Retired Marine who oversaw logistics of massive CPS closings leaving district

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Tom Tyrrell, the retired Marine who became the public face of Chicago Public Schools’ massive 2013 closings that saw thousands of students move safely to new schools, is leaving the district, CPS announced Thursday.

Tyrrell resigned from the district and his $180,000 a year job “for another opportunity in public service,” schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a letter to staff.

Arriving at CPS in the spring of 2012, the Oklahoma native quickly rose from deputy facilities officer for CPS  to chief operating officer of the district of about 400,000 students.

He oversaw all the logistics of shuttering a historic number of public schools in June 2013. That included making sure about 30,000 affected students made a safe transition, transporting tons upon tons of equipment and books from the closed schools and securing the empty buildings until a new purpose was found for them.

The retired Marine colonel had once quietly sorted out a prisoner exchange in post-war Kosovo, he told the Chciago Sun-Times in early 2013.

“I’m not saying it looks similar to now, but there was great distrust to the process on both sides but there was a lot of chaos and stress,” Tyrrell said at the time, laying out plans with Byrd-Bennett to transition children into new schools.

What was similar, he continued: “It requires you to plow through the noise and get the planning done and get it done in detail, and then be flexible enough to adapt as the plan unfolds.”

Recently, Tyrrell also headed the Central Office’s move from 125 S. Clark Street into a new Loop office at State and Madison and into two other campuses as well. He also has been heavily involved in the sale of dozens of empty CPS buildings that were closed in 2013.

“I am very happy for Tom, and I know he will make a positive and significant impact in his next position,” Byrd-Bennett wrote. “He will be sorely missed, not only for his matter-of-fact style but also for his calm demeanor under fire.”

Tyrrell’s last day is Friday. He was out of the office Thursday and CPS officials did not make him available for comment.

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