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A Conversation with Ivy Alphonse-Crean, DCD’s New Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Hilary Rochelle

Earlier this year, DCD’s Board of Trustees announced the creation of a new Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) position to support the critical work that forms one of the central pillars of our current strategic plan. After defining the role and executing an extensive search, we are excited to welcome Ivy Alphonse-Crean to DCD in this pivotal and vital role. 

Ivy is joining us from the Collegiate School, a K-12 school in Manhattan where she serves as a Grade 6 Dean and English faculty member. Ivy brings a longstanding commitment and passion for DEI work. During her time at Collegiate, she’s instituted, led, and managed many students and faculty endeavors. Ivy will be moving to Boston with her husband, Jared and one-year-old son, Wesley, this summer to begin her role at DCD on July 1.

I recently connected with Ivy over Zoom to talk to her about her decision to join the DCD community and her vision for her role here.

What is it about DCD that makes you excited about taking on this new role?

There are many things! I was so impressed with DCD’s curriculum because I noticed these little seeds planted in pre-K around who you are as an individual. I loved being able to trace how those seeds developed into ideas up through the middle school years. Even as sixth-graders discuss empires, you can see their ideas had a trajectory and developed intentionally. And as a teacher, I live for that stuff because it’s beautiful and intentional work. It’s what makes teaching so gratifying, especially when you can see these seeds starting at such a young age and then watch them take hold as they grow in the more senior students.

I fell in love with DCD during my interview process. I had some really beautiful conversations with faculty, parents, and students. The most significant impact came from talking with the students. I was struck by how they spoke about the school, even from their bedrooms or couches, since it was a remote-learning day. They talked about teachers, events, things they were working on, and even buildings. Although at times they could be critical, it was with such love and kindness. I could tell how much they enjoyed school and loved DCD. I was so inspired and could see how connected they were to DCD and the community even though they weren’t even on campus that day. 

I love pre-K to 8 schools, being a product of one myself coming from the Park School. You have so much flexibility in what you can do. The college beast isn’t looking over your shoulder at everything you are engaged in, and kids can be kids and do things in “kid-like,” fun, and colorful ways. 

Stepping into this role, I can tell the community is fired up and honest with each other, too. You don’t always get that radical honesty at schools. If I could see that in the interview process, I’m confident it will be authentic and palpable when I am there on the ground. I am so excited to be joining this community. 

Where do you see your opportunity to have the most significant impact? 

There is already a lot of good work happening at DCD. You have SEED groups, affinity spaces for students and families, clubs and events, and the Horizons Program. I don’t see the need to come in and invent something new right away. I think my impact will be subtle at first. I see my role initially as someone who can connect the dots. Institutions like DCD are doing amazing things, but people from different parts of the organization don’t always know what’s outside their scope. In this first year, I see my role as the person connecting all these great initiatives in the classrooms and around the school and making sure they are all under one unified purpose and working in concert. 

I am also excited to do an “equity audit’ for DCD. I know it’s a primed and open community, but to have the most impact, I think it’s important to talk with people and do an accurate assessment of where we are in this space. Understanding who is here, how they are feeling, and what they are experiencing currently and have experienced in the past will enable me to gather the data to assess how we move forward in building new initiatives, curriculum, and events. 

And finally, I’m looking forward to just getting in there to work with the students. The faculty is amazing, and I could talk about them for hours, but the students at DCD….oh my goodness! They are so special. I can’t wait to sit in on classes, work with the affinity groups, and be a general resource for students when they have questions and issues they’d like to discuss. I can’t wait for those little informal moments with them. 

That’s a great segue to my next question! You’ve spent so much time in the classroom as a teacher. How will you feel playing more of an administrative role in a school?

To be honest, I’m a little sad and will have to grieve the loss of a typical teaching day! There are so many charming things that happen throughout the day as a teacher, and so much of your energy comes from the students. But at Collegiate, with the many roles I have played and the side-projects I’ve been involved in, I have already begun drawing energy and excitement from those endeavors. These will become the main projects at DCD, and I am very excited about that! My goal is to be one of those faces that the kids and my colleagues see all the time. It will be, “oh, there’s Ms. Crean again.” I am a hallway walker and a shared space squatter. I love working in common areas, so I can just be a part of what is going on. And I love popping into classes as long as teachers are comfortable with this. Of course, I don’t want to invade anyone’s space! 

With a concentration in Africana Studies at Brown, what drew you to work in education and back to the independent school world? 

It’s been an interesting road! I thought I wanted to be a professional opera singer for a long time and was prepared to do it. I was committed to moving every three months and having a transient but fulfilling life singing. I was very serious about this, and in fact, so many of the people I used to sing with went on to conservatories and are doing amazing things in the Opera world. And then I had second thoughts. I started to think about the long term and asking myself, do I want to be traveling every couple of weeks to festivals in different countries and not having the holidays at home and having time with family and friends? 

So, I did a “career rethink” and took an entry-level marketing job in the Boston area, working for a wonderful organization called The Initiative for Competitive Inner City (ICIC), which helps minority-owned businesses acquire capital. To be honest, I felt restless and asked my boss if I could take a day a week and spend it teaching at Apple Orchard, my old pre-school, on a volunteer basis. He said, ok, as long as I got my work done. And so that is what I did. I wanted to explore teaching, and they were happy to have me. 

I left my marketing job eventually and joined the apprenticeship teaching program at the Park School full time. It’s funny, but I’ve repeated my early childhood education with my time at Apple Orchard and Park but as a teacher. At Park, I taught in the fifth grade and then went on to teach seventh-grade English. I love that middle school-age student. And that’s how I found my way to Collegiate, and I am fully loving returning to my roots in the independent school world. 

I still love to sing and am excited to return to Boston and rejoin the Marsh Chapel Choir with Boston University, where I sang before moving to New York City. That’s the biggest icing on the cake ever!
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