Santa Rosa school officials expressed dismay Thursday over the embezzlement at a charter school created to serve children in crisis, but said financial audits in recent years showed no indication of a large-scale theft.
Doug Bower, associate superintendent of Santa Rosa City Schools, said he learned of the arrest of Sheila Accornero, finance manager of the Kid Street Learning Center Charter School, just before Wednesday's school board meeting.
"Disbelief," he said. "I hate to hear this is happening. Particularly to Kid Street, which we've long regarded as a very valuable and very viable organization and one of our best charter school operations. At the same time, we know this stuff happens."
The small school is an independent charter in the Santa Rosa district. It has its own board, does its own hiring and operates at arm's length from the school district, which oversees its charter.
Some board members have expressed concern in the past that the school receives a significant amount of private grant money independent of state funding, amounting to as much as one-third of its yearly $600,000 budget.
<NO1><NO>Accornero, who started with the school in 2005, is suspected of taking nearly $400,000 through hundreds of checks, many involving forged signatures, written over at least three years.
"The numbers are pretty astounding," said Kim Agrella, executive director of fiscal services for Santa Rosa City Schools.
She said there was nothing that gave an indication "something like this is going on."
Bower said that while he didn't think anything was done wrong at the district level, he hoped lessons will come out of it for the future.
"It's a learning experience. It's a wake-up call," he said.