An at-capacity crowd filled the 1,000-seat auditorium at Cherokee High School in Canton to hear the charter school's fate. The decision marks the third time the school has been denied in two years.
"I have looked and looked and looked, but this application brings nothing to the table that is unique," said Post 2 board member Mike Chapman during the board's discussion of the petition.
The Cherokee Charter Academy was previously granted a charter by the Georgia Charter School Commission.
However, the charter school, which was on tap to open in August, went into limbo this spring after the Georgia Supreme Court deemed the 2008 law that allowed for its charter unconstitutional.
The school then resubmitted its charter petition to the local Board of Education in May. However, Cherokee School District Superintendent Frank Petruzielo said the petition contained the same "deficiencies" that led to its denial in the past.
Cherokee Charter was denied in 2010 for what the board saw as a lack of planning for special education students, issues regarding oversight powers for the school board and transparency of the school's governing bodies.
At Friday night's meeting, Petruzielo also reiterated his argument that that new school would have a "significant negative" budgetary impact on the school system.
If approved, he said, the charter school would take more than $6 million from the district's coffers, which are already being hit by state cuts in education funding and a decreasing tax digest.
"We're not talking about small change," Petruzielo said. "There will have to be draconian decisions in the near future (if the charter petition is approved)."
Cherokee Charter's three supporters on the board said the new school would be a boost to Cherokee's already high performing schools.
"Innovations happen only when we take a risk," Post 3 board member Michael Geist said. "This is an opportunity to grow, learn and innovate."
The other supporting votes came from Post 7 member Kim Cochran and Post 6 member Rob Usher.
Geist, who has two children who were accepted to attend Cherokee Charter, came under fire.
Chapman said Geist's involvement with the school put him in a conflict of interest with the school system and that his vote would violate the board's code of ethics.
Geist countered, stating, "I would rather pull my children (from the school) than not vote because I think it is the best thing for the county."
The board's vote came after one hour of public comments.
The issue drew heated debate from supporters and opponents of the charter school.
"Charter schools meet a tremendous need in schools that are failing," said Susan Dreschel, whose two children graduated from Cherokee County schools. "The Cherokee County School District is not failing. There is no objective data for this proposal."
Charter school supporters said they were seeking more school choice.
"No one is going to look at my daughter and ask for her test scores," said Heather Blevins, whose daughter was slated to attend the school. "They are going to wonder if she had a well-rounded education."
Blevins was a member of Cherokee Charter Academy oversight board.
Other charter school supporters urged the board to think of the wishes of 2,600 students that applied to the school.
Post 4 board member Janet Read asked about the rest of Cherokee's student population.
"People say you need to listen to the 2,600 applicants," she said at the meeting. "Am I supposed to listen to the other 22,000 students?"
The vote was met with heavy cheers from the charter school's opponents.
But the school's supporters said the fight isn't over.
"I'm not happy," said Ted Handley of Woodstock. "But I don't think this is the end of trying to get a charter school in Cherokee County."