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Cresta’s Email In Support of Israel Subject of Official Complaint from Marblehead Resident

Marblehead resident Kristi Warab has filed a complaint with the School Committee against Acting Superintendent Michelle Cresta. The complaint is in regard to an email sent by Cresta on October 12, 2023 to the Marblehead school community about the events that took place in Israel on October 7th.


Cresta wrote, “On behalf of Marblehead Public Schools, we unequivocally condemn the acts of terrorism committed by Hamas against the people of Israel. The inhumanity of these actions do not express the value of human dignity that we all support. Our hearts go out to the families of those who have lost their lives, been injured, or have been taken hostage, as they try to process this unconscionable tragedy.” Her email went on to express her concern for the impact on young people, noting that, “It is incumbent on educators, parents, and anyone who plays a role in their lives, to be honest about what happened, to be available to answer questions, and to be reassuring about their own circumstances all while understanding that we may not have all the answers.”


Marblehead Beacon recently obtained redacted copies of two emails from Warab, one to the School Committee and the other to Cresta directly.


In the first, Warab wrote, “This is a very inappropriate e-mail to send to the Marblehead community. It is non-inclusive and promotes and encourages an environment of bullying. I would like to open an official complaint against Michelle Cresta. She should step down immediately as interim superintendent.” 


Warab also emailed Cresta directly, describing the statement on Israel as “a totally inappropriate thing to say, as you do not know truth from propaganda sitting here in Marblehead, or history apparently.” She went on to ask, “Where is the Stand with Palestine message? Where is the Palestinian flag in your rschool[sic]? Step down from your interim position. You’re a disgrace. You should not be contributing to a bullying atmosphere.”


Editor’s note: Warab mistakenly refers to Cresta as the interim superintendent. Cresta is currently serving as acting superintendent. The School Committee voted to offer the position of interim superintendent to Theresa McGuinness, who is scheduled to take over on November 6.


In a press release earlier today, the Marblehead School Committee confirmed that it had received an email requesting to “open an official complaint against Michelle Cresta” and stating that the complaint is in reference to Cresta’s district-wide email condemning the violence in Israel. The press release also notes that the School Committee received an email “from Leigh Blander, a reporter with The Marblehead Current, asking about claims of ‘students feeling bullied.’”


According to the release, the School Committee contacted legal counsel to request guidance, and was advised “to follow our established policies when complaints of this nature are made.” The School Committee is therefore scheduling “an executive session in compliance with our policies as is required.”


The posted agenda for the School Committee meeting scheduled this week on Thursday, October 19, 2023, indicates that the School Committee will enter executive session pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws chapter 30A, Section 21 “to discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health, rather than professional competence, of an individual, or to discuss the discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual (Acting Superintendent). Intent to return to open session.


School Committee Chair Sarah Fox told Marblehead Beacon that state law requires a complaint of the kind issued against Cresta to be discussed in executive session, unless waived by the individual about whom the complaint was filed. 


Warab provided more details about her concerns in a Letter to the Editor published by Marblehead Current on October 15, 2023. In this letter, she notes that “there is a form of intolerance in ‘Stand with Israel’ because what is lost in sensationalized headlines about ‘beheaded babies’ and Hamas being responsible for the deaths of innocent people, both Palestinian and Israeli, is the narrative.” Warab also refers to Gaza as an “Israeli-made ghetto” in which Palestinians must “crush by the thousands through checkpoints attempting to go about their daily lives,” “cannot go to school without being harassed,” and “pregnant women are left to give birth at checkpoints or cannot travel to a hospital because of an Israeli tank or dug up road.” 


Warab’s letter appears to question the accuracy of the reporting that has been done with regard to the murder of babies and other atrocities committed by Hamas. It is also unclear what she is referring to with regard to Israelis preventing Palestinians from going to school or obtaining medical care, since Israel withdrew entirely from Gaza in 2005. Hamas was elected to rule Gaza in 2006 and took over full control in a battle with the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Hamas— officially designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and many other countries— has ruled Gaza ever since. As of the time of publication, Hamas is still holding almost 200 hostages from Israel, including women, children, and the elderly.


Marblehead Current published a letter from Eyal Oren in response to Warab’s letter. Karen Tal-Makhluf told Marblehead Beacon that she has also submitted a reply to the Current, but it has not yet been published. Tal-Makhluf also submitted her response to Marblehead Beacon


Fox, in a conversation with Marblehead Beacon about the complaint and the School Committee's response, emphasized that she is simply following the mandatory procedure when a complaint of this kind is received. “Tomorrow’s meeting is not to consider firing Michelle Cresta,” she said. “It is simply to hear a formal complaint that was made, as we are required to do, and to determine if the complaint is valid.”


The School Committee press release sent earlier today concludes, “I am confident that through following the established policies, Acting Superintendent Cresta will be able to speak to all complaints in accordance with district policy and the School Committee will be able to make a definitive statement regarding allegations of wrong doing. We will be making a statement immediately following the executive session.”


The School Committee meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 19, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. in the Marblehead High School library and on ZOOM.

Editor’s note: School Committee member Jenn Schaeffner is a Marblehead Beacon founder and editor. She is recusing herself from Marblehead Beacon’s coverage of the School Committee and anything pertaining to Marblehead Public Schools.