KINGMAN - Kingman Academy of Learning High Principal Jeff Martin was in a predicting mood as he chatted with the school's athletic director, Shawn Byrne, following the KAOL Governing Board meeting Thursday morning.
March 21, 2013, Martin told Byrne, is "a day we will remember."
The date marks a new chapter in the school's history after the board voted 6-0 to approve KAHS' move from the Charter Athletic Association to the Arizona Interscholastic Association. The vote was seen as the last major hurdle for the school's move, with KAHS teams competing against AIA members starting in the fall.
The Kingman High Bulldogs and Lee Williams High Volunteers will be among the opponents.
"It's a big step for us," Martin said. "This has been one of my goals since starting here nine years ago."
KAHS still must get approval by the AIA's executive board and be voted on by AIA member schools. Both are more of a formality, according to AIA Executive Director Harold Slemmer.
"My initial reaction toward the Academy leadership was very, very positive," Slemmer said. "I think they are very much looking forward to becoming a part of the AIA and we are very happy to have them a part of it."
The move also marks the beginning of a new era for the school that has continued to grow from its humble beginnings in 1995.
"(The CAA) was the only thing we could afford when we started," said KAOL Director and board member Betty Rowe. "I don't think it was a bad thing. I just think it's time for us to move on."
Byrne made a presentation to the board in which he gave a side-by-side comparison of the estimated costs of the CAA to the AIA. The difference was negligible, but the AIA gained an edge by providing catastrophic insurance. Included in Byrne's figures was an estimated AIA credit of $2,183 the school will receive from the revenue from state tournaments.
However, it was the catastrophic insurance that impressed board member Brownell Hamlyn.
"From a liability aspect, the AIA is where we need to go as a school district," Brownell said.
Thursday's vote marked the culmination of a process that started in November, when Byrne sought board approval to submit in an application. The AIA approved the application in January and placed the school in Division III for basketball, baseball and softball, Division IV for cross country and volleyball and Division V for football. This gave Byrne the opportunity to start the process of scheduling games for the coming fall.
Last week, Slemmer met with Byrne and Martin and toured the school's gym and generally liked what he saw, although did point out some minor issues that can easily be corrected.
"The gym looks fine to me. It's ready to go for volleyball as well as basketball," Slemmer said. "The only problem we might have in the future is for playoff situations. They might have to substitute a larger faculty if we expect larger crowds than what they can handle."
Besides seating, Slemmer pointed out the areas for teams to dress and the school's lack of shower space.
"They have areas where they can dress out but they are limited in showering and that type of thing. A lot of schools also adapt to that," Slemmer said.
Slemmer limited his official facilities tour to the school but did take a drive to Southside Park, where KAHS plays its football and baseball games. Slemmer was pleased with those facilities.
"They have the ability to bring in extra bleachers if they need to for those facilities if they feel like they need more seating capacity," Slemmer said. "I think the relationship they have with the city of Kingman on the available city fields is very good and are kept up very well. For softball, baseball and football, that shouldn't be an issue."
KAHS' move to the AIA will answer one question on the mind of local sports fans - how do the Tigers stack up against the competition in non-charter schools? KAHS is a perennial football and baseball power and won the boys basketball title a few weeks ago, while the girls have fielded multiple championship teams in softball and basketball. In that regard, Byrne made this prediction when he addressed the board Thursday.
"We are not going to be the big fish in the pond," he said. "We are going to be a little fish in a big pond."
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