Richard McCarron, who has been one of the top academic leaders in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for 25 years, will retire Feb. 1, the archdiocese announced today.

As secretary for Catholic education for the archdiocese, McCarron has been the top administrator for Catholic elementary schools, high schools and special education schools throughout the five-county region.

"Dr. McCarron has had a profound influence on Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for more than a quarter of a century and his leadership has been defined by an abiding commitment to our students, families, administrators and teachers," said Bishop Michael J. Fitzgerald, who oversees Catholic education in the archdiocese.

"It is time for me to step down so that new leadership can guide and direct the mission of Catholic education," McCarron said in a statement. "I have the utmost confidence that the Office of Catholic Education and Faith in the Future [Foundation] will establish a new educational vision that will enable our schools to grow and flourish in the years ahead."

The change comes as the archdiocese continues an educational transformation that has included the merging and closing of elementary schools and turning the management of the high schools and special education schools over to the Faith in the Future Foundation to raise funds and boost enrollment.

The foundation was created last spring after a fund-raising campaign helped keep four of the 17 archdiocesan high schools from closing.

The archdiocese said McCarron will remain in his position while the archdiocese launches a national search for a successor.

Samuel Casey Carter, the foundation's chief executive officer, said today the foundation would collaborate with the archdiocese and a special selection committee "to identify, interview and select a candidate."

He said the goal is to complete the selection process by Feb. 1.

Contact Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or at martha.woodall@phillynews.com