Five stars, or "Great" just doesn't even begin to cut it when it comes to Forest Trail. I need the star that says "BEST SCHOOL EVER"! Seriously! I spent over a decade in public education prior to staying at home with children, and I can honestly say that it just doesn't get any better than this! From the wise decision-making under the leadership of Charles McCasland, to the expertise among classroom teachers, to the friendliness of staff members, to the "just right" level of involvement of the parents, to the well-mannered behavior of the students, to the importance placed on philanthropic activities, to the engagement of students in the school garden and chicken coup...this school HAS IT ALL! Charles McCasland has "built an empire" in his many years at Forest Trail. He seems to have a knack for hiring the cream of the crop and then working to bring out greatness in them that they did not even know was there. He is an inspirational leader rather than a micromanager. Teachers universally speak very highly of him, which speaks volumes! Mr. McCasland has a gentle way of communicating. He is thoughtful, wise and caring. Even when sharing concerns, (which he has had the opportunity to do with my children), he speaks in a way that lets me know he has my child's best interest at heart. My children have been blessed with FAB-U-LOUS teachers who put in countless hours working to reach my children academically, socially and emotionally. By engaging the students with projects and activities that build independence, cooperation, and responsibility, the teachers FAR exceed the basic "test prep" minimums! I have fully appreciated the unique strengths each teacher has offered my children and the ways they have all worked to meet and challenge the specific needs of my children - academically and behaviorally. Each year, I have felt a strong partnership between home and school. My children get off the bus each day excited to share about the things they are learning - from math centers, to science experiments, to art projects! They ask to to download songs they've learned in music and they teach my husband and I the games they learn in PE! ALL of the teachers seem to teach from a place of passion, which has lit a learning spark in my children! I could not imagine a better place to launch my children's educational career! Forest Trail really is the BEST SCHOOL EVER!
I usually don't comment on boards such as this, but it's important for me to tell as many people as possible that as a former Forest Trail parent, what a fabulous school this is.
First of all, Forest Trail is one of the most loving, caring, professional, schools my kids have ever gone to. Forest Trail does such a good job meeting the needs of ALL students. The staff is a group of highly qualified teachers who genuinely care about every student. The teachers spend countless hours doing what they need to do to make school great for every student. Both of my children were very much ready for middle school, high school, college and ultimately life because of the wonderful base they had at Forest Trail.
Forest Trail teachers not only taught my children the book knowledge needed to move on to the next level, but Forest Trail seemed very committed to teaching my children life skills. They learned manners and skills that didn't just come from our home.
Forest Trail was also a very fun place for my kids. They LOVED the Trailblazer Assemblies that happened every 6 weeks. The assemblies provided an opportunity for my children to learn the school songs (one of which is a fun parody using an 80s hit-not 60s as mentioned in another comment) as well as patriotic songs important to all Americans such as The Star Spangled Banner and other fun songs. I still hear former Falcons singing these songs. They also loved the "cut the tie" and the fun kid-friendly awards they received when they earned "trailblazers." My kids also have fond memories of Live Oak camp for 5th grade, the ocean trip for 4th grade, Falcon Frolics and a vast amount of other activities and memories the staff at Forest Trail did and still does for their beloved students.
The staff at Forest Trail is the best of the best. They were and continue to be very highly qualified, caring people who helped my children be successful as they progressed and continue to progress through life.
You can't go wrong if you choose to live in a neighborhood that gets to attend Forest Trail.
