Via ABC News 24’s wonderful One Plus One, a shining story

Way back in 2008 I posted Well! Not all NSW high schools are tragic dumps and wastes of space…, in the course of which I wrote:

Back in 2003 The Sydney Morning Herald offered: Guns, gangs, poison: a principal’s battlezone.

This was life at Punchbowl Boys’ High School for its former principal Clifford Preece: a gang member came into the school, put a gun to his head and threatened to kill him. Students armed with knives threatened their classmates. Teachers had a toxic chemical put in their kettle, were assaulted in class and faced gang invasions of classrooms.

The school’s students were to become notorious: one was convicted of murdering schoolboy Edward Lee. Three other students were jailed for gang rapes – along with their gang leader, Bilal Skaf – who was a “regular intruder” at Punchbowl Boys’.

After five years as principal of the “Punchbowl school battlefront” between 1995 and 1999, Mr Preece says his 30-year career as a teacher ended with a breakdown.

In the District Court, Mr Preece is suing the Department of Education, alleging that it failed to protect his safety, and that as a result he has developed chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and cannot work as a teacher.

Mr Preece, 53, told Judge Christopher Robison he had nightmares when he read about former students M, who killed Edward Lee, and gang rapists Tayyab Sheikh (who was sentenced to 15 years in jail) and brothers Mahmoud and Mohammed Sanoussi (11 and 21 years’ jail)…

Edward Lee, incidentally, was once a student where I worked, and many of his associates I knew well…


I saw the interestingly named Principal Jihad Dib on One Plus One the other night. Inspirational.

I concluded that 2008 post thus:

My point: work out for yourself how this turnaround has happened. Note what the intriguingly named current Principal had to say. People like him have the knowledge that is needed, and I am pleased Julia Gillard seems to have noted it.

And recall this is not an isolated story, as many another NSW school in difficult circumstances is battling on despite the Murdochs of this world. And despite the previous Australian government, which killed off a very active and intelligent Disadvantaged Schools Program…

In my last years at SBHS I participated in one three year research program which also included a school very like Punchbowl Boys High – six schools were involved and are not named in the research; I saw then that real progress was being made in the way teachers were conceiving their roles and implementing them. The “progressives” of parodies of contemporary education who just “facilitate” in a New Age miasma are really quite a rare species. Teachers really do teach – or so the project found – and are getting better at knowing what this involves.

Sadly, given developments with Christopher Pyne, one needs to reflect on the following 2012 story, though as you may see the school carries on:

See Jihad Dib’s nomination for the Pride of Australia Award 2013.

The significant improvement in absenteeism, morale and academic results at the Punchbowl Boys’ High School over the past seven years is testament the dedication Jihad Dib has shown during his tenure as Principal. Appointed to the role of Principal at just 33, Jihad was one of the youngest principals in the state and his modern approach and drive has revolutionised the school and seen enrolments soar. Under his watchful eye, the school has been awarded a National Literacy and Numeracy Award and Director General’s Award.


See Former Ulladulla teacher makes his mark in the toughest arena, A matter of principal, Punchbowl Boys High School principal Jihad Dib wins Pride of Australia award in Inspiration, Australian Principal Faces Down Gangs to Turn Around a School.

Also do go and visit the wonderful archive at One Plus One – a modest, brilliant, intelligent, informative treasure house of interviews.