chester. They also claim students can request a copy of their transcripts, although the state Office of Higher Education has said that all records of Stone Academy, including student transcripts, would be seized and not released until the completion of a third party audit.

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Stone Academy also said they have, “...engaged with Porter and Chester Institute and Lincoln Technical Institute for the purposes of providing employment opportunities to our faculty and staff.” Instructors only received their layoff notices Monday. That’s three days after the school ceased educational instruction.

All this, as the voices for accountability and answers got louder. Students say they have sacrificed much for their education. “Blood sweat and tears. I’m a single mom of 2 under 3. Coming here every day from New London,” said nursing student Jarlinne Brooks.

Students and instructors carried signs that ranged from the face of Stone Academy’s silent President, Joe Bierbaum, to demands for course credits to be honored. They marched to the campus offices and threw their nursing uniforms by the locked door.

Nursing student Davianna Fincher yelled, “I’m backward in mortgage! In my car loans! I quit a full time job to finish school! I only heard on the news that Stone was closing! Not until today, not even an email!” she exclaimed.

FOX61 also spoke with former Stone Academy nursing instructor Alexa Gattinella. She just uprooted her life in North Carolina last month to come work at Stone Academy to provide for her baby boy. “The number one thing a nurse should be is caring. That’s what we are teaching the students in this school. But the administration can’t even return that to us,” said Gattinella.

Lolethia Semboko is a foster child and now a single Mom. She has been commuting from Massachusetts and is just months away from becoming a nurse. “I’m in my 40’s. I’m not in my 20’s. I don’t have all day. I already stopped my life,” she said.

Big picture questions also continue to loom large. “The state knew that this school was in some kind of danger,” said civil rights Attorney Cynthia Jennings. “We're going to look for a judge that will grant a class action suit.”

The Office of Higher Ed has promised to hold a fair next week where students can, “...explore what educational options are available to them.” That may include credit transfers, tuition reimbursement and loan discharges.

 Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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