Teachers are only as effective as the administration allows them to be and in a school like GFS, where the majority of moms went themselves, and often sit on the board and call the shots, there is no way to discipline the mean girls or change the way things are. Teachers hands are tied because Mom sits on the board and Dad donates the big bucks - I'm not making this up, this is how it works here and probably why great people at the top have just fled.
The administration (heads of each school) won't or can't budge even if you need to change anything like your homework load, or your classes due to serious illness. They are set in their ways unless your parent sits on the board.
Warning: this school has cliques. You are either in or you're out, and it's awful especially if you are creative, different, not a preppie, artistic, or haven't attended from Pre-K (known as "a lifer"). Teachers and admin are OK to good with a few great ones but are fed up with the girls and their attitudes, and their overbearing parents. President of school just left after only 2 years and she was excellent. Head of Upper School just left also after just 2 years. Both had kids at the school and got free tuition which says a lot. One student was recently expelled for tripping a teacher in class, who fell on the floor, while the student snap chatted the whole thing! How mean is that?! The arts programs leave a lot to be desired, especially middle school music which is basically just chorus (and just mediocre).
They have counselors that kids can go to and they try to deal with bullying but are not as effective or on top of it as they should be. If the kids were actually taught the 5 core values in a meaningful way that shaped character, then most bullying would not happen.
Some administrators who have previously spent years teaching at Garrison are not aware of how unwilling they are to effect change. Because they come from within, and are part of the old system, they are unable to think outside the box and make even the smallest change for the better. The new head of school seems great but has her hands full because of the parents who sit on the board and actually run things. She can't make big changes without their consent, and they do not even see the need for change.
The teachers are very good, a significant few are not, the campus is idyllic, academics are good but not as rigorous as they should be. They do a stellar job selling prospective applicants on the school, but we found that it is not at all the school they marketed to us. It only suits a certain type of student and family (Lacrosse players, Lily Pulitzer, Range Rovers, polo players, daughters and grandaughters of alum etc.) We wanted a progressive, academically rigorous school, with a kind and inclusive student body. We found it to be disappointingly conventional, archaically punitive in regards to discipline, with average academics and a significant "mean girls" environment. We left in 2016, mainly because of the mean girls. Also we did not want our daughter having these girls, many of whom are fixated on spray tans and Hunter boots, as her peers. I know of 3 other families who left in 2016, and one who left in 2013, for this same reason. And these were very nice families. The new administration does not reach out to do exit interviews with the families who leave, missing out on valuable data about what needs to change (which says a lot about their willingness and ability to change the status quo in the future). They repeatedly tout their "5 Core Values" (kindness, compassion etc.) and how important they are, yet it's clear that the student body as a whole does not embody or truly care about these values - it's the opposite, and mostly all surface, like a mini country club. We are so glad that we left. Look carefully before you enroll your daughter here - although many reviewers give it positive reviews, for our family it was a huge disappointment.
Amazing teachers, administrators, families and students. My daughter started in 6th grade and is starting her 7th grade year. She has made wonderful friendships and learned so much beyond the typical things you learn in a book. She has learned to debate, to self advocate, to be organized and prepared and to take responsibility for her actions. I cannot wait to see what else she learns!
I attended Garrison Forest School for 12 years. It was definitely the best experience of my life. A class of 54 girls allowed us to be a close knit group and grow together as a team. The classes were even smaller thus allowing for a really personal learning experience. The teachers were all absolutely fantastic and challenged us daily. The Campus is absolutely stunning and very well maintained. After 12 years it definitely felt like home. 9 years later, I find myself missing the experience and wishing I could go back. I was a member of the tennis team and the Riding team both of which provided wonderful experiences that played a big role in the person I am today. I would recommend this school to anyone who wants an excellent education as well as great relationships with both student and faculty. GO LIGHTS!!
We only have experience with the Preschool and I cannot recommend it enough. Our son was introduced to "school" through the Two's program and it was a phenomenal way for him to discover and explore his independence. He just finished the Three's program and we've continued to be impressed with teachers and curriculum, including the "specials" of science, gym, music and library. He's happy to go to school and, at this age, I think his enthusiasm for school is more important than academic progress (though he has learned a great deal). He loves his teachers and enjoys their company.
The head of the preschool, Zibby, stresses that GFS is a place for families and we've found that to be true. It feels like a home away from home, with wonderful classmates, parents and friends. Our son was admitted to one of the more selective preschools in DC, but we declined the invitation and chose Garrison Forest for this reason. We've never regretted that decision.
We're looking forward to our youngest starting the Two's program next fall. She's already so comfortable there, and her first stop during drop-off is always Mrs. Isenhour's office to say hello. It's just a wonderful, nurturing place. We feel so lucky that our kids' first taste of formal education is with people who genuinely care about them.