The Trussville City Schools Board of Education (TCS BOE) accepted the resignation of Superintendent Pattie Neill on Tuesday after more than a month of controversy stemming from the discovery of a "death notebook" written by a student over a year ago.
In an anonymous vote, all five board members approved an amendment to Neill's contract, ending her employment with TCS and 10 years of ups and downs for the school system. Although TCS is consistently ranked as one of the top schools in the state, there's been a steady flow of complaints over the last decade from parents who claimed Neill and other school leaders refused to listen to their concerns. Recently, school officials have held several meetings with parents concerning the apparent lack of communication and transparency regarding the notebook's discovery.
Neill spoke to 1819 News after the board accepted her resignation, saying she was proud of the work she did as superintendent.
"The last 10 years have been absolutely awesome," Neill said.
Neill maintains she did not know about the death notebook until a year after a high school teacher first discovered it. Hewitt-Trussville High School principal Tim Salem has also been put on leave after police said he did not notify the proper authorities when he was made aware of it in October 2021.
Neill said the ongoing investigation into the matter would reveal she was first made aware of the possible threat on September 21, when Trussville Police Chief Eric Rush called her about it.
"From there, there seemed to be questions about that whole event," Neill said. "So, I took the leave so there could be a third-party investigation, and that's fine with me because it will reveal that I didn't know about the death notebook until September of , and that's what it is."
Since she first went on leave, Neill's yard has been vandalized with toilet paper, while parents have made more claims about negative interactions with the former superintendent. Neill said she has stayed off of social media throughout this ordeal and said a higher power has helped her remain strong throughout the process.
"Well, I'm not on social media, so I have no idea what's been happening in the underworld," Neill said. "That's another world that I don't live in. So, I have not seen one thing ... I probably keep the strength through my faith and through the truth. You know, if you have done the right thing and you're strong in your faith, then that always boosts your ability to be strong ... They can think and say whatever they want, and I can think and say whatever I want. I have respect for differing opinions."
Neill's contract was set to expire on June 30, 2026. Though her resignation is immediately in effect, she will be paid through Oct. 31, 2023. She said her next step is to reset over the next year and "explore new opportunities."
"I feel like I've had a very successful career, and you're going to have bumps in the road, but I'm going to be fine," said Neill. "We made a lot of progress. Our trajectory was going straight up. We had outstanding rankings, graduation rates, property values in Trussville are up, and because of the school system, people move there. But it's been 10 years, so it's probably time for new leadership, and I hope the trajectory continues for Trussville City Schools ... I'm leaving a legacy of excellence, and I hope they continue it under new leadership."
Neill had similar comments in her letter of resignation to the BOE:
To the Trussville Board of Education,
I am proud of the accomplishments of the students, educators, and staff of Trussville City Schools during the time I have served as Superintendent over the last 10 years. I believe this is the perfect time for new leadership to continue the mission of Trussville City Schools, and I have decided to step down in my duties as Superintendent. Also, the investigation being conducted by the Board will affirm that I did not know of the "death notebook" prior to September 21st of 2022. I love Trussville and I wish the very best for Trussville City Schools in the future.
Dr. Pattie Neill
Tuesday night, board member Kim DeShazo, who is also a TCS parent and an attorney, said the school system and the community can now look ahead to brighter days.
"We are allowed to put an end to a chapter," DeShazo said. "It gives us the opportunity to move forward. It provides us an opportunity to have a fresh start, and those are all good things. Those are things our community needs; those are things our community wants.
"... I am looking forward to our community being in the news for things we like to celebrate because Trussville City Schools does have a lot to celebrate and does have a lot to be thankful for."
DeShazo said, as a board member, she weighed the pros and cons of the deal. She said the decision was made to avoid litigation and expenses after negotiations between Neill's attorneys and the school board's attorney.
Neill, who is from Birmingham, worked in Tennessee before coming to Trussville City Schools. According to multiple reports, she was asked to resign from that school system for unspecified reasons. Neill took over TCS in 2012 and was named Superintendent of the Year for District V in 2020.
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