Deal thanks educators for taking care of students during storm

About 1,400 students were stuck at Atlanta’s Westlake High School last week when snowy weather ground the region into a sudden halt. Gov. Nathan Deal visited the school Tuesday to thank the teachers and staffers who kept them safe.

Deal heard stories of dedicated teachers who made sure students were entertained, a principal who was deluged with calls from antsy parents, and a food services manager who returned to the school after checking on his own family to make sure the students were well fed with chicken fingers, pizza and french fries.

“It was a team effort and I thank all of you,” the governor told a few dozen staffers in the school’s library as students wandered outside.

He added, “We’ll try not to have that happen to you again.”

Deal is trying to head off a storm of criticism over his administration’s response to the weather that gridlocked Atlanta last week, stranding tens of thousands of motorists on the streets and thousands more students at schools.

The governor on Monday announced a 32-person task force charged with coming up with recommendations to make sure there's not another repeat. At the same event, Deal also defended the performance of his top emergency deputy, Charley English, who has acknowledged a string of mistakes.

The governor was more circumspect on Tuesday after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a story about dozens of emails from English that suggest he was not treating the impending storm with urgency.

Deal told reporters he met with English on Monday but declined to discuss the “personnel matter.” He dodged the question when asked whether he expects a leadership change at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “I think it’s way too early to say that.”