This is a mediocre school in a prestigious district. We have four kids and my husband recently retired from the military, so we've had a lot of exposure to different schools. The teachers at this one are fine (and some are great, as at any school) but don't have super-high academic expectations just because this school is in a high-performing district. The campus culture discourages homework, and students who are significantly above or below their grade level will not be given the special attention they need (again, this is like at most other public schools). There is almost no diversity in this school, and no effort on the part of the staff to create awareness of diversity or a social conscience. Quarterly school spirit assemblies typically feature kids singing school songs to the tune of 80's pop songs, then on to the raffles to see who wins treats (money for lucky teachers, goodies for lucky kids.) Our kids' peers were overwhelmingly focused on parties and sports, with little interest in academics. When I volunteered there I noticed students were often rowdy, and my son told me about a boy in his class who was bullied all year- cliques and social pressure are big at this school. The negative comments made by other reviewers about the principal are accurate- the parents are the ones who run this school (that's for the worse-it needs real leadership). I could go on, but I've stated my basic case. If you want your kids ensconced in a 99% white, affluent school that is permissive of their behavior issues, rewards them for just showing up every day, and ignores both the world around them and the importance of working hard to prepare for the future, then Forest Trail is your school. If you want a more studious environment for your child, who may not spend the rest of his life in the social bubble of Westlake, then go elsewhere. After two years of giving FTE a fair chance, we left and our kids are much better off.
I have two children who attend Forest Trail Elementary and they absolutely love school and learning. Each day they come home wanting to read and learn more. I think it because the teachers and administration value curiosity and individuality. The staff focuses on the whole child not just the academics. They are still learning the skills they need to be successful learners as well. Charles McCasland trusts his teachers and is a wise leader. He encourages his teachers to focus on children's strengths, so they will be motivated to learn at Forest Trail and for a lifetime. I am so thankful that my children are Forest Trail Falcons.
When we moved to Austin, we moved to Westlake to be in the Eanes District after being told my multiple people that this was the best district for intelligent, creative kids. Our child has attended 1st and 2nd grade here, and we are looking to move out of the district this summer. The comment before mine regarding the Principle couldn't be more spot on. My child is extremely bright and could benefit from a little more organization and leadership from his school. My child experienced a MAJOR jump in expectations from 1st to 2nd grade. My husband and I have been blown away by what they expected him to know and be capable after one summer. None of it was at all grounded in what had been taught the previous year, and we the parents, continue to search for ways to assist our child to help understand what is being taught. At this point, we are both just of the mind to "get him through it" to get him OUT. The lack of leadership is painfully obvious and the lack of communication from Admin regarding educational expectations and tools to assist them is borderline negligent.
Forest Trail is sliding downhill. Teacher turnover has been high the past two years, and the replacement teachers are not up to par. The principal, Bruce McCasland, is elderly and actually retired but the district pays him as a consultant while also covering his retirement so he is a huge drain on the district's coffers and totally not worth it. He is out of touch with modern teaching methods and requirements and is a very weak leader. His hiring decisions the past several years reflect this. His workload consists of standing in the hall and smiling vacantly at parents during big events and then going back to hide in his office so he can leave at 3:30 and work a 30 hour week. If your child is not in the mainstream, i.e. If your child is extremely smart or if your child has special needs, forget it . The administration at Forest Trail does not want kids who are more than a standard deviation away from the norm, and if you try to get advanced instruction or a change in protocol to modernize teaching methods for a special needs child, you will run into a solid brick wall. Bruce McCasland is retired and he wants to coast, coast, coast.
I just love the school. Been there for 3 years now, the teachers are excellent they care for the children, the school is beautiful, parent involvement is high with a lot of success helping the school grow. Great resources for kids to study learn and have fun. However, kids have to study, they also care for test results (the way the rated exemplary every year is having high scores).
We moved here from another State and in my opinion, this school is awesome. Great leadership, awesome teachers and very good programs. The computer lab/teaching is far superior than our previous school. High parent involvement. I don't have a special needs child but my friend does and she hand selected this school.
I had to remove my child from this school because it is not a safe environment. Routine bullying and extreme lack of supervision on the playground. Forget asking the principal to do his job; he looks quite tired and is below mediocre. School teaches to the TAKS. Not a good place for gifted and/or special needs children.
The children have high test scores because the population of children in that area are very bright children. The teachers provide plenty of creative learning activities for the children, especially the music teachers.