In 1958, Barbara Young Simms began to explore the possibility of re-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 Sandía 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.  Paul Saunders served as headmaster for the first three years.

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 650 students in 2010. 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 Head of School in July 2010. Albert had been Associate Head of School and Dean of Faculty at The Hotchkiss School, where he had served as a teacher and administrator from 1993 to 2010.  During Mr. Albert's tenure, Sandia Prep completed a comprehensive curriculum review; developed its next strategic plan; increased the School’s commitment to environmental sustainability; strengthened global studies; dedicated the Heath Sports Complex; and celebrated the naming of the McCall Performing Arts Center and McCall Family TheaterIn May 2014, Steve Albert informed the Board of Trustees that the following year would be his last at Sandia Prep; the Board of Trustees offered, and Steve accepted, a terminal sabbatical which began in June 2014.  Sandia Prep's Board voted unanimously  to appoint Joyce Whelchel as Interim Head of School.

Joyce Whelchel served as Interim Head of School from June 2014 through June 2015. At the time of her appointment , Ms. Whelchel already had been part of the Sandia Prep community for 17 years, as a teacher, administrator and parent.  She had served in multiple leadership roles — as 9th/10th Grade Dean, 11th/12th Grade Dean, Interim Assistant Head of School, and Assistant Head for Student Life — all while continuing to teach as a member of the Science department.  Former SPS Chair Lorna Wiggins noted that Whelchel was "extraordinarily qualified to guide our school during this year of transition."  Under Ms. Whelchel's leadership, Sandia Prep completed a $1.09 million renovation of the Track and Soccer Stadium, enhanced curriculum, and added the S.P.A.C.E., Sandia Prep's Autonomous Creative Environment, a Maker Lab tol open in August, as our students enjoyed a successful year in academics, athletics, the arts and other activities.

Bill Sinfield is Sandia Prep's Head of School.  His selection was announced in December 2014 by the Sandia Preparatory School Board of Trustees.  The announcement concluded a national search by the Sandia Prep Search Committee with the assistance of Carney Sandoe, a national firm specializing in independent school search consulting. “Bill emerged as the clear choice for our next Head of School," said Pat Allen, Search Committee Chair and Chair of Sandia Prep’s Board of Trustees. "We have no doubt that Bill’s experience, energy, and engaging personality will be a great fit for Sandia Prep.”

Bill Sinfield’s career has included teaching, coaching and leading in both American and Canadian schools. Most recently, he was Headmaster of Good Hope Country Day School, the largest of 22 non-public schools on the island of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. During his tenure, Mr. Sinfield successfully merged two schools, St. Croix Country Day School and Good Hope School. One hundred percent of Good Hope Country Day’s graduates are accepted into colleges throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe.  Prior to his work on St. Croix, Sinfield served as: Headmaster at The Melrose School, Brewster, New York; Head of the Junior School at Meadowridge School, Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada; and teacher and administrator at St. John’s Ravenscourt School, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Over the course of his thirty years as an educator, Sinfield has taught a wide range of subjects and coached numerous sports at both the middle and upper school levels.  Sinfield earned his B.A. in English Literature from Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario; his Bachelor of Education from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario; and his Master of Education in Administrative Leadership from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. 

Sinfield said, “I am honored and humbled by the incredible privilege of serving as Sandia Prep’s next Head of School. I was drawn to the breadth and depth of Sandia Prep’s outstanding programs— not only the academic program, which is rigorous, but also the athletic, arts and outdoor leadership programs. That’s what a real education should be."  He added, "Sandia Prep’s faculty and administrators understand that the time, energy, and enthusiasm they expend on their work of educating the whole child will make a significant and positive difference for students. At Sandia Prep, I found a place of joyful learning wholly committed to developing the thinking skills, the interpersonal skills, and the qualities of character that our children will need to succeed in this ever-changing world.”  Sinfield is the eighth Head of School in Sandia Prep’s 49-year history. 

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.