Franklin Regional school board member Paul Scheinert has always had a passion for seafaring vessels.
Now in his 37th year as a nuclear engineer for Bettis Atomic Power Lab in West Mifflin, Mr. Scheinert spent from 1983 through 1989 working in Newport News, Va., as a test engineer on aircraft carriers. A graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, he spent his sophomore year at sea, delivering ammunition to U.S. military fighting in Vietnam in the early 1970s.
And in the summer, he sails a Catalina 34-foot sailboat on Lake Erie.
But the ship that is his current obsession is a mere plywood shell on an auditorium stage that will never sail beyond Murrysville. Mr. Scheinert is the mastermind behind the luxury liner set for Franklin Regional's high school musical production of "Anything Goes" scheduled for March 1- 4 at the high school.
"Just look at all of this," he said from the back of the high school auditorium. Scattered across the stage were a dozen or so volunteer parents, staff and students. They were drilling, sawing and painting the 50-foot "ship."
Many, including his wife, Deb, have been working with Mr. Scheinert for the 14 years he's led volunteer construction crews, crafting ambitious props and musical sets for marching band halftime shows and high school musicals.
He stresses it is a group effort.
"The people who have been helping over the years are the same people. Many of them have kids who have graduated. They do it just because they like to," he said.
Mr. Scheinert's two sons -- Steven, 30, and Mark, 26 -- have graduated from playing on the district's stage and football field.
He credits his wife and Carla Gialloreto, band and musical art director, with the designs. He said it is his job to make them come to life and be somewhat portable.
Surprisingly, the current set is not his most challenging. Two years ago, he presided over the set for the school's production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," which had an elaborate back to allow actors to appear from different points on the set.
He also said the "Once Upon a Mattress" set of a few years ago was a challenge "because [the bed] had to go from being a regular bed to being 20 mattresses high."
But the most intricate was his set for the "Bye Bye Birdie" production a few years ago.
"The whole set was like a jigsaw puzzle. There were seven or eight major pieces that went together in one big set, but you could take them apart and turn them around in different ways," he explained.
When he isn't engineering these backdrops for student performers, Mr. Scheinert's volunteer time is devoted to serving as vice president of Franklin Regional's school board. A director since 2006, he said this year's budget has been his most challenging issue.
"Income from the state is down, so we are looking at 'can we afford the programs that we have?' " he said. .The challenge, he explained, is persuading district employees to "slow down with our cost growth."
"There are solutions, but they are hard," he said. "Your costs cannot grow faster than your income.
"Franklin Regional is an excellent school district ... it's a great experience."
For the Franklin Regional high school play times and tickets -- $10 and $5 for students -- call 724-327-5456, ext. 5048. A complete list of dates for high school musicals in the region is to be published Feb. 26 in the Post-Gazette.
Laurie Bailey, freelance writer: email@example.com . First Published February 16, 2012 10:15 AM