Rae Trahan, the District 9 Lafayette Parish School Board rep featured on this week’s cover of The Independent, has clearly taken issue with “this little reporter” and the “misinformation” this paper published regarding Trahan’s poor attendance records, inaccessibility and indifference toward the needs of her district.
Trahan, speaking at the end of Wednesday night’s board meeting, spent almost nine minutes publicly refuting the data compiled in The Ind’s “Absent-Minded,” an analysis that casts Trahan’s latest actions as a board member in an admittedly unfavorable light. Contrary to the half-dozen inaccurate statements Trahan made in her rant, the numbers cited in this week’s cover story don’t lie.
As this newspaper reported, Trahan has the worst 2012 attendance record on the school board to date, missing 17 meetings so far this year. Keep in mind that attendance records compiled by The Independent take into account all scheduled meetings of the board, including special meetings, regular meetings, workshops, committee assignments, etc. Seven months into 2012, Trahan is only three absences away from matching the 20 absences she recorded in 2011.
She’s also the Youngsville representative who joined three other board members July 18 in voting against the funding mechanism that will allow much-needed new construction to begin at Youngsville’s severely over-crowded schools, despite a public plea from Youngsville Mayor Wilson Viator for the board’s support in addressing the critical problem in Trahan’s district.
“I did not vote against a measure to promote building in Youngsville. I voted against a measure that had absolutely no plan as to where the rest of the money would go, and for what projects, as well as the Youngsville projects that were mentioned yet not in a concrete plan that we could vote on,” Trahan now says of her decision.
She noted at last night’s meeting that she “is in constant contact with the mayor” of Youngsville, though Viator told The Independent last week that he has had no communication with Trahan since her vote against progress for schools in Youngsville that are bursting at every seam.
The article on Trahan outlines at least a few more of her blunders of late, almost all of which she denied during Wednesday night’s board meeting.
In her rant, Trahan countered that as a local small business owner (Bella Beads in Youngsville), she cannot leave work for special meetings and board workshops that are scheduled during regular business hours.
“I have a business. I am, contrary to popular belief, not Wal-Mart, not McDonald’s. I am a one-girl operation. When the one girl’s not there, business is closed. We can’t handle that. So the one girl has to remain,” she said. “Maybe you know this little reporter. ... I think her comment was she tried to reach me in every kind of way she could. One, she called my house numerous times and left messages. I don’t have an answering machine. Ok. She called the shop. I was out of town. Guess I got the message when I got back, which was yesterday. I did get a message on my cell phone, one, today. I did return her phone call. But she was not answering her phone, and therefore I left a message on her phone and have not heard from her since.”
What Trahan failed to mention is that The Independent stopped by her bead shop in Youngsville — twice — before trying to call her at home, at her business and on her cell. As noted by Trahan, she was out of town last week and not at her bead shop. The “one-girl operation,” however, remained open and other women were seen running her store.
She also told the board that The Independent left voice messages on a home answering machine that doesn’t exist. But The Ind never claimed to have left messages on Trahan’s answering machine at home. We couldn’t. When a reporter called Trahan’s home phone both Friday morning and Friday afternoon, the following recording was waiting on the other end (it’s the same recording we heard when we called again this morning):
Trahan said in her response that her attendance records are far less striking than what this paper reported — as long as you don’t count the workshops and special meetings for which she is rarely present.
“I don’t miss board meetings. I have missed I think two this year, not a huge deal as far as the numbers she was quoting in comparison,” Trahan said.
Actually, Rae, you’ve missed three.
As for her cell phone, Trahan maintains that she received a voice mail from The Independent Wednesday — five days after the newspaper called her cell phone — and immediately returned the call.
Indeed, Trahan did return the call Wednesday afternoon. The phone from which she called, however, was listed as “Blocked” and the voice mail was from an “Unknown” source. She said in the voice mail that she was available on her cell phone. She left no call-back number.
The Independent tried for days to obtain Trahan’s cell phone number before calling her on Friday. At least two of her fellow school board members (both of whom were reached on their cell phones) do not have a cell number for Trahan. And when one school board member (also reached via cell phone) called central office for permission to release her cell number, central office told the board member that Trahan does not want the number released.
“I don’t think I’m that difficult to reach,” Trahan said during last night’s meeting.
The Independent called Trahan’s cell phone again this morning. Again, we couldn't reach her. The following are Rae Trahan's comments - in full - from Wednesday's board meeting:
"I would like to address a nice article that was written as the headline in The Independent today, “Absent-Minded.” Wow. I don’t think I’m absent-minded. I think my constituents would say I’m not as well. Maybe you know this little reporter. I would really like to ... I think her comment was she tried to reach me in every kind of way she could.
