The county school board voted unanimously last week to give administrators and their support staff a 3-percent raise.

The board also approved a raise for superintendent Dr. Ronnie McGehee, who denied the offer and requested that his annual salary remain at $149,064 (a total that ranks 28th among superintendents in Mississippi.)

School Board member Sam Kelly did not return a call for comment, but told reporters last week that the decision was made to give administrators and support staff a raise that came after several years without one.

McGehee said Tuesday he turned down the increase in pay (which would have meant an extra $4,500 this year) because he feels there's work left to be done, but said his 21 administrators were more than deserving of the raises.

"We have outstanding lead administrators," McGehee said. "They get up every day and try to be better than yesterday, and tomorrow, they'll try to be better than they were today. They are committed educators who are ready, willing and able to meet the challenges for our young people."

District finance director Debbie Jones said the raises are retroactive July 1.

The school district, which recently unveiled a plan to give every high school student a brand-new laptop, received an "A" grade from the Mississippi Department of Education, improving from a "B" in the 2011-2012 school year.

"It would have been easy for these administrators to say 'No, we don't want to do that,'" McGehee said. "It's going to challenge them because it's new, there's no doubt. But they weren't just a part of the decision - they were the driving force behind it."

The district's last review, which came in Sept. of 2013, showed marked improvement in numerical grades for the school district, but also revealed that a couple of schools failed to meet all their respective growth standards.

Those schools included three "D" grades (Velma Jackson High, Highland Elementary and Camden Elementary), four "C" grades (Germantown High, Madison Crossing, North East Madison Middle and Ridgeland High) and two "B" scores (Madison Central and Rosa Scott).

As McGehee pointed out, there is still work to done when it comes to those schools.

"We're competing with private and parochial schools here in Madison County," McGehee said. "We can't afford to settle. We have further work to get accomplished."

Those schools will not get a chance to earn a new review from MDE this year, as the process has been nixed in order to let districts properly make the transition to national Common Core standards.

McGehee said the School Board also has an internal review each year, a practice it will continue. Unless Mississippi joins the list of southern states to abandon Common Core, MDE will use the standards to evaluate Madison schools in 2016.

Key features of Common Core include tougher standards for testing, state-drawn curricula and teacher accountability.

Critics of Common Core say the top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to education is harmful. They believe states and local school boards know best, not the federal government.

When it comes to Madison County, McGehee said he's working with his administrators to limit the effect Common Core will have on the district's already-improving curriculum.

"We're trying to get away from A, B or C answers and ask open-ended questions so our students can be more creative and prepared for real life situations," he said.

"So we're going to continue to do things the way we have been doing them, and focus on ACT and graduation rates.

"We'll try to emphasize the parts of Common Core we think are beneficial, and keep doing what we're doing."