Documents: DACC knew nursing program was in trouble

DACC alerted to concerns long before nursing program's accreditation loss

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - There were a number of reasons why DACC's nursing program lost its accreditation, but documents suggest officials knew they were going to lose it long before they told students.

ABC-7 obtained stacks of documents including email and mail correspondence between Dona Ana Community College officials and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.

After failing to meet more than three of the NLNAC's standards back in 2010, the nursing program was placed on warning.

At that time, DACC officials were provided with a detailed report with the NLNAC's findings. The program was not in compliance when it came to faculty standards, orientation standards and keeping records.

Officials were given two years to fix the issues before the program would be reviewed again.

In an email from early 2010, NLNAC Executive Director Sharon Tanner wrote: "When a program is placed on warning, the only option is to implement whatever strategies are needed in order to be able to demonstrate compliance with all standards."

DACC officials were explicitly told every standard had to be met or accreditation would not be granted.

In the 2010 report, the program failed to have a majority of part-time faculty members with master's degrees in nursing. When the 2012 visit came around, DACC still did not meet that requirement, something nursing staff and DACC President Margie Huerta would have known months before they notified students.

Back in April, Huerta told students she was hopeful the program would be accredited.

When ABC-7 interviewed Huerta two weeks ago, she defended that attitude despite saying, "It doesn't work that way. You either have it or you don't. You have that standard, you meet that standard, or you don't meet that standard."

DACC notified students about the loss of accreditation just two weeks before classes started yesterday.

In a series of letters, Tanner expressed worry about the program's new nursing director Tracy Lopez starting in Oct. 2011.

In a letter to Huerta, Tanner wrote: "It appears that (Lopez) only has two years of experience in nursing education. It is an expectation that the nurse administrator will hold the appropriate academic credentials to ensure achievement of program goals."

Tanner was still doubtful about the program as late as January of this year.

On January 31 of this year, Tanner wrote again: "I continue to have concerns about Ms. Lopez's experience. I am concerned about the nursing program's success in the upcoming onside accreditation review."

But after the review in April, Huerta wrote a letter to students highlighting the positive comments from the NLNAC.

On July 19, Evelyn Hobbs, Dean of DACC's Health and Public Services Division, wrote an email to Lopez: "I have a meeting scheduled to discuss the transferability of graduates of the DACC Nursing Program to the NMSU Nursing Program."

That was three weeks before students were notified that the program had lost its accreditation.

President Huerta's office did not respond to requests for comments.

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