A Cloverdale woman accused of embezzling nearly $400,000 from a Santa Rosa charter school pleaded not guilty Monday to eight felony charges.

Sheila Accornero, 42, former business manager of Kid Street Learning Center, is accused of forging Principal Linda Conklin's name on checks she wrote to herself over a 2-1/2-year period.

She was arrested Aug. 9 after an employee of her credit union became suspicious of her account and reported it to authorities. Accornero has been in custody ever since.

Sitting in court in a blue jail uniform, she gestured to two women who came to see her. One of the women blew her a kiss. They declined to comment.

She didn't speak beyond answering, "Yes," when her lawyer, Steve Weiss, asked if she was denying each of the charges, which could bring her a sentence of more than 8 years in prison if convicted.

A preliminary hearing was set for Oct. 19 before Judge Gary Medvigy.

"I need time to put together things that need to be put together," Weiss told the judge. "Then I need time with the DA."

There have been no settlement discussions, Weiss said.

Accornero had worked as the school's business manager since 2005. Kid Street serves 48 at-risk students through sixth grade and has an annual budget of $620,000.

The theft escaped detection by annual audits, school district reviews and the school's bank. Police said hundreds of checks were written to Accornero for $1,000 or less.

Sgt. Michael Lazzarini said detectives are still examining the evidence to determine why the loss wasn't noticed sooner. The principal said Accornero kept two sets of books.

Accornero is charged with two counts of grand theft more than $100,000, five counts of forgery and one count of possession of illegal narcotics - hydrocodone and oxycontin.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Bill Brockley called the theft "sophisticated." He said Accornero was on probation for a prescription drug forgery at the time of her recent arrest.

She was being held without bail because of the probation violation.

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