Task Force Formed in Response to Walden West Child Abuse Case

The Santa Clara County Office of Education will form a task force to review the policies of Walden West Science Camp, which seems to have enabled an alleged child predator to work as a camp counselor for kids.

Edgar Covarrubias-Padilla, who faces child pornography and molestation charges, padded his resume, according to the Mercury News. The Office of Education took him on as an intern in 2013 and, over the ensuing years, assigned him increasing responsibilities.

The 27-year-old reportedly secured a work permit under federal amnesty for immigrants brought to the United States illegally as minors. He applied for the science camp gig, passed a fingerprint test and was hired as an intern and program assistant.

Covarrubias-Padilla volunteered as a cabin leader, spending the night with boys from visiting schools for at least six weeks over the course of the past few years, according to the Merc.

He was jailed last month, in lieu of a $200,000 bail, and stands accused of downloading more than 600 pictures of child porn and molesting a 10-year-old boy. The charges filed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office carry a maximum penalty of a decade in prison.

"The Board of Education takes any threat to the safety of our children very seriously," said Darcie Green, president of the county Board of Education. "It is important that we ensure the safety of every student at Walden West and in every other SCCOE program. We support Superintendent (Jon) Gundry in the creation of this advisory task force and its thorough examination of Walden West operations."

The task force will compare Walden West's policies against those at similar camps throughout the state. Education officials noted that the camp received a multi-year accreditation from the California Outdoor Schools Association in 2011.

"Over the past few weeks, we have been receiving numerous requests from the local news media for detailed information about Walden West," Gundry said in a statement. "We have devoted a huge amount of staff time delving into employee background screening procedures, staff supervision, technology use protocols and other operational issues. I felt it was best if we consolidated that fact finding effort into a more comprehensive review process."

Silicon Valley Education Foundation Vice President Manny Barbara will co-chair the committee with SCCOE Chief Schools Officer Mary Ann Dewan. SCCOE media spokesman Ken Blackstone will coordinate the meetings. More members will be announced next week.

The task force will present its findings and recommendations to the superintendent by Aug. 1.

"Hundreds of thousands of students over the years have benefitted from the great outdoor experience offered at Walden West," said Barbara. "This tragic incident should in no way diminish the well-deserved positive reputation of Walden West as an outstanding educational experience for the young people of our community. Our goal is to thoroughly assess where we are and make suggestions on how Walden West can improve."

11 Comments

  1. If illegal aliens (whose backgrounds are typically unverifiable) are excluded from serving on this investigative task force then one would have to conclude that this agency is more selective when protecting its organizational hindquarters than those of its young, vulnerable charges.

  2. I wonder why Joe DiSalvo isn’t tagged in this article. Or if Cobarruvias-padilla is one of the folks Mr. DI Salvo believes is a victim of “the achievement gap” and deserving of a chance at the American dream at the expense of a few priveleged students ?
    I wonder what it is exactly tat the County Board of Education does exactly besides pay Board members who do nothing but wool-gather, contemplate the fuzz in their navel, squabble, and hire child molesters and Superintendents who create hiatile work environments or spend tax dollars secretly?

    • Meyer Weed, Di Salvo talks a good talk, but he, like his pretty boy Gundry are only comfortable with ivory colors.  They don’t give a care about the achievement gap unless it affects them. Just look at who they promote and who they try to hurt.  

  3. He “passed a fingerprint test.” What does that mean? He had fingerprints? From Ms. Green, who with her asleep at the switch cohorts on the Board of Trustees let Mr. Gundry sign off on a contract with no paper trail: “We support Superintendent (Jon) Gundry in the creation of this advisory (my emphasis) task force and its thorough examination of Walden West operations.” When government screws up, it appoints a task force. This one isn’t even a Blue Ribbon Task Force. The task force meets and does little until the controversy is forgotten by everyone. Given the Board of Trustees’ lack of oversight with respect to two significant failures, if its members had any decency at all they’d all resign, along with Mr. Gundry. Gundry has the unmitigated gall to state: “We have devoted a huge amount of staff time delving into employee background screening procedures, staff supervision, technology use protocols and other operational issues. I felt it was best if we consolidated that fact finding effort into a more comprehensive review process.” Apparently they have delved, but never implemented. The greatest achievement gap in Santa Clara County, the one Mr. DiSalvo seems to have ignored completely, lies with the Board on which he sits. This moronic response by Ms. Green and Mr. Gundry is completely unacceptable.

  4. Are you kidding?! Mary Ann Dewan, the chief who oversees Walden West, is co-chairing the task force?! This can’t be. Her head should’ve rolled. White privilege at work.

  5. How can the SCCBOE approve Mary Ann Dewan to lead this task force? The task force must not include Dewan/Gundry if the board wants it to be credible. Those two are unethical but for obvious reasons have gotten away with it.

  6. How can the SCCBOE approve Mary Ann Dewan to lead the task force? The task force must not include Dewan/Gundry if the board wants it to be credible. Those two are unethical but for obvious reasons have gotten away with it.

  7. LOL….oh yeah there was a lot of outdoor experience going on…nice place. Now how many won’t come forward in this investigation…this puke did wonders for these kids….yeah prints work well….god these people running this place are stuuuuuuupid..

    • The SCCBOE has been warned. They know that Gundry lies. We all know HR covers it up. Not everybody who works for the SCCOE has been fingerprinted. Not everybody is fired for Porn. Of course they still employ weirdos –HR allows it, Gundry is too dumb to understand or take action, and the board appears to be paralyzed. The problem is that no board member is smart or wise enough to know what to do.

  8. Who from the SCCBOE will finally be a leader and take action in rectifying the bogus contract, Walden West, HR fingerprinting issues from the prior 2 months?! You have a serious disaster.

    Gundry takes ZERO responsibility. Very soon he’ll blame Blackstone. Just watch.

    SCCBOE, you pay Gundry $300,000 plus to make decisions, be ahead of the issues, be your leader, and to protect you!

    He’s failed on all responsibilities. We called the SCCOE this afternoon -even after such critical issues, Gundry’s reported to be out all week. Is he on vacation when his house is crumbling? Blackstone is also reported to be on vacation. We’ll try the other senior executives this next week and report back.

  9. Well, I think the SCCOE has been naughty and should be punished.

    I suggest that their budget be reduced from $277 MILLION DOLLARS to maybe $ 275 or $ 274 MILLION DOLLARS.

    I’m sure they can find enough waste and inefficiencies to eliminate in order to “pay the piper”,

    And they’ll still have over a QUARTER OF A BILLION DOLLARS left to spend. I’m sure that with a little adult supervision they’ll figure out hour to spend it as carefully as you or I or your teenage kids would spend a QUARTER OF A BILLION DOLLARS.