BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Maryland’s State Superintendent, Dr. Lillian M. Lowery, is stepping down to pursue new opportunities, according to an announcement made by the Maryland State Board of Education.

Officials say Dr. Lowery will become President and Chief Executive Officer of FutureReady Columbus, an education non-profit corporation with an initial focus on early childhood education, public policy, and community engagement

“We are losing an extraordinary leader, a talented State Superintendent of Schools,” State Board President Guffrie Smith said.  “Dr. Lowery led Maryland through a time of tremendous transition and progress. She positioned our State as a national leader in preparing students to be college and career ready.”

Under her leadership, officials say more Maryland students graduated high school than ever before and drop out rates fell to a new low.

Dr. Lowery has been the recipient of many awards, including the most recent, ‘Policy Leader of the Year’ award, ” in recognition of her many contributions to education.

“Dr. Lillian Lowery has been a dedicated public servant to the state of Maryland, and has devoted her career to bettering public education and working to ensure our teachers and students have the tools they need for success,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “This year, our administration was proud to provide a record level of investment in K-12 education, and our commitment to improving schools will always be a top priority. I thank Dr. Lowery for her service and wish her the best in all her future endeavors.”

School official say Dr. Jack Smith will serve as the Interim State Superintendent until June 30,l 2016.

Dr. Smith is currently the Deputy State Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, and Chief Academic Officer at the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). He was the Superintendent of Schools in Calvert County for seven years and the President of the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland in 2011-2012.

“We are delighted to have someone of Dr. Lowery’s caliber and national reputation join us in Columbus to help us prepare our kids for success in school and in life,” said Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, co-chair of FutureReady Columbus.

The State Board expects that the transition will be a smooth and seamless one, and expressed confidence that Dr. Smith will carry on the legacy of excellence that has been Dr. Lowery’s hallmark