The mystery only deepens and the protests continue to grow over the apparent dismissal of Ethan Mann from his position as director of the Levels teen program, a job he’s held since 1998.
An online petition asking the Great Neck Library to “Bring Ethan Mann Back” to continue with the popular after school program for students from sixth grade through high school, was posted early last week and by this past Sunday the number of those signing, current students, former students and parents, had grown to more than 1100.
Also on the petition website (https://www.change.org/p/great-neck-library-board-bring-ethan-back) were numerous positive comments on behalf of Mann.
Students, past and present, and several parents, participated in demonstrations three times last week at the Station and Parkville branches and attended Sunday’s Old Village Fair.
One of the organizers, Maureen Guy, a junior at South High and The Village School, said that the protests would continue “until we get answers.”
No one at the library, when contacted, was willing to discuss if, indeed, Mann has been let go or what the circumstances are. Mann has remained silent.
“It’s a personnel issue,” said President Marietta DiCamillo. “We’re in legal and I can’t comment.”
Kris Bauman, who heads the Great Neck Library Staff Association union, asked that any inquiries be made to interim director Chris Johnson, who responded, “It’s a confidential matter and we can’t comment on it.”
Two of the demonstrations, keyed to Library Board meetings last week, featured unsuccessful attempts by the protesters to engage members of the library board and DiCamillo in conversation.
Speaking about last Wednesday’s protest at Parkville where approximately 15 Mann supporters showed up, Guy said, “We asked simple questions like ‘Where’s Ethan? Is he OK? Is Levels OK?’ They walked right by us. There was no acknowledgement that we were even talking to them.”
Sally Coons, a parent and enthusiastic supporter of Levels because of her daughters Jane and Rachel’s positive experience in the program, was at the Wednesday demonstration also. “They wouldn’t speak to anybody,” she said, as she joined protesters at the Station branch. “They just ignored us. The president of the board came out and we asked her about what happened and she just ignored us.”
Two nights earlier at Parkville, about 25 protesters were waiting for board members to show up for a meeting. The meeting was quickly switched to another location.
A third demonstration took place last Thursday evening at the Station branch with 30 protesters holding signs in front of the entrance on the second floor. Nassau County police also showed up but took no action.
About 10 supporters worked at gathering more signatures to add to the petition by speaking with visitors to the Village of Great Neck Fair on Sunday.
While no one is willing to discuss why Mann has apparently been let go, some point to a possible clue found in a posting on a privately sponsored website, (https://sites.google.com/site/gnlwatchdog/home) from last fall, just after Robert Schaufeld easily defeated Ralene Adler for a trustee seat.
The website advertises itself as representing ”concerned residents of the Great Neck Library District” but hasn’t been updated since October.
The posting speaks of an “unusual voter turn out of Levels parents, walking in accompanied by teenage children directly into the voting booth” and claimed that Mann “contrived it as an issue in an attempt to assure his job security.” The posting also made assertions that Mann and others were involved in conspiring against Adler and used confidential email address information of potential voters to influence the election in favor of her opponent.
Some protesters have speculated that these allegations may have angered library officials, possibly causing an investigation, though the authorship of the website is anonymous.
Guy was quite passionate in her feelings for the Levels program, though she’s been a member only since last summer. “A lot of people come to Levels because they need some place to go. It’s just a place where there’s no judgment. Everyone’s so welcoming, not something that you find a lot.”
Coons was effusive in her praise for Mann. “He’s created a culture of acceptance, of support,” she said. “There’s a feeling there that he just cares. There are a lot of kids there who are able to blossom. Anyone can go there and feel welcome. He’s created a real culture of talent and acceptance.”
Added Guy, “He’s helped me a lot. If I’m having a problem and I need someone to talk to, he’s definitely a person I can talk to.”