Cooking, Legos, and, Physics: Meet facilities supervisor Dan DeCecco

“It was a Leap of Faith for Me” – Meet HM Supervisor Dan DeCecco

Emily Sun, Staff Writer

Dan DeCecco is the school’s facilities supervisor and, as of last Sunday, champion of the BrickFair LEGO Fan Expo’s Bridge Build competition with a record-breaking bridge that held 188 pounds. At the school, he oversees campus sanitation, maintenance, and other tasks that keep it up and running, he said.

DeCecco graduated from Westchester Community College in 2007 with a degree in business administration, while working as an office manager at a gardening center. After that, he was a data clerk for Class Action Refund until he was laid off after the 2008 financial crisis. He found a job at Junkluggers after a few months, then worked as a security guard before applying for a groundskeeper position at the school in 2011.

As groundskeeper, he worked from 6 a.m. until 4 p.m. to clean the campus and set up for sports games and practices. He carried soccer goals down to Van Cortlandt Park, lined up the bleachers along Four Acres, raked the fields, and hung backstops for baseball and softball games.

Over his seven years as a groundskeeper, he found ways to streamline jobs using his knowledge in physics, his favorite school subject. “I’ve always been infatuated with physics because I enjoyed learning how things move naturally in the world,” he said. For example, he found the center of gravity on 25 feet tall baseball backstops so he could balance them on one shoulder, instead of having another person help him.

After the previous supervisor left the school in 2018, DeCecco applied for the position as a challenge. “It was a leap of faith for me,” he said, but he overcame his doubts with encouragement from his coworkers. “They would tell me, ‘go for it, you can absolutely do it,’” he said. “They had a lot more faith in me than I did, so I felt that maybe it’s a sign they were seeing something that I didn’t.”

DeCecco is responsible for the full picture of maintenance across the school. There are many moving pieces that he has to keep track of — new deliveries to move, electricity to wire, plumbing to fix, and locks to replace. The biggest challenge is being flexible with new tasks that pop up throughout the day, he said. “You have to constantly re-evaluate who’s doing what and how to prioritize to get everything done.” He stays organized and communicates with other maintenance staff through their work order system and radios.

He delegates the maintenance staff to tasks based on their availability and experience. “We’ve always had a lot of fun doing what we do here,” he said. “There’s a lot of humor in our team because we’ve all come to grow together as a family, and most of the people who are here now I’ve known since I’ve started.”

His favorite jobs are school events that call for a big team effort, such as homecoming, he said. It takes a long time to set up all the sports games and tents, but humor makes the day fly by, and he likes to see all the students and families on campus. “We all joke around, and it’s a lot of fun to feel like we’re part of the bigger HM community,” he said.

He still works weekdays from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and mows Alumni Field once every week. “That’s my hour of peace,” he said. “It’s a very tranquil time of the day, the sun is beginning to come up, and I can play my music.” He usually listens to a mix of symphonies and Super Nintendo soundtracks, or just enjoys the quiet.

On the weekends, DeCecco hikes, builds LEGOs, and cooks with his nine and seven-year-old kids, Katherine and Robert. They visit Westchester county parks such as Kensico Dam Plaza and other trails. “I love being outside,” he said. “I don’t love the humidity, but I love the crisp morning air, autumn with the leaves changing, and even the snow doesn’t bother me.”

They also have a shared love of LEGOs, especially the Star Wars sets, and they built the 7,500-piece Millenium Falcon over a few weeks during quarantine. He played with LEGOs growing up because they let him apply math and physics to problem solving, like figuring out the ideal way to interlock bricks so they can withstand the most weight at the competition. “My two kids are obsessed with LEGOs, so, between the three of us, I have an apartment full of them,” DeCecco said. “They’ve evolved into mini me’s, that’s for sure.”

His family immigrated to the United States from Italy in the 1930s, and he cooks dishes for his kids like his mom used to do for him. His favorite meal that she made was creamy, garlicky beef stroganoff. “We called it ‘steak and noodles,’ and it was something that I could devour,” he said.

He makes tomato sauce every week, barbecue, and any dish with garlic — “I’m Italian, so I tell my kids, ‘you’re required to like garlic.’” This Wednesday, dinner was his signature salad: lettuce, tomato, onion, bell peppers, salt, pepper, olive oil, and a drizzle of vinegar.