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Goodbye! Leder bids farewell

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After a year-and-a-half long battle with the Department of Education, the beloved leader of Lehman High School is leaving his job with sadness.

At the request of the DOE, after 29 years of devoted service, principal Robert Leder will turn in his keys and officially enter retirement on June 30.

After news broke of a scandal involving Lehman football coaches Scott Arbuse and Giuseppe DiMaio, Leder was made to shoulder the full blame. They allegedly billed the school for overtime they wren’t eligible for under DOE regulations.

Leder met with DOE officials in the spring of 2007 to account for what the agency said was his “lack of proper oversight” of the 4,000 student, 430-teacher school.

“I feel that the punishment does not in any way fit the crime,” Leder said of the DOE’s charges. “All I said was that I was aware that the coaches were doing some work at home, which isn’t exactly murder in the first degree. I feel they should have dealt with this situation differently.”

Leder said it was his former assistant principal and storied football coach, Carmine Colasanto, who directly authorized the overtime, a fact supported in the DOE report.

Students, parents and faculty all rushed to Leder’s defense, holding protest after protest, going so far as taking their grievances to the steps of City Hall on March 6.

“I can’t tell you how safe I feel with my children in Mr. Leder’s school,” concerned Lehman parent Debra Esoff said. “He was loved by everyone. I hope he leaves with his head held high.”

The DOE wasn’t moved by the display of support, and decided to replace Leder with another capable educator, Janet Saraceno, a veteran administrator currently serving as principal at the High School for Media and Communications in Washington Heights. 

“It feels absolutely painful,” Leder said of his retirement. “Every day is a reminder that the clock is moving inexorably toward the end of a career.”

Despite the current turmoil, Leder said he would perform all of his duties to his fullest capacity until he leaves.

“I haven’t missed a beat through any of this,” he noted. “We are doing what we are supposed to be doing. We are planning our summer programs to help the new principal, and hiring to fill vacancies. I will absolutely be working to the last minute.”

Leder said his future plans would include unspecified work in the educational field. He’s currently fielding several job offers.

“I have plenty of other irons in the fire, and I plan to take another position, but Lehman is in my blood,” Leder stated.

Noting changes that took place over the last 29 years, Leder said he hopes Lehman will remain strong, continue to work with young people and also continually develop the staff. 

He’s just sad he will no longer be a part of it.

“I thought they would have to carry me out of the school,”

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