APA Center for Organizational Excellence: National Winner

The Awards

Government/Military/Educational Institution Category

Sandia Preparatory School

A Balanced Approach to Learning

New MexicoSandia Preparatory School is an independent co-ed school with a college preparatory program for students in grades 6 through 12. At Sandia Prep, the growth of the total person is emphasized within a caring environment, and this philosophy extends to everyone in the Sandia family – students, faculty and staff.

Click here to watch a video clip about Sandia Prep.

Employee Involvement

Creating and maintaining a sense of family is the key to Sandia Prep’s unique identity and market niche in the community. Mornings begin with a gathering similar to a family breakfast, where employees congregate to hear the day’s agenda and the headmaster, faculty and students make announcements to the school during daily assemblies. Monthly faculty meetings provide an outlet for teachers to suggest agenda items and share success stories. Sandia Prep also collects staff input through regular employee surveys and employees’ individual styles are respected with freedom to establish curricula and manage classrooms independently.

At Sandia Prep, involvement is a group endeavor. A weekly schedule of activities, library updates and security notices are just a few examples of information gathered and disseminated via email. Employees have access to a variety of resources on Sandia Prep’s Web site, such as the school activities calendar and archives of PrepTalk, a monthly newsletter for parents. Additionally, the Prep Post is a quarterly publication that features faculty, staff, alumni, students, programs and events and a school journal provides an outlet for faculty and staff to express their creative sides.

Health and Safety

In a school environment, safety is paramount. Sandia Prep has preventative measures in place to keep students and employees safe so they can focus on learning. A security director, strict visitor policy, student check-in for late arrivals, fenced perimeter, locked gates, staff -assigned keys, alarms on all buildings and emergency protocols are all in place to protect the receptive minds that flourish in this unique learning environment.

Sandia Prep is a health-centered organization, working to achieve a sustainable environment. The campus is entirely non-smoking and Sandia Prep recently devoted an entire back-to-school session to exercise, nutrition and stress management. Sandia Prep has a partnership with a local medical facility to obtain immediate care for injuries, as well as a full-time trainer and multiple CPR-certified staff members. A well-being taskforce helps employees perform at their best and a health and wellness coordinator provides confidential counseling referrals for employees, parents and students. Employees use free time to take an invigorating walk, catch a yoga class or sweat it out in the on-campus workout room. Sandia Prep also offers employees discounted memberships to private gyms. When hunger strikes, employees can fuel up in a dining room with a salad bar and catered, well-balanced meals.

Employee Growth and Development

At Sandia Prep, life is a continuous learning and teaching opportunity for faculty, staff and students. Academic excellence is encouraged through educational grants and in-service support. Employees are encouraged to use funding from Sandia Prep to attend conferences and seminars and a tuition reimbursement program supports faculty pursuing advanced studies. At annual workshops, nationally recognized speakers present lectures on topics such as child psychology, adolescent issues and learning theory.

Student activities such as Computer Bowl and drama presentations are widely publicized so everyone can attend. Employees can also exhibit their creative talents during art, music, drama and science events. Learning together is always a recipe for success at Sandia Prep – each year employees are given a current book on teaching, learning, organizational theory or other relevant subjects to read and discuss as a group.

Work-Life Balance

Sandia Prep’s people-centered philosophy makes it easy for employees to find balance everyday. Multiple free periods including a fifty-minute lunch break let employees take a breather, grade papers or exercise. Summer break is the best-known perk of working in education. Sandia Prep employees have ten weeks off in the summer, three weeks during the winter holidays and morning and afternoons off during student event days. The workday also ends at 3:25 pm, leaving employees time for grading papers and tests while still having a personal life.

As a school, Sandia Prep has obligations to students and parents; however, employees may bring their children to school as needed and crisis leave is handled on an individual basis. Tuition remission for employees’ children helps off set the cost of a quality education and offers the convenience and security of knowing that one’s children are nearby. Faculty members sponsor Sandia Prep’s outdoor program and frequently join students during kayaking, camping, hiking, musical, scientific and other exciting adventures. After evening events that require employees to work late, Sandia Prep even provides a hot breakfast the following morning.

Employee Recognition

Sandia Prep is a place of intellect, achievement and pride. Faculty is recognized collectively each year by the Student Government Association, which gives awards recognizing each teacher’s special talents. Throughout the year, announcements are made during daily assembly and meetings and special acknowledgments are sent via email. Some examples of accomplishments that are shared with the school are earning an advanced degree, obtaining a grant, publishing a book or being involved in a community event.

The headmaster also shows his gratitude to the entire staff with a back-to-school reception at his home and an end-of-year reception at a local venue. Appreciation is expressed through social events such as luncheons, receptions and gatherings throughout the school year, as well as in school publications and newsletters. Two special monetary awards are presented at the end of the year during an assembly attended by parents, students and staff.

The Bottom Line

Students and employees alike know they can count on the esprit de corps fostered by Sandia Prep. Employee turnover is low, and the average tenure is 20 years. Not only do employees remain loyal throughout their careers, but alumni frequently return to work for Sandia Prep. With an average of 60 applicants for each open position, promoting from within, when possible, is always the goal.

Low rates of absenteeism result in direct cost savings, as substitute teachers are not needed as often and few employees use all of their available sick time. More than 300 students apply for the 100 available spots each year and attrition is a low 6 percent. Sandia Prep’s greatest strength lies in its practice of operating as a truly inclusive family, an approach that underpins the success achieved by students, staff and the school as a whole.

"The Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award was an excellent process, which provided us with invaluable information that will greatly assist us in moving forward with our initiatives in health, wellness, and safety. The bonus was that we won the award!"

Josie Ryan
Director of Health and Wellness
Northwoodcare Inc. and Northwood Homecare Ltd