October 10, 2002 at 5:45 PM EST - Updated July 26 at 11:40 PM
By LAURA JOHNSTON, Associated Press Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) - The head of Cleveland's Roman Catholic schools, who was a leading proponent of the city's landmark school voucher program, has announced she will step down in June.
In her 11 years as secretary of education and superintendent for the Diocese of Cleveland, Sister Carol Anne Smith oversaw 162 schools.
Smith, 54, who will remain part of the Sisters of Humility of Mary religious order, said one of the highlights of her career was the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling that state money can go to Cleveland children who want to use vouchers to attend religious schools.
The majority of the 51 schools participating in the city's voucher program are Catholic schools.
"I have been very grateful to have had a role in moving forward the school choice program agenda in this nation," Smith said, adding that her goal is to give families the opportunity to enroll their children in the school of their choice.
When the decision was announced, Smith said she felt it was the responsibility of religious leaders to help public schools improve as well.
Smith began her career in 1971 as a teacher at Magnificat High School in Rocky River. She served as principal for seven years until 1988.
"Our first reaction has to be gratitude," said Michael Guerra, president of the National Catholic Education Association in Washington, D.C. "Her leadership was absolutely essential to the Catholic educational story in Cleveland."
Guerra called Smith an important part of establishing the city's school voucher program.
"I think the key thing was that she loves young people," said Magnificat principal Sister Mary Pat Cook, who taught with Smith. "Her decisions were always based on her commitment to them, her commitment to the diocese, and certainly her commitment to the gospel."
After Smith resigned from Magnificat, she served as development director and public relations director for the Sisters of Humility of Mary.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)