Merecedes Williams named PPS Dir. of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement
Brian Cook named Communications and Marketing Director for Central Catholic
It didn’t take long for the New Pittsburgh Courier to learn about the new professional occupations for Brian Cook Sr. and Merecedes J. Williams—after all, they’re part of the Courier family.
Williams has been writing movie and TV/show reviews for the Courier readers for more than five years, and Cook has brought his photojournalism prowess to the Courier in the form of top-notch Pittsburgh Steelers photos (among other assignments) and tribute videos of the Courier’s legacy honorees for the “Men” and “Women of Excellence” events.
MERECEDES J. WILLIAMS (Photo by Emmai Alaquiva)
Now, the Courier has learned, Williams has joined Pittsburgh Public Schools’ leadership team as Director of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement. And beginning Monday, March 28, Cook will head back to his alma mater, Central Catholic High School, as the school’s new Communications/Marketing Director.
Williams is a Pittsburgh Public Schools advocate through and through. She attended and graduated from Schenley High School in 2005 and has worked in the district’s media relations/communications arm for years. Williams, also known as “Movie Scene Queen,” graduated from Duquesne University on Dec. 17, 2021, with a bachelor’s in multiplatform journalism and theology.
In her new role with PPS, she’s responsible for the development and implementation of the district’s strategic internal staff communications and parental community engagement plan. She’ll also work on school-based marketing plans, student recruitment and customer service initiatives.
“Communication is a two-way street,” said Williams, who was born and raised in the Hill District. “It’s important for the district to release timely, relevant, pertinent information for our families. But it is equally important for the district to listen to all key stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers, staff, and the community. I hope that in this new position I can tap into marginalized, unheard populations as well to ensure that their voices are heard.”
Williams is also a PPS parent, so she understands the role parents and the administration should jointly play in contributing to a child’s education.
“The pandemic—with school closures, asynchronous learning days, mitigating the spread of COVID—has created a new age in communication,” Williams told the Courier. “Now more than ever, it is crucial to have the proper messaging to make families feel safe to send their children to school and confident about the quality of their child’s education.”
BRIAN COOK SR.
Cook, meanwhile, is returning to the school that he cherished as a teenager, Central Catholic. Cook, who grew up primarily in Point Breeze, is a 1998 graduate of the school that he said “helped mold me into the man I am today. It is my duty to share the great works of Central Catholic by disseminating information to the school’s alumni, current students, parents and to the public at-large.”
Cook told the Courier that because of Central’s formidable learning environment “that teaches boys the essence of learning and logic within a Christian environment,” he said it has helped him learn how to be successful and stronger in his faith.
Cook is also the president of the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation. He’s been in the Pittsburgh media scene since 2003, following his graduation from Clarion University, when he took a position at American Urban Radio Networks, based in Pittsburgh.
“I attribute my first video/on-air experience by doing the morning announcements at Central, in a closed-circuit television network that aired daily within the school,” Cook said. “My time at Central prepared me in many facets of life.”
Over the years, Cook has produced video features for the Courier, WQED-TV and NBC News’ website. His photos have appeared in the Courier, USA Today, Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh Business Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Soul Pitt, Urban Media Today and PublicSource, among others. Cook also is the owner of his own media company, Golden Sky Media.
“Brian Cook has a genuine interest in people and their stories and it is evident to everyone he meets,” said Brother Tony Baginski, principal of Central Catholic, in a statement to the Courier, March 22. “That interest combined with varied and wide-ranging experiences in the industry as well as being a Central Catholic alum, makes Brian the ideal person to communicate the Central Catholic story to our parents, students, alumni, and the wider audience.”