President of struggling Northern New Mexico College announces plans to retire

Nancy "Rusty" Barceló

The president of Northern New Mexico College in Española is leaving her post ahead of her announced retirement, according to school officials.

Ricky Serna, vice president for advancement, said Nancy "Rusty" Barceló asked the board of regents at a Thursday night meeting to allow her to vacate her position at the end of the year. She was set to retire in the summer of 2016.

Domingo Sanchez, vice president of finance and administration, has been named the interim president.

Barceló and the head of the board regents Rosario “Chayo” Garcia didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

The board of regents hired Barceló in 2010, and she announced earlier this year she planned to retire by the summer of 2016. Barceló had signed a three-year contract in 2010 with a $200,000 annual salary plus a housing allowance, vehicle and retirement annuity.

In 2012, she signed an amended five-year contract that included the opportunity to take a one-year sabbatical.

Barceló’s tenure became tumultuous in spring of 2013 when a budget shortfall led the college to raise student tuition by more than 13 percent and lay off about 20 employees, moves that were met by student and faculty protest.

Spring 2014 brought more bad news when some faculty leaders voted to express “no confidence” in the college’s leaders as enrollment dropped, more layoffs occurred and several popular programs were cut to meet a reduced budget.

Faculty members wrote a letter charging Barceló with creating a state of “financial chaos, doubt, uncertainty and fear of retaliation.”

Barceló was born in Merced, Calif., and attended the University of Iowa to earn a master’s degree in recreational education and a doctor of philosophy degree. She served as vice provost and vice president for equity and diversity at the University of Minnesota before joining Northern in 2010.

The college was founded in 1909 as the Spanish American Normal School in El Rito but has undergone changes in both identity and mission over the past 100 years. The college began offering bachelor’s degrees in 2005.

This is a developing story. Check back for more details as they become available.