Antonelli is back in business
After feds reverse decision, school prepares to reopen
A week after being informed it would be decertified by the federal government, Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute has received a reprieve and will remain open.
Rick Reikob, executive director and COO of the school, said the U.S. Department of Education sent notification Aug. 29 that it is reversing its denial of the school’s recertification for
participation in federal financial aid programs.
He said the school is now making efforts to get classes fully up and running again.
Reikob said he is reaching out to students to invite them to an informational meeting this week, “to discuss their options as it relates to continuing their education right here where it all began.”
The sessions were held at the school on Thursday, Aug. 31, at 6 p.m. and on Friday, Sept. 1, at 10 a.m.
According to the Department of Education letter sent Aug. 29 to Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute owner Edward Gillespie — a copy of which has been obtained by Digital First Media — the school’s month-tomonth participation in financial aid programs will not end on Aug. 31 as originally stipulated Aug. 22.
When the denial of the school’s certification was announced last week, Reikob and his staff got to work planning a “teachout process” for students — making arrangements for those in the last module of study and externships and talking with other schools that might have programs Antonelli students could step into. Just three staff members remained — volunteering their time as the process moved forward.
It is not yet clear exactly how and when the programs will be restarted.
“There is still a lot of work to be done to rebuild what has been broken over the past seven days and we plan to continue to do all that we can to make our students whole,” Reikob said.
In addition to reaching out to students, Reikob is also reaching out to some of the recently displaced employees to gauge their ability and desire to return to the school.
For his part, Gillespie said he’s still trying to make sense of it all.
“I was out driving yesterday after talking with an attorney about financial reorganization — and then I got a call rescinding the decision,” he said. “Talk about going from one side to the other. I’m looking at financial disaster, and she says ‘we made a mistake.’”
The last line of the Department of Education letter reads, “The Department regrets the negative impact this turn of events has caused to AMPI (Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute) and its students.”
“If you look at that last sentence: they’re sorry for what happened to the students. The students are the ones that ultimately suffered the most because of incompetence and mistakes on part of the Department of Education,” Gillespie added.
Asked if the school can recover from the events of this past week, Gillespie remains optimistic.
“I believe so. There’s a need here,” he said. “They don’t understand the impact it has on the community. When they do this, they’re eliminating the jobs of the people who work there, but also impacting the community because where do the young people go — what do they do?”
As part of the original denial, the Department of Education cited nearly $5.6 million in liabilities assessed in 2016 against Gillespie for another school he owned — American Beauty Academy.
However, the department stated this week that after reviewing its records, officials could not confirm that notification of the assessed liabilities was delivered to officials at American Beauty Academy.
Gillespie contends he never received the documents outlining the assessment, saying they were mailed to an address for the business that closed in November 2015.
Since delivery of the documents could not be confirmed, the department has acknowledged American Beauty Academy officials were unable to exercise their right to appeal the assessment.
Gillespie said he was denied the right to due process.
“Due process is — you let somebody know what the problem is and give the opportunity to appeal or respond. I was denied that opportunity,” he said, adding that the issue goes deeper than just not receiving notification about the liabilities.
The Aug. 22 denial letter cited the Nov. 2015 revocation of American Beauty Academy’s participation in federal financial aid after a program review determined the school had used improper methodologies to calculate its ratios for financial aid in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Again, Gillespie contends he was never notified by the Department of Education that there was an issue.
“Those three audits were submitted and accepted by the department of education and then retroactively they said they didn’t comply. Once again due process was denied,” he said.
Gillespie said this past week has been a week of uncertainty as he considers his options. He said he’s angry, concerned and frustrated by the situation. He added that he plans to appeal the 2016 assessment against American Beauty Academy, saying it was incumbent on the department to report if there was an issue with any of the audits.
Antonelli officials also reached out to Congressman Ryan Costello, R-6th Dist., for help in the past week.
“Casework staff in my office continue to work for an outcome that does not adversely impact students, and to ensure there are clear lines of communication between the Department of Education and the school,” Costello said Aug. 30.
The Department of Education did not respond to a request by Digital First Media for additional information.
Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute has been notified that a decision to deny recertification for the school has been reversed.
Rick Reikob, executive director of Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute, is reaching out to students.