Nicola Fraley likes to be on the go.
The 45-year-old Peterborough resident grew up in Neston, a small town in north-west England, where she spent her free time cycling, playing in the garden and competing in sports such as trampolining, badminton and swimming.
After graduating from college in the UK in 1998, Fraley moved to the United States for a summer as a camp counselor in Connecticut before returning to pursue a career in law. But plans changed when she met and fell in love with her co-adviser (and now husband) Craig Fraley. So, in 1999, she moved to the United States permanently and began working as an educator.
“Having had part-time jobs, I’d always enjoyed working with children and said, ‘Well, this is a new path. Let’s break new ground,'” said Fraley, who is currently the assistant principal at both Jaffrey Elementary School and Rindge Memorial School.
Her job also keeps her on the move most of the time, typically splitting her week between the two elementary schools in the Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District. At the end of the school year, she will take another professional step when she takes over as director of the Rindge Memorial School.
“I can put all my energy into one place, and I feel like I can be more effective that way,” she said. “…The community here, within the staff community, the students and the families, it’s a really close-knit and supportive community.”
Growing up, Fraley always wanted to be a lawyer. When she came to Bradford University in the UK, she studied law and economics. When she was finishing her bachelor’s degree, Fraley’s boyfriend, Anthony East, encouraged her to spend a summer in the United States with him, traveling and working as a camp counselor.
Fraley was on board and took a job at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, Connecticut while East went to a camp on Lake Winnipesaukee. The couple said they would meet and travel after their stays at the camp for about two months, but those plans never materialized. Instead, Nicola (also known as Nicky) was accidentally paired with Craig Fraley to lead a group of about a dozen 13-15 year old campers and the two fell in love.
“We just hit it off like a house on fire,” said Nicola Fraley. “We laughed a lot, we had a lot of similar interests. We enjoyed the same things like being out in the woods, hiking and traveling and just having fun.”
So after camp ended, Craig asked Nicola to accompany him on his drive back to Colorado Mountain College, where he studied outdoor leadership. From there she took a Greyhound bus to San Francisco and spent some time traveling up the west coast.
“And I got as far north as Vancouver and I was like, ‘What am I doing here? I’ll be returning to England in a few weeks,'” she said. “‘I should go back to Colorado and hang out with this really cool guy for a while before it’s time to go home.’ ”
She went back to see Craig before heading to the UK for a few months. During this time, Craig planned to transfer to the University of New Hampshire while Nicola got a job at Nature’s Classroom. At the Charlton, Massachusetts-based organization, Nicola led week-long environmental and science education residency programs for middle school students from across New England, primarily at the organization’s Freedom camp on Lake Ossipee.
Nicola and Craig Fraley married in August 2001 and moved to the Monadnock area around Christmas time. They lived in Hancock for a total of two years, then Harrisville before moving to Peterborough, where Nicola had landed a job as a paraprofessional assistant at Peterborough Elementary School in the ConVal School District.
Education runs in Nicola’s family. Her father, Pete Barton, worked as an instructor at a further education college in England, mainly teaching literacy and numeracy to adults. And her sister, Jennie Sawtell, is a primary school teacher in the UK (Fraley’s mother, Lynn Barton, was a nurse).
While working at Peterborough Elementary, Fraley earned her Masters in Education and teaching certification from Keene State College in 2003, after which she became a fourth grade teacher at the school. About 10 years later, she returned to Keene State to earn her education leader certification, which paved the way for her to take over as principal at Francestown Elementary School in 2014.
After three years at Francestown, she transferred to Clark-Wilkins Elementary School in Amherst, where she served as Principal for two years before applying for her current role, which was created by the Jaffrey-Rindge District ahead of the 2019-2020 school year.
“My first impression was that she was a very upbeat, well-informed and articulate person,” said Jaffrey-Rindge superintendent Reuben Duncan, adding that Fraley’s role as administrator at both of the district’s elementary schools is unique. “One of the things it serves as a bridge between these two elementary schools and it was instrumental in bringing these two schools together.”
