Most people still cringe when thinking about going to the principal's office, but for Mark Mawae, it was something he wanted.

Mawae was named principal of Leesville High School this summer and is enjoying a different side of administration.

"I knew Tammy (Phillips) was on the way out, and she was telling me that I should apply for it," he said. "My whole road to administration was something I just fell into, but it's like every job I've had – I try to work hard and do a good job at it.

"Knowing Mrs. Phillips was leaving and us being an A-school, what was the best fit for the teachers and students at Leesville High School? I just felt like it would make the transition easier. It's more than just what I bring to the table. We are an A-school at 502 Berry Avenue. I love Mrs. Phillips, and I have big shoes to fill. If she leaves, and we fail to be an A-school, it does everyone a discredit that works here. I felt like I was a good person to rally everyone together and keep this thing going."

Mawae was previously the assistant principal at Leesville for two years and has worked at the high school for 17 years.

"The two years was primarily discipline," Mawae said. "I was with kids who were getting in trouble, and now I'm spending a lot of my time with positive kids. I walked by them in the hallway, but I spent a lot of time dealing with discipline and talking to the teachers about them. That's been a refreshing change."

Mawae got into education to coach football and teach English, but made a change for the his and his family's betterment. 

"Somewhere along the way, things changed," he said. "I did a lot of soul searching about whether or not I wanted to be in administration. I already had the degree seven years before I took the assistant job, because I never wanted to be painted into a corner. I thought it was a great opportunity for me and my family. I hopped in and never looked back."

After graduating from Northwestern State University, Mawae taught at Leesville for nine years before going to Comeaux High School. After his time in Lafayette, he was a Wampus Cat once again for six years before going into administration.

"It does help me because I've been a teacher and a coach," he said. "I know the expectations that are placed on them. It also helps me that I've been to another place, because it helps you see a different perspective about how things are done in different places.

"I know Leesville. I know it through-and-through. I joke about liking Leesville High School so much that I made a career out of it."

Mawae's father, David, retired at Fort Polk when Mawae was in second grade. As a student, he saw first-hand the relationships and lifestyle that military kids have in high school.

"When I started high school, we had around 270 people, and I graduated with 190-something," Mawae said. "I don't think there were many kids that were here for four years unless they are from Leesville. It was always moving and always changing."

Not only were there changes at the principal position, but throughout the entire administration. Justin Scogin is now the athletic director, and Lisa Haymon came over from Simpson High School to fill Mawae's spot. 

"There are no enemies in the fox hole," Mawae said. "The chemistry is there. I've known Justin Scogin since he was six years old. (Administrative Assistant) Joe Sowells and I have worked together for years in the classroom. He was teaching here when I was here, and I know him as a co-worker. He's been fantastic. Lisa Haymon has been fantastic. She has done a phenomenal job. She's done a wonderful job at assimilating to Leesville High School, and Leesville High School is assimilating to her and what she does."

Mawae may not have been born in Leesville, but he was raised here, and it shaped him into who he is now. There is no place he would rather be.

"I'm home," he said. "With Tammy gone, if I'm going to be in this building, I may as well be the person that is in charge of it. The other day, someone asked about being the principal. I said 'well, what I love about it is that right or wrong, I make the decisions. I can go home and live with it.' I've been making good and bad decisions for 43 years that I have to live with. Why not live with it with this job. Leesville High School is a place I care about and love. I'm going to try and do a good job because of that."