One, she called my house numerous times and left messages. I don’t have an answering machine. Ok. She called the shop. I was out of town. Guess I got the message when I got back, which was yesterday. I did get a message on my cell phone, one, today. I did return her phone call. But she was not answering her phone, and therefore I left a message on her phone and have not heard from her since.
I don’t think I’m that difficult to reach. Second of all, the absentee issue she addresses in this article is absenteeism of workshops during working hours.
I have a business. I am, contrary to popular belief, not Wal-Mart, not McDonald’s. I am a one-girl operation. When the one girl’s not there, business is closed. We can’t handle that. So the one girl has to remain.
When we have workshops, and that’s what this is talking about is workshops, I don’t miss board meetings. I have missed I think two this year, not a huge deal as far as the numbers she was quoting in comparison.
She talks about not supporting a bond issue that would have got Youngsville schools construction. I didn’t support the bond issue not because Youngsville schools were on it and I didn’t want to see them get money. I didn’t support it because there was no plan. Show me where all the money is going. Tell me where it is going, to which schools, and when. I’ll be happy to support it. I just cannot support a vague idea. It was not that I didn’t want Youngsville schools to get money. We absolutely want Youngsville schools to get money. They absolutely need it.
I am in constant contact with the mayor there. We are always talking. His promotion here has been a collaborative effort between both he and I, as well as meetings with he and I and Dr. Cooper. Again, misinformation. You know, I could go through this item by item. She talks about, you start seeing my absenteeism as a dramatic drop as of May 4 when the gang of five made some kind of debut. I don’t know anything about these Gang of Five issues or the dates they did this.
If you want to talk about May 4, and if she’d have contacted me and we’d have actually had a conversation, on May 4 my assistant manager in my business was transferred to Casper, Wyoming. Wow. Don’t have girl No. 2, so girl No. 1 can’t leave anymore. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. But, does she call me?
There was some conversation in here about being invited to chamber issues when Dr. Cooper was speaking. I don’t think Dr. Cooper and I have any issues. We communicate very well. When I need to talk to him I call him up, we have a nice conversation. When we need to have a meeting I come by and we have a nice conversation. I think she’s trying to make this out to be something that it is not. The chambers, one I didn’t realize you ever spoke at the Broussard chamber Dr. Cooper. I was not informed of that. It says I was invited. I have no knowledge of ever being invited. The Youngsville chamber, I was invited, I got a phone call from a friend ... in the chamber ... she called at 11 o’clock and said, “We forgot about you. Dr. Cooper’s coming at noon. Can you come?” Again, we’re a one-girl operation. Can’t just snap our fingers and go. So that didn’t happen.
Oh and if she would’ve liked a better picture than this, she could have called me. I have much better pictures than this. I have faces. I have great faces. I betcha there’s a whole bunch of kids from the school bus who recognize this face. Um, but uh, beyond all that, I truly believe that this is a bashing initiative because The Independent does not like the questions that I ask. And this is meant to shut me up. But she doesn’t know me, they don’t know me. Contrary to popular belief, the harder you push, the harder I push back. I will continue to ask the questions that I feel are pertinent to my constituents, and I will continue to ask for the answers. Regardless of how many of these we do.
If she’d like to get me on the phone, she can try again. I’d be happy to answer her phone call. I did return her call today. Unfortunately, she apparently has decided that there were more important issues.
You know Dr. Cooper I think I’ve asked to reschedule workshops not during business times, but I guess that’s just not in the cards. People just don’t want to do that. It’s very difficult for me to get away. Sorry. I do make every effort. I was here today. I’m sure my constituents will understand.
There’s another thing in here she talks about. She talks about the fact that I was absent for the most important interviews of the superintendent search. Contrary to popular belief, I was skyping into the conversation, and I was actually having conversations with board members in the actual facility. These guys knew I was watching from the shop. I was getting input from constituents who were shopping at my facility. Which is really great, by the way.
Another thing she says, what a sorry thing that I made a trip on taxpayer dollars to research Dr. Cooper in McComb and Dr. Gonsoulin at his position in Mississippi. Contrary to popular belief when I’m not in my shop I can’t just take a personal day ... I have to pay someone else to replace me so I can go. So it costs me money. Any trip that I leave my facility for. It was not an expensive trip. I bummed a ride with the two other school board members going. I question - why didn’t other school board members do their due diligence and check on those people they were voting on? You know, this is all smoke and mirrors to try to discredit me but it won’t work. It won’t work at all. Good night."
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