Fraley said she’s prioritized helping JGS and RMS — which both enroll about 300 students in preschool through fifth grade — maintain their individual identities while creating more shared expectations and experiences for students at both schools.
“All of our students from both schools come together in sixth grade middle school, so the students really came out with different experiences,” she said. “So they weren’t necessarily positioned as successfully as they could be in terms of where they come in together.”
For the past three years as assistant principal, Fraley said her focus has therefore been on fostering collaboration between the two schools’ staff and getting them to adopt similar teaching practices and policies and, for example, consistent rubrics for grading writing assignments .
Fraley said she loves her current position so applying for the principal at Rindge Memorial School was a difficult decision, but ultimately she is excited about the new role.
“I don’t want it to sound like we’re not realizing our potential now, but there’s so much fun and great things to do here that it’s really inspiring and it’s exciting to think about what the.” Possibilities are the future,” she said.
Kelly Marcotte, who has served as director of Rindge Memorial School since 2015, said Fraley has forged meaningful relationships with the school and the community.
“I feel like I’ve worked hard to make connections with the communities and families, and I think she’s well on her way to doing that,” Marcotte said.
The close-knit community in Rindge is part of what drew Fraley to the district in the first place, she said. It’s also a community the Fraley family was already familiar with – Craig Fraley was the town’s recreation director for about five years. He has held the same role at Amherst for the past eight years.
“You talk about that sense of community; Now, eight years later, I’m talking about someone from here and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s so-and-so’s mother,'” said Nicola Fraley. “Just that sense of connection and family, that’s really great and something that’s very strong here at RMS.”
Marcotte, who last year earned her PhD in education from Plymouth State University, said she plans to take some time off before exploring her next steps, which could include teaching college-level education. Meanwhile, she said Rindge Memorial School is in good hands with Fraley.
“I’m really, really happy to have Nicky take the helm next year and I just think it’s going to be a really smooth transition for the school and the community,” Marcotte said.
And as Fraley prepares for this latest career move, she’s been spending a lot of time outside of school with her family and is usually active.
“I think I would say that I like to move my body,” she said, noting that she has run several marathons. “Well, I love mountain biking and running and paddling and hiking and gardening. We are a super active family.”
Her children — 15-year-old son Ben and 12-year-old daughter Kate, both ConVal School District students — ski race up Crotched Mountain in the winter, among a variety of other extracurricular activities.
All of these activities require a lot of energy, but that’s not a problem for Fraley, who also enjoys cooking and baking. The family bakes their own bread, usually two loaves at a time two or three times a week.
“We use a decent amount of bread,” she said, laughing. “It will be devoured.”
And despite all those moves, Fraley said she’s looking forward to settling into her new role at Rindge Memorial School.
“I’ve seen myself here for a very long time,” she said. “I would like to retire from here when the time comes.”
hometown: Born and raised in Neston, England; Peterborough resident for about 20 years
family: Husband, Craig Fraley, City of Amherst Recreation Director; son Ben, 15, a freshman at ConVal Regional High School in Peterborough; Daughter Kate, 12, a sixth grader at South Meadow School in Peterborough
profession: Assistant Principal at Jaffrey Primary School and Rindge Memorial School; incoming capital at RMS, effective July 1st
training: Bachelor of Laws and Economics from Bradford University in England in 1998; Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Keene State College in 2003; Educational Leadership Certification from Keene State in 2013
question: What motivates you to work in education?
Answers:“The kids. When you go to work and you see them, they say, ‘Hey, Mrs. Fraley!’ And they want to tell you things and they want to share them, and they look forward to being here and they look forward to it looking forward to learning, and they’re excited to have you as a part of it.”
question: What was your father’s (Pete Barton) advice on his career in education?
Answer: “My dad was very clear to us when we were kids, with a lot of families in college, he was very clear that it’s a job, it’s a profession that you only take on when you really feel like it to be able to do something. You don’t become a teacher for holidays or time off or things like that. You do it because you really believe you can make a difference. … It’s not an easy career, and that’s why you’re doing it because you want to make a difference. You do it because you want to work hard.”