CITY HALL - Students and parents protested the alleged forced retirement of Lehman High School Principal Robert Leder at City Hall Thursday.

Leder said he agreed to retire at the end of the current school year, after the Department of Education accused him in January of allowing three football coaches to load their timesheets with hours they didn't work. Leder acknowledged that the timesheet fraud happened, but insisted he had no knowledge of it.

Three busloads of students and parents arrived at City Hall, carrying signs and chanting, in hopes of persuading Mayor Michael Bloomberg to step in and give their principal a reprieve. They said Leder's success during his 30-year tenure as Lehman principal warrants a second chance.

"His idea is to interact with all the students. I think he knows every student by name and you don't get that with many principals," said parent Dick Hernandez.

Leder was not present at the rally, but in a January interview with News 12 The Bronx - , he said that the Department of Education gave him an ultimatum back in January - either retire quietly or face harsher sanctions, including possibly being moved to another school.

In that interview, Leder said that he didn't want to cause an uproar at Lehman and didn't want to work at any other school.

He also said that there was another element to the story that might exonerate him in some way, though he did not elaborate.

Parents back Lehman High School principal