We Are LA. Unified

His Camera Never Blinks

It is 6 a.m. on a Wednesday. James Perry starts his workday, in the predawn darkness, at the Los Angeles Unified School District. He punches the clock two hours ear...ly, so eager is he to complete his duties on time, making him an exemplary employee.

He starts unloading mail and newspapers from a van that he delivers to district offices over a broad swath of the Southland—an area more than twice the size of Manhattan. This brings him in contact with school executives, staff and the public.

On this day, like any other, he needs no jolt of java to energize him. With each person he greets, he spreads a contagious charm. James often includes a prescription for what ails the Lakers or other California sports team during his rounds.

Acting as sports sage and delivering letters remains only a small part of his role. Officially, he is sergeant-of-arms for the Los Angeles Board of Education. Unofficially, he is the in-house photographer for the nation’s second-largest school district.

James keeps a camera nearby, taking snapshots whenever called upon. During his more than 20 years with L.A. Unified, he has stocked a library of images, capturing school events, board meetings and other special moments in pictures. Employees often ask him to capture special moments in photos.

“When I take a photograph, I capture an image that I may never capture again in life,” he said. “Photographs are special, they tell many stories.”

The arts have drawn his attention. The L.A. Unified alum attended 66th Street Elementary, Bethune Middle School and Fremont High School. In college, he was an Emmy-nominated dance student. During employee talent shows, he still displays his fancy footwork.

But it’s his upbeat attitude, and cheerful demeanor that draws others to him, like moths to light. His desk is loaded with local sports memorabilia. It is a source of pride as well as conversation for him. He often wears a shirt or cap of his fan loyalty to the Trojans, Lakers or Dodgers.

Through his job, he has met former Lakers Magic Johnson, A.C. Green, John Salley, along with political celebrities, like the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He even chatted with former President Bill Clinton about alligator boots.

One of his proudest moments came years ago as a District bus driver. He received a national award for saving a woman from a burning house. Nowadays, he’s saving special moments in photographs.

Taking pictures, he said, remains “his passion.” Even in retirement, which is still down the road, he plans to return to L.A. Unified for special events, with camera in hand.

No doubt, his picture-taking. comes with his thoughts on the Lakers. “It’s all in good fun,” he said.

-Vanessa Lozano


Coming Tuesday: A teacher who helps the hearing-impaired

To nominate a teacher, student or employee, send an email with a note explaining why to: Thomas.Waldman@lausd.net or call (213) 241-6766.

See more profiles on the District's webpage or Facebook page.