WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — Gray Collegiate Academy is celebrating a well deserved 'excellent' rating on their South Carolina report card.

The Charter Institute at Erskine, the entity that sponsors this district of 17 charter schools in the state, hosted a surprise announcement today for Gray's principal Dr. Brian Newsome including a banner honoring their excellent rating and a plaque given to Dr. Newsome. 

According to the Charter Institute at Erskine, Gray is one of only nine high schools in the Midlands to receive an Excellent Rating. 

"It's such an exciting day," Cameron Runyan, CEO and Superintendent of the Charter Institute at Erskine told News19, "Gray Collegiate, of course, is one of the schools in our district which is statewide. We've only been in operation for a year and this is the first school that we have helped to achieve an excellent rating." 

"It means everything to me," says Principal Dr. Brian Newsome who was completely surprised by the event today, "I've been in other districts before that were under performing and then was fortunate to move them to success, and you know, when I came to Gray it was an unsatisfactory school. It wasn't one that a lot of people thought highly about maybe in the area that we could find the success that we have," Dr. Newsome continues, "Success doesn't go on sale, you've got to pay the full price and it just gets emotional that the kids and the staff and the teachers put all this time and effort into making sure that we don't take less than the best. We don't take less than excellent. I keep saying we're going to get there, we just have to keep pushing forward. It wasn't easy and it was always difficult but the one thing about it is, we were able to get there." 

"We have a motto at the Charter Institute at Erskine which is 'move the needle,'" says Runyon, "and we expect all of our schools to move the needle. And Gray really stepped up this year, as did many other schools and we have seen it as they are taking ownership of that mantra to move the needle and they're doing it. You see it in the academic results, you see it in the performance of their athletics on the field, you see it in the excellence in their operation. Its just an all around great school, great leadership, and great kids." 

RELATED: SC Department of Education releases school ratings

RELATED: Gray Collegiate Academy

According to the SC Department of Education website, "Report Cards provide information about each school and district, including test performance, teacher qualifications, student safety, awards, parent involvement and much more." 

As a charter school, Gray is still a public school but does not receive local funding. Only state and federal funds pay for these schools. Because of this, charter schools operate on about half of the money as a traditional public school. Gray Collegiate Academy has around 500 students who all participate in dual enrollment and athletics. They have a 99.2% graduation rate.