Pima Community College has taken a small but crucial step forward in its quest to get off probation in two years.

The school's first monitoring report, which pledges to fix breakdowns in complaint handling and in faculty oversight of major policy changes, got a thumbs-up from the college's accreditor this week.

Lee Lambert, PCC's new chancellor, called the approval of the initial report "unequivocal good news."

"It is an indication to students, the public and PCC employees that the college is on the right course," he said Tuesday in an email to the school's workforce.

Now a much bigger challenge remains: PCC must fulfill the initial report's promises while also conducting a top-to-bottom review of all college operations to find fixes for everything else the accreditor found wrong.

The Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission put PCC on probation in April after an investigation revealed a range of serious shortcomings.

They include corrupt contracting and hiring practices, unethical behavior by executives and Governing Board members, and mishandling of sexual harassment claims against former Chancellor Roy Flores, who resigned last year after eight women accused him.

PCC could lose accredited status, effectively putting it out of business, if it fails to make needed changes.

The lack of proper complaint-handling procedures is one of two issues PCC was told to look at first in response to the accreditor's finding that serious problems went undetected for years.

The initial report also had to explain how the school's top two executives - Flores and former provost Suzanne Miles - were able to short-circuit faculty input when they canceled PCC's open admissions policy in 2011. The report recommends a new rule to require faculty review of major changes.

In a letter to PCC this week, staffers at the accrediting agency complimented the college for the "excellent" quality of its initial report.

The letter said PCC "will succeed" in fixing the two problems the report addressed if officials put as much effort into follow-through as they did into drafting the report.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@azstarnet.com or at 573-4138.