Union 28, for example, is a 700 pupil school system with four elementary schools that serves five towns (Erving, Leverett, Shutesbury, New Salem, Wendell). Each of these towns has one K to 6 school (ranging in size between 140 and 170 students) and each school has its own local school committee. These communities are all quite similar in terms of demographics (they are largely White -- ranging from 83% White in Leverett to 94% White in New Salem-Wendell) and also in terms of size (the smallest, New Salem-Wendell has 144 students and the largest, Erving, has 174 students). Each of these school committees is represented on regional issues (such as hiring central office staff, including the superintendent).
Now, let's contrast that to Union 26, which consists of only two towns: Amherst and Pelham. These towns differ dramatically - Amherst has 4 (soon to be 3) elementary schools serving 1,321 students, whereas Pelham has 1 elementary school serving 125 students. These towns also differ dramatically in terms of their populations: Pelham (like all of the towns in Union 28) is largely White (83.2%), whereas Amherst is considerably more racially diverse (53% White). As with Union 28, each town has the same number of votes in terms of hiring and evaluating the superintendent and the district lawyer (although Amherst pays 47% of these salaries at the elementary level and Pelham pays 3%).
If you examine all of the union associations in the state of Massachusetts, two things become very clear:
- The elementary school population in Amherst is larger than any other district in the state that is part of a union. The second largest town is Southborough (1208), and the third largest is Kingston (1180). There are no other towns with school populations larger than 1,000 who are in unions in Massachusetts.
- The gap between the largest and small town is greater between Amherst and Pelham (1196 students) than in any other union in the state. There is a gap of 900 between Northborough and Southborough (this is the second largest), and a gap of 419 between Westhampton and Southampton (this is the third largest). The majority of union relationships have relatively small differences in size (e.g., like with Union 28).