In 1958, Barbara Young Simms began to explore the possibility of starting an independent girls day school in Albuquerque. In 1965, with the help of a group of likeminded parents, she secured land, established a board of trustees and formed the Sandia School, a nonsectarian school.

In late January 1966, the Rev. Paul G. Saunders, an Episcopal priest, was selected headmaster and, later that year, the school opened. The year began with 75 students in grades 5 through 10 and finished with 82 students. Grade 11 was added the following year and grade 12 in fall 1968.


In 1969, Orell Phillips served as interim headmaster while the school's board searched for a new head. In 1970, Mose Hale became third headmaster. Three years later, Sandia School became coeducational. In 1974, Elton Knutson was selected as fourth headmaster.

The school began to refer to itself as Sandia Preparatory School during the 1975-76 academic year. Fifth-grade classes were discontinued in the 1985-86 school year.

In the summer of 1986, Dick Heath joined Sandia Prep as its fifth headmaster. Under Mr. Heath’s direction, admission to Sandia Prep grew from 270 students in 1986 to its current size of approximately 650 students. Among Mr. Heath’s accomplishments were the creation of a 20-year plan in 2000 and a master site plan in 2006. He led the school through three successful capital campaigns, resulting in the school’s first $1 million gifts and the construction of more than 90% of the campus facilities seen today. In January 2002, under Mr. Heath’s leadership, Sandia Prep launched a four-year, $5.3 million campaign for buildings and endowment, the largest fundraising effort in the School’s history. Completed in January 2006, The Campaign for Sandia Prep funded the addition of a new college counseling area, the 15,000-square-foot Russell Student Center, a library expansion and the Barbara Young Simms Classroom Building, a 25,000-square-foot, 20-classroom facility named for the school’s founder. The Campaign also added more than $1.3 million in gifts to Sandia Prep's endowment, including a portion to fund increased need-based financial aid. The school later added a $5 million, 24,000-square-foot Field House (August 2008) and the $5 million, 24,000-square-foot McCall Performing Arts Center (August 2009). After successfully leading the school for 24 years, Dick Heath retired in June 2010.

Steve Albert became Sandia Prep's sixth and current Head of School on July 1, 2010. Prior to coming to Sandia Prep, Albert was Associate Head of School and Dean of Faculty at The Hotchkiss School, where he served as a teacher and administrator from 1993 to 2010. Founded in 1891, the Hotchkiss School is an independent boarding school located in Lakeville, Connecticut. In addition to Hotchkiss, Albert has taught at schools including Harvard University, Hartwick College and Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia. He has more than twenty years teaching experience at the secondary or college level.

Albert graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Physics with Honors from Haverford College. He holds a master’s degree in education from Harvard University and a Master of Science degree in physics from Portland State University.

The first two years of Steve Albert's tenure have been exciting ones for Sandia Prep.  Under Mr. Albert's leadership, Sandia Prep has:

  •  Embarked on a comprehensive curriculum review
  • Increased the School’s commitment to environmental sustainability, by joining the Green Schools Alliance, composting on campus, increasing on-campus recycling, eliminating disposable water bottles on campus. and xeriscaping the track area as part of the Heath Sports Complex project
  • Undertaken development of a new strategic plan with the Board of Trustees
  • Installed a campus-wide wireless system and begun to utilize new technologies in the Study Skills program
  • Increased the School’s cash reserve and created a PPRRISM account to address long-term facilities maintenance and depreciation needs
  • Dedicated the Heath Sports Complex and celebrated the naming of the McCall Performing Arts Center and McCall Family Theater
  • Constructed a new guardhouse at main entrance and begun renovations to the 300 and 500 buildings
  • Strengthened global studies, with SPS joining ASSIST to bring foreign students to SPS, creating a new policy to encourage and facilitate study abroad, and fostering participation in Rotary Youth Exchange



School History Published

Constant Possum: A History of Sandia Preparatory School, by former SPS archivist and faculty member Lou Liberty, was published in 2000.


Transitions and Legacy - SPS at 50, also written by former SPS archivist and faculty member Lou Liberty, was published as a supplement to Constant Possum in 2010.

Copies of each of these books are available through Sandia Prep.


SPS Advancement Office

The Original Sandía School 

Sandia Prep’s predecessor was the original Sandía School, a private day and boarding school for girls founded by Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms (Barbara Young Simms' aunt) in 1932. Its first year, Sandía School held classes for five students and one teacher in a private house where Manzano Day School is now located. The school was formed in part to help prepare girls for further study or college in the Eastern United States.


In 1937, the school moved to a new permanent campus (now part of Kirtland Air Force Base). Mrs. Simms commissioned architect John Gaw Meem to design the school complex in the territorial style. By 1938, the school had 75 students, nine of whom were boarders, and 18 faculty. In 1942, due to World War II, Sandía School closed. A number of alumnae from the first Sandía School actively participated in the organization of the current Sandia Prep School.