Belinda Hayes, Marin special education leader, dies at 72
PUBLISHED: February 3, 2020 at 5:30 pm | UPDATED: February 4, 2020 at 6:40 am
Donate to the
Belinda Hayes Memorial Fund
Belinda Hayes, a veteran leader of Marin’s special education community for more than 40 years, died Thursday after complications from knee surgery in October.
Mrs. Hayes, 72, of Rohnert Park is best known for her devotion to children with special needs, said her husband Dennis Hayes.
“She knew she was part of a team that was trying out different programs — all in a constant effort to help kids in the community,” he said Monday. “It was her life’s work — she wanted to give everything she had.”
Hired in 1975 as a special education teacher at the Marin County Office of Education, Mrs. Hayes went on to serve in various special education capacities for 32 years, retiring in 2007 as MCOE’s special education director.
“Belinda was a colleague and very close friend for more than 40 years,” said Mary Jane Burke, Marin County superintendent of schools. “She was kind, caring, compassionate and always put the needs of children first — whether it was the students she served, or her own children and grandchildren. ”
Burke, who was a student teacher with Mrs. Hayes when the two were in graduate school, added: “While she will be dearly missed, she leaves our world a better place because she lived.”
Burke was among dozens of colleagues, friends and family who visited Mrs. Hayes to support her during a grueling 95 days of hospitalization, according to Mrs. Hayes’ son Dan Hayes, 42, of Chicago. The family has been showered with condolences in recent days, he said.
“It’s been wonderful — it shows what kind of friends she had,” he said. “It’s a validation of all the hard work she put in.”
After retiring in 2007 from MCOE, Mrs. Hayes came back to work in 2015-16 to serve as interim head of school for Star Academy, an independent school for children and teens with learning differences in San Rafael, and on the school’s board of trustees for another two years.
Later, she was hired for a year as top administrator for the former Timothy Murphy School, a program for foster youth most recently housed at the St. Vincent School for Boys property in San Rafael.
As per the Hayes’ family wishes, Star Academy has set up a memorial fund to benefit the school for those who wish to make contributions in Mrs. Hayes’ memory. The link is on the school website at staracademy.org.
“Belinda Hayes was an amazing example of a woman who did so much and did so much well,” said Sheila Reilly, Star Academy head of school. “She was one of the hardest working people I knew, working well beyond her retirement with an energy and passion not seen in people half her age.
“She never shied away from a tough assignment or difficult circumstances — but instead used her good humor, intellect and vast knowledge to get the job done and still have time to indulge her other passions: her family, her friends and her (San Francisco) Giants!”
Karen Kubitschek, a psychologist at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, said she worked with Mrs. Hayes for several decades at Marin County Office of Education — where Mrs. Hayes was Kubitschek’s supervisor — and the two remained friends after Kubitschek left MCOE to work at Tamalpais High School.
“She was probably one of the smartest, strongest people that I know,” she said. “She was my fellow Giants buddy and a big goof-off — I will miss her a lot.”