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Bricolage Academy to open to 75 kindergartners and $1.4 million budget

Faced with the question of where he would send his young children to school, Josh Densen had an idea that most parents probably don’t consider.

Maybe I should start my own.

Densen, a former teacher and recent managing director of the Achievement Network, said he wanted a school that would encourage innovation in the early grades and prepare children for the challenges of working in a rapidly evolving world.

The result is Bricolage Academy, a school built with input of families Densen has recruited through playground play dates and elsewhere.

Poised to open this fall to 75 kindergartners — including Densen’s son — Bricolage will hold classes at Touro Synagogue on St. Charles Avenue in its inaugural year. But Densen said leaders are continuing to search for a permanent space.

During a June 10 meeting, Bricolage’s board of directors discussed the school’s preliminary 1.4 million 2013-2014 budget, a spending plan that Densen said takes into consideration some of the one-time expenses that come with opening and operating a school in its first year.

The figures show Bricolage also has a $94,400 reserve, the bulk of which Densen said comes from a $75,000 charter school start-up grant which he hopes to avoid dipping into. The budget anticipates that expenditures will use up all but $312 of the projected revenues.

That $312 seemed to fall a little short of what some board members said they would like the school to be saving moving forward.

“The reserve fund is something we need to start addressing,” said member Alan Philipson.

Densen and other board members agreed, but Densen said it would be difficult right now to hit somewhere between the 6 to 10 percent mark suggested.

Board members also discussed the design of a 401k plan for employees as well as plans for transportation and savings.

Ashley Beckner, Bricolage’s director of finance and operations, said the school was planning to use a 401k investment plan with a 6 percent match. Under that proposal, employees would become vested after three years. That means that if they quit before three years, they would not have access to the school’s match as they would if they stayed longer.

Beckner said other charters are offering a 4 to 5 percent match with immediate vesting.

“We did not want to take that approach because we wanted to incentivize people to stay,” he said.

Member Cindy Nuesslein did not agree with that tactic.

“I think that’s a recruitment detractor,” said Nuesslein.

Beckner further explained the thinking behind holding off on vesting. “We’re looking at people who want to be at the school for more than a year.”

“I wouldn’t do it with their retirement,” said Nusslein.

Beckner said they could continue exploring the plan. Member Jeff Teague said the board could continue to discuss the budget without a finalized 401k plan because the preliminary budget reflected the most the school would theoretically contribute to employee’s funds.

“We are evaluating the rate of the match and the vesting schedule,” Densen said Tuesday.

Densen also updated the board on transportation plans. He said Bricolage will use a mix of schools buses and possibly vans to provide transportation to all students who request it. He also said the school will aim to ensure students spent no more than one hour on the bus on the way to or from school.

When asked by a reporter for The Lens whether this meeting had constituted as the school’s public budget hearing, Garda said he thought the school was in compliance by posting the budget on the school’s website in advance of the meeting. However, state law requires the hearing be noticed in an official journal 10 days prior to the hearing.

Garda, a lawyer, said he had read through the state’s open meetings law, and did not find protocol for the budget hearing there. He said the school intends to act within full compliance of budgeting laws and informed The Lens later on Monday that the school will have a public budget hearing July 11.

The board also elected a new member, Jeff Hebert, bringing board membership to eight.

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  • nickelndime

    Only something like this!!! (a kindergarten charter school) “put together” on selected playgrounds in this gawd4saken city – could have been approved by the Orleans Parish School Board – and it (the Board) wonders why eligible schools choose not to return to local control and the public distrusts its decisions, policies, management and the wheeling-dealing that continues post-Katrina